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Thread bound me to my mother. Thread was the excitement of creating in my childhood and on into my adult years. Thread allowed me to have clothes nicer than I might normally have worn. Thread oh colorful, magical thread with all its possibilities has stitched my life together and given me many joys.
I am an artist. The creative experience of making something with raw materials has motivated me as long as I can remember. I was a little girl longing to get my hands on my mother’s magical sewing machine so I could stitch together the little scraps of fabric left over from her sewing projects. And she let me—she turned me loose with a few instructions on threading the machine and bobbin. I was hooked.
I learned the basics of sewing techniques in 4-H with my mother as our teacher. We met together weekly to make little bags and aprons. It was all I needed to go forward with confidence. I learned to read a pattern with a little help from my mother. She made every stitch I wore up until high school and then I began making my own clothes. I whipped up a little blouse to wear on a field trip once, the night before.
Fabrics were reasonable compared to ready-made clothes then. It’s not quite the same now. I bought a cute little jacket for $7 at Ross recently. It would have cost me $15 or more for the fabric and buttons today. Economy might be a motivation to begin with but soon a seamstress loves the feel and smell of fabrics. Her mind races with visions of what she will make with a piece of fabric under her fingers. Her eyes roam the colors with relish as the bolt is unfurled on the cutting table. It is all a good healthy rush.
At one time, wandering around a fabric store was an adventure of joy for me. Rolls of colorful fabrics, stacked together in a store, could make my heart race. Today I am a painter but when I happen into a fabric store I can’t control the thoughts of wanting to create something. The addiction never really leaves. That is why women who sew end up collecting a lot more fabric than they actually stitch. Perhaps they believe the adage that “She who dies with the most fabric wins!” I was as guilty as anyone. Boxes and boxes of once cherished pieces left my basement for Deseret Industries when we moved from Farmington. I still have a few lengths—just in case I want to make a baby quilt, which is silly because If I ever did make a quilt I would most likely want one of the new designs.
In my day every department store had its fabric department including Penneys, Mervyns, Kmart, Woolworths and every local store in Price, Utah. Walmart was the last holdout in the department stores carrying fabric but I heard they are phasing it out everywhere except in Utah. Go figure.
I didn’t take home economics in High School. I had an idea that I was going to be a biologist. I liked biology but math and chemistry didn’t like me so by the time I finished the 12th grade I knew I would be going a different direction. My love for sewing made me decide to be a Home Economics teacher. I had a full tuition scholarship to a state school so I spent my first two years living at home and going to the College of Eastern Utah in Price.
During these two years I worked as a teaching assistant to Mary Pizza. She was a wonderful petite little Italian lady who loved me and taught me how to tailor jackets and suits. Utah had a “Make it With Wool” contest every year and I entered with a short, navy blue, lined, double breasted, pea coat with bound button holes and welt pocket. I didn’t win but it was fun modeling it on the college runway for the judges. I wore the coat all through college. I thought it was very chic.
I didn’t really date much at CEU but I did invite a guy to a girl’s choice dance when I was a sophomore and I made a long, straight, teal blue velvet gown. I went to the beauty shop and had my hair piled on my head in Audrey Hepburn curls. It was a nice princess experience. I had so few that it is a pleasant memory.
After CEU I spent two years at Utah State in Logan finishing my degree. I had my own sewing machine by now. It sat on my dorm room desk and I found time to sew my own clothes during these years. I even made a go-go costume for a roommate who was a dancer at a local bar. That was a new creative experience with a little bit of sparkly fabric. She did look cute in it.
I met Mike in the spring of my senior year at Utah State, while I was doing my student teaching at Bountiful Jr. High. It would take me a couple of years to convince him that I was his girl. In the meantime I took a job teaching school in Grantsville, Utah. This was a new school—a Jr. High and High School combined. I taught everything including cooking, sewing, home management, child development and interior decorating—grades 7-12. It makes me dizzy today when I think about all those different lesson plans I had to come up with daily. Wo! How did I do it? Even then sewing was my favorite subject. I made $6500 that year—1969. I never taught school again but sewing continued to be an important part of my life.
When Mike and I married in 1970 I made my wedding dress and veil for $25. I sewed long red velveteen brides maid skirts with white puff sleeve blouses. We got married on December 18 so I stitched some red velvet roses for a flocked Christmas tree.
Motherhood brought all kinds of exciting sewing experiences including baby quilts, clothes and Halloween costumes. My beautiful Maren with her dark hair got the lions share of my sewing projects. It was always fun to sew for her.
When we moved to Farmington Utah in 1978 I met Cheryl Johnston, who was my sister in every way but blood. We both liked to sew. We discovered some little hole in the wall places in Salt Lake with very cheap fabrics and laces. The worst thing that can happen to an addict is to find someone who encourages you and turns your fabric hunting experiences into a social event. Knits and Sergers were big then and we made dozens of T-shirts for our combined 7 boys. We crafted beautiful dresses for our 3 girls. When the kids got a little older we started to make fabric crafts. We wanted to learn how to make some little puffed baskets we saw in a gift shop once and I dreamed how to put them together. Yes, a real nighttime dream. The church still had bazaars then and we made several wonderful baby quilts that I wish I had today.
I have guilt and regret about some of the time I spent sewing when my children were little. It took me away from things I should or could have been doing with them, especially at Christmas. Oh yes, there were many Christmas weeks when I was sewing 4 pair of matching pajamas late into the night. I missed all those Christmas specials on TV with a little one on my lap because I was sewing a Christmas gift for my mother or a dress for Maren. In perspective I wouldn’t do it again. Christmas crafts and sewing became my joyful nemesis.
When Leif was about 5 years old I got involved with a group of ladies in a co-op gift shop making homemade crafts. At first I sewed little things but soon moved into floral arranging and that became my next artistic adventure—almost as addictive as sewing. I arranged flowers for 15 years or more.
So, where is thread in my life today? I am in control now. I did make curtains, pillows and bed spreads for my new house with fabrics I bought for $1-$3 a yard at Walmart. I started to believe that some phantom decorator was planting things in the store because I found so many coordinating fabrics at the time.
Recently Maren expressed some interest in sewing and she stitched a quilt top with her Christmas sewing machine, a gift from me. She has lots of artistic genes. I wonder why she didn’t get the sewing bug as a child like I did? Maybe it’s not too late. She is beginning to like those pieces of fabric. Recently she told me she is finding some nice fabric lengths in DI—dropped off by ex-addicts like me, for sure.
So, is there a place for thread in my future? If anyone would get me a little granddaughter I would be tempted to make some lacy dresses and bunny Halloween costumes. If my daughter gets married I would make a wedding dress if she wanted. I am sure there will be other temptations. The desire is still there, especially when I walk through a fabric store and feast my eyes on all the goods. If I am careful and don’t touch anything I can make it out without a bag.
I was born an artist and a craftsman. I do regret some of the time I let these projects take from my life but I understand how it happened. The process of creating calmed me. And then nothing is more fulfilling and exhilarating than holding a beautiful well-crafted piece you made yourself. The joy is even greater when your project is turned inside out and you can see all your well-placed threads marching in well-behaved little rows along the seams. OK, some stitches are not so well behaved, but those wayward threads just point to my humanity. Such is life.