Thursday, January 29, 2009

Home Sick (and my overdue Back Story)

No, not "homesick", but home and sick. We've all been healthy since Christmas (gee... a whole month!), but cold season still lingers, and I'm home with a sinus headache, runny nose, and chest congestion. Little Man, too. :( So, since I really don't feel like grading that stack of Probability Quizzes in my bag, I think I'll update my blog instead, while Little Man watched Power Rangers!

Ladies (Angie), ladies (Dawn), ladies (Bunny).... THANK YOU! 3 Kreative Blogger nominations? I'm really flattered!

Like Dawn, I don't consider myself too creative with my sewing (or productive these days!), and agree that people who drape and draft are truly the talented ones, but it's really nice to know that there are people out there who appreciate my work. Bunny said, "Kristine's sewing talents go in all sorts of different directions and her love for the sport shows." I absolutely love to sew, have since I was in middle school, and in the last couple years, have really gained a lot of lost ground, thanks in large part to all of you.
The Back Story
(grab a cup of coffee, this will take awhile... I've been sewing for 20 years?!)
As a child, I remember shopping with my Mom for fabric and patterns for school clothes in Kmart. I remember trying to figure out where the paper pattern went when she made my shirts (I thought it became part of the garment, silly 5 yr old!). I remember the doll clothes she made for my Cabbage Patch Doll and her warning not to trade them for any of that "store bought crap". Mom didn't sew a lot, but my Grandmother sewed quite a bit. My mom told me once that she basted all the seams, ensured the fit, then used her treadle machine to complete the garment. She made my mother's wedding gown in 1951, and I've always wished I could've seen it in person (I believe it was cut up and turned into a baptismal gown, a very, very long time ago.)

My mom taught me "the basics", starting with "If you can't find what you want in the store, just buy a pattern and make it!" I was in middle school, and had dragged her from mall to mall, searching for the "perfect" skirt, but it was nowhere to be found. She, in turn, dragged me to Joann Fabrics, and introduced me to sewing. I can't remember how that skirt turned out, but I do know that I was hooked. From then on, sewing brought me so much happiness, a huge sense of accomplishment, and boosted my self-esteem and confidence. To start with a flat piece of fabric, and end up with a well-fitted, stylish, unique garment... I just couldn't get enough of it.
By the 8th grade (1988), I had my first paying sewing job: to make 10 matching outfits for my show choir. For $100 ($10 per person), I made each girl a skirt and top (ivory cotton) with a pastel colored sash).

My first part-time job during high school was (of course) at Joann Fabrics, where I quickly accumulated my first fabric stash. With remnants priced at a penny an inch (for employees) and all the discontinued patterns I could carry home, who needed a paycheck??? My bedroom was slowly being taken over by sewing stuff, and my parents bought me my own machines: a Kenmore and a Toyota serger. I also got an adjustable dressform, and traded in my double bed for a twin so I could fit everything in my bedroom. I had business cards made, and was doing alterations and making clothes for my friends. I was absolutely definite that fashion design was my future. I was even able to win $1500 in scholarship money for college by showing my success as a young entrepreneur! Junior year of high school (1991), I was hired to make all the dresses for a bridal party, the bride included. Whoa, this was huge! I remember hearing somewhere to charge triple the cost of materials, so the bridal gown was $250, and I remember thinking it was too much! The bridesmaids wore black knee length princess seamed sheath dresses with poofy while lace short sleeves. I can only imagine what they were thinking when they came to my parents' house for a fitting in the bedroom of a 17 yr old girl (That's my room in the pics below). They must've thought the bride was nuts to trust me, but the dresses all turned out great. I did another bridal gown and maid of honor before the year was over.

Naturally, I wanted to go to design school for college. At this point, I had taught myself anything my Mom didn't know how to do. My high school never ran a sewing class because there was never enough girls signed up for it, but my parents said "NO WAY" to New York. It was too far away, and dangerous. Very, very dangerous. I didn't want to give my parents matching heart attacks, so I reconsidered and looked at fashion merchandising at a local school. This is 1992, and the economy was a little iffy. My Dad had to take a demotion to keep his job, and I started to rethink my future. Running your own business seemed really risky to me, and I thought about other things I was good at that seemed more stable. I had a knack for explaining math to my peers in class, and being a teacher seemed like something I would enjoy. I decided to pursue a teaching degree for my "fall back on" strategy, if the sewing business didn't pan out. Well, college was a lot of work, and sewing had to be set aside. I found myself really enjoying teaching and too busy to sew, and dating, then engaged, and planning a weddiing, then starting a family... My sewing passion had taken a back seat to "real life", and while I always longed to get back to it, I simply didn't have the time.
My husband had seen me complete some projects, like quilts & valances, and after my daughter was born, I tried to get my feet wet again sewing for her. I was able to find a little time to sew again, and for my First Mother's Day, DH got me a Viking Iris sewing machine. Wow, it was so much more than I expected, or had ever worked with. Made my Kenmore look like a clunker!

The Viking had/has an embroidery attachment, something completely new to me. Between the fire department DH works at, and the school that I work at, the embroidery demands soon ballooned, and that little 4" x 4" just wasn't cutting it! I invested in a Brother PR-600 a few years ago, and the coordinating digitizing software this fall. It's a nice side business, has paid itself off, and the money it generates helps pay for my fabric addiction!

I started my blog so that I could share my sewing projects with my Mom, family and friends, and I never dreamed I'd find so many ladies like myself that love to sew and create. It always amazes me how surprised and impressed my students and friends about my sewing, but I guess it is (sadly) becoming a lost skill. Project Runway is my absolute favorite show (I have the first 4 seasons on DVD), and I think that has really helped generate interest and encouraged more girls/women to sew. I'm currently planning my first trip to New York City where I will tour the garment district and do all things "sewing and fashion", and there aren't even words to describe my excitement. Lindsay T had a been instrumental with this endeavor, and I can't thank her enough! The internet has finally allowed me to feel part of a sewing community, even though we're spread all over the country (and beyond). I really don't feel the distance when I'm reading your blogs and comments, and think that technology has really enhanced my skills (tutorials ROCK!), and encouraged me to push myself farther (thanks to Dawn for introducing me to BWOF!).

What's left? I've only ever worked from a pattern, so I'd love to learn how to drape and draft patterns. Formalwear is probably my favorite to make (can you tell from all the pics?), and with a prom dress and Mother of the Groom dress on my job list, I'd like to know more about working with those types of fabrics and doing special embellishments, like beading (Summerset, do you hear me?). I get a huge sense of accomplishment from sewing for my family, so I'll continue to dress my husband and kids (and I'm pretty sure they like it, too.) and myself (of course!). Little Miss is learning how to use my machine (slowly), and likes to help pick out the fabrics for her projects.

If you're still awake and reading, thanks for taking to time to hear my story. Thanks to Lindsay T for encouraging us all to share, and I'm sorry my assignment is late. I was home sick with a cold...

p.s. Finding and reviewing the pictures for this post reminded me of a couple things. I'm so glad my mom photographed everything I ever made. Not only does it remind me of how proud she was of everything I made, but it showed me how far I've come. One dress I completely missed the facings on, another shirt had a hole in it because I knicked it with the scissors as I was trimming the last threads. I was learning as I went (and boy, did it show!), and never learned the word "wadder" until just last year. Not because everything turned out perfect (far from it!), but because my Mom was born and raised throught the Depression and WWII. Nothing ever goes to waste, and I can still hear her voice when I lay out a pattern, "Move that piece over here, and you'll have enough for a matching headband!" Ha, Ha. Miss you, Mom.


Summerset said...

Sorry you hab a code! LOL - Seriously, I do hope you get better. The internet always looked better than grading papers. Your dresses brought back a lot of memories - I made some similar ones when I was in high school, and for my friends, too. Thanks for sharing!

Bunny said...

You entrepreneur, you! I enjoyed your back story! Thanks, and now go make some ginger tea and then get in bed!

Dawn said...

Holy crap. I wish I had learned to sew in high school like you. You have done so many things with your sewing. I feel like I'm such a newbie. I'm also very selfish when it comes to sewing. I say no to a lot of people when it comes to sewing. You, on the other hand, help people out. I can't fathom how much you did before you even graduated from high school. It's truly amazing.

Julia said...

I am impressed with all you have made, even as a young girl! Some of your dresses remind me of some I made for my girls. When I was in high school, all girls took home ec and learned to sew. A lot of us made our prom dresses and all, but as you said it is becoming a lost art. Few of my friends sew anymore. I am so glad I found all these wonderful blogs to read and learn from.

Meg said...

Wow, Kristine, what a sewing back story! I can't believe all that you did when you were just in 8th grade. You are a real dynamo. I can tell you and NYC will get along just great, based on your incredible amounts of energy.

Gwen said...

What a beautiful story! And what a gorgeous wedding dress! Congratulations on the well deserved award!

Alviana said...

wonderful story. remind me of the time when i start learn to sew in my early teen too. but, wow!, makin a wedding dress? that's really big for a girl. u have blessed hand. keep sewing! :)

angie.a said...

Great back story Kristine! Thanks for sharing all the wonderful pictures.

I hope you feel better soon!