The Formative Years

Like many life-long passionate sewists, I began sewing long before boys disrupted my life. (I make passing reference here to boys excepting my five brothers who - as brothers are apt to do - made it their youthly ambition to disrupt every pure intention within that tiny house, a too-close Cape that sat on a hill surrounded by fields and magnificent views of sunrises and sunsets. . . and a maximum security prison.)

I really hit my stride in high school, making halter tops of paisley or outrageously loud and large geometrics, along with hot-pants and culottes of the boldest colors and busiest prints. Jeans at that time were but the simplest of designs, presenting one with a blank canvas inviting restructuring, re-dying, and the imaginative application of embellishments. (Wide bell-bottoms with deep cuffs notwithstanding, boot cut has - blessedly - always been more or less "in".) Prom gowns were of course my own creations. When I consider now that I made my own wedding gown, the neutral sense of calm with which I approached the "project" genuinely surprises me. "Cavalier" does not currently describe my sewing experiences.

Needless to say, I carried forward my love for sewing and fabrics. As a kid I wouldn't have understood it all to be my "creative outlet." As a teenager, filling my own display case in the Home-Ec wing with a wide-ranging assortment of personally imagined and rendered pillows merely satisfied a vaguely-defined need. I was aware, however, that I held unofficial membership in a shrinking and largely silent association. We sewists were a reserved breed, loosely tethered together and not inclined to advertise our skills. (It's impossible to imagine myself as a senior in high school feeding the field hockey ball to my left wing, while exclaiming, "Yuh, so when I cut on that fold line, I knew it was all over, no saving the dirndle skirt now!")

It's so gratifying to observe that consumer interest in handmade has re-emerged. It also seems that this time around, "handmade" inspires greater reverence and respect for the craft, as if understanding the process is at a much further and unbridgeable remove. I don't take my skills for granted, nor do my cousins who also have maintained and honed their respective skills. We are grateful for moms who shared their knowledge and techniques. This is a great time to be a sewist! Hallelujah! And bring on the silks, the brocades, the barkcloth, and the cotton duck!

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