The making umbrella

I have an old journal entry saying something to the effect of “I learned to knit. I don’t think it will really stick. Oh well.”

How wrong was I!

My first sewing machine although I have no memory of using it.

Throughout most of my life I’ve been surrounded by some sort of making. My Grandma Lou was an incredible seamstress. She made all my dad and uncle’s clothes, often matching, when he was a young. She sewed all of my Christmas and Easter dresses when I was small and my one and only flower girl dress. She made dolls and had a sewing room where you had to wear shoes because there were always straight pins on the floor. That room was piled high to the ceiling with fabric and all kinds of crafting notions. She sold her creations at craft fairs and was able to get her hands on coveted Cabbage Patch Dolls that were so popular when I was a little girl.

MyGrandpa Mike and Grandma Lou

My Grandma Annie taught me how to crochet. I made rag rugs at first and then a few blankets. She made hot pads: yarn covered bottle caps linked together which I still use today.

My Grandpa Eddie and Grandma Annie

My mother always made our Halloween costumes growing up, provided ample supplies to make Christmas ornaments and always had some sort of kit she was going to finish embroidering. (Full disclosure, I have a few of those types of kits too…waiting to be made.)

There aren’t many pictures of the things that were made but the images are still vibrant in my mind. Most of this making happened when I was a small child and I usually watched it all happen but never doing it myself (save from the crochet that I learned when I was a teenager) but always the proud recipient. All of the dresses below were handmade, I believe, by my Grandma Lou.

When I reached the age where I really wanted to learn how to sew, embroider and knit, my grandmothers had already passed and my mother had long forgotten how to use the sewing machine. I don’t recall that any of them actually knew how to knit.

A lot of that knowledge has been lost; most of the threads are broken. Just one small string has been woven through time and carries the essence from my grandmothers to my hands. I wish I could go back in time and learn from them. What felt like an infinite amount of time available as a child was cut short. If only I had spent more time learning from them when I could. But it’s hard to know that at 8, 19 or 24 years old. So while I have to go to classes and teach myself, I do feel their presence in my work. The drive to work with my hands is in my blood. That thin thread has become stronger as I kept circling back to making throughout my life.I believe all of these dresses were handmade by my Grandma Lou.

Now that I have a few steady years of making clothes and knitting garments, and a lifetime of its presence, I crave for the next step. How do I expand this umbrella of making? How do I grow deeper, more grounding roots in my craft practice so knowledge grows and carries on instead of being lost? Can I develop my ideas and lift them from hobby to profession? Where does my making go from here?

I’ve realized that I really enjoy teaching people to knit. It’s such a useful skill to know on so many levels: stress relief, ability to make your own clothes and accessories, an activity that doesn’t require a screen or battery power. It can be the foundation on which community and friendships are formed.

Creating community is something to be valued. Bringing people together for a shared experience which makes space for people to talk who otherwise may not is really important. While in Taipei, Taiwan this past summer I summoned the courage to connect with Taiwanese knitters, inquiring if there was an English speaking knitting group I could join once or twice. I ended up being warmly welcomed into a thriving group of extremely skilled knitters. It was wonderful that the craft connected a group of women who in turned welcomed a stranger from another country and all because of the shared love of fiber.

There is a desire to share the joy of making outside of the four walls of my guest room/sewing space. There is a call within me to continue the making traditions I witnessed growing up. I want to strengthen that thread from my past to my present and into the future, deepening my skills and making practice while encouraging others to connect and create.

So…what’s the next step?

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