How I got my start

I’ve often been asked how I got my start, what got me into sewing, and how I learned.  Well, I may as well give a brief history.

When I was 3, I wanted to sew since I watched my mom do it, and so she let me sew some buttons.  I can still see the blue corduroy overalls I sewed a couple buttons onto, and the green wall of our living room in Ceres, California.  That’s where it started.  From there, my mom showed me just a couple basic embroidery stitches, i.e. running stitch and split back stitch.  I started making outfits for my Barbies when still a wee thing since it frustrated me to no end not being able to get the exact dresses I wanted.  So I’d find old outfits that didn’t fit me anymore, and cut those up.  Sometimes I’d incorporate cellophane or something else not usually considered clothing material.  But why not?  It was fun!  When you’re a little kid not yet in kindergarten, no one tells you “that’s not for sewing!”  So you get to be more creative.

I wanted to figure out more than just making doll clothes, and so my mom got an embroidery hoop and fabric, and I drew a picture on the fabric, then spent a bit of time trying to figure out how to emulate different fabric stitches I saw in magazines.  It was the 80s, and embroidery on stuff was still cool.  I was in Modesto, California then.

After a spell, I started making cloth dolls after finding panels for them at Fabricland.  The first fabric store I ever went to was Fabricland and the Vintage Faire Mall in Modest.  It was huge.  Such fond memories, I have, of how overwhelming that store as.

Then my mom got a sewing machine.  Oh, yeah, everything before this was by hand.  That’s why I can hand-sew so well and don’t think twice about it.  But anyway, that machine ended up living in my bedroom.  I put it on my desk in front of the window so that I could look outside while sewing.  Now, that sewing machine lives in my sewing supply room. Between the my mom got it and when I was in the hospital again at 21 and got a new machine, that old machine much have seen thousands of miles of thread.

Anyway, over the next few years, I started sewing a few small clothing items, always with patterns at that time.  The thought of drafting didn’t really cross my mind.  When I wasn’t sewing, I was painting (I also had an easel and paints and all set up in my room) or reading.  And then back to sewing.

When I was 13, I had to take a hiatus from sewing.  13, 14, and 15 were all spent trying not to die.  Not good times, and I lost some organs in those years.  I remember almost nothing from the year 1995.  A lot of not fun.  Thinking about it too much upsets me.  So let’s just skip that.

But when I got back in the saddle, hundreds of pounds heavier (80mg of prednisone a day for 3 years will do that to you–I reached 400), I found that sewing patterns just plain didn’t go that big.  There’s more variety in sizing today, yet patterns for larger people are still scarce, and still top out smaller than I was.  So I sewed for other people.  One year, I made my brother a ninja-White Ranger (Power Rangers were a big thing) type costume.  But when I needed an old-fashioned-looking gown for a drama final (last two scenes of the second act of Phantom of the Opera), my choices were scant.  Nothing was made anywhere near my size, patterns weren’t big enough…

Then I got the idea to make my own pattern.  And let me tell you, internets, that first pattern sucked so bad that it’s embarrassing.  But I would show you if I knew where it is.  It’s in the garage, which is a disaster.  When I find that dress, I’ll take a picture and share it.  It’s not great, but it was a start, and that’s what matters!  That was May or June of 1997, whichever month finals were.

Then, several months later, right after I turned 17, this obscure little movie came out.  It was this little flick called Titanic.  Some of you may have heard of it.  😉 I saw it the night it opened, before the entire world found out that Jack died.  When I got out of the theater, I was still crying my eyes out, as were so, so many other people.

That opened a new chapter for me.  I desperately wanted one of those dresses, but I was still a good 300 pounds and out of the range of patterns to alter, and couldn’t afford paying someone else to do it for me.  By the time I started senior year of high school in 1998, I had sworn off patterns.  It never crossed my mind to check Silverton’s tiny library for sewing books, but I was dead-determined, and sewed all the things.

Through a series of events that were entirely not my fault (my dad getting a job transfer, an assistant principal messing up some information, moving to a school district that required such different credits than my old high school and would have delayed graduation by a whopping THREE YEARS), I ended up being pulled from school altogether in December 1998.  Let’s not get into how devastated I was to get to within six months of graduation after striving so hard to still finish school on time, despite those years of extreme illness and still dealing with ongoing illness (I still, all these years later, deal with illnesses, and this will never get better because organs don’t regrow and the medical focus is on the organs you’ll die without, not the ones you’re inconvenienced without).  I went from Oregon back to California and out to Massachusetts in a matter of one month.

So now it’s January 1999, and I was again obsessed with a Titanic gown.  I scoured the baby internet for all the photos I could find of the Jump gown, and still have all the pages I printed out somewhere.  It’s funny to look back on my notes and what I thought was what.  Then I started sewing and beading my heart out, and made a rather decent Jump dress.  That dress is somewhere in the garage as well.  But it was popular enough that I was encouraged to offer to make them for people.  So, in March 1999, I launched a webpage back when AOL Hometown was still in existence.  Oh geez, the old days of the interwebs.

From there, it’s just been learning a new method here, what a new fabric is there, and acquiring different machines and supplies as I went.  Rather than saying “I can’t do that!” I was stubborn and said “Eh, I can figure it out.”  That’s the huge thing right there.  Be stubborn.  Don’t say you can’t.  Sure, at that exact moment, you might not have the skills or know-how, so can’t at that exact moment, but you CAN learn how.

There’s nothing really new or exciting.  Just doing more sewing and taking on new challenges to figure out. 😀


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