My Grandma Made Me Do It

Well…not made me, per se, but certainly inspired me to do it!

Grandma Marian, she’s the one I often think of when I think about my making journey. She’s the one I feel along side me as I sew clothes, cursing the sewing machine, with pins in my mouth.

To my understanding, she was a factory worker by day, seamstress by night. Making wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses in her spare time. She died when I was 17, but the 41 year old me wishes I could ask her some questions.

Like, did she harbor dreams of becoming a seamstress full time? What did she want to do with her life? Ideally? Why did she knit, crochet, sew?

I wonder what her dreams and aspirations were at this time in her life?

In high school, she always made my formal dresses. Patiently sitting at the pattern table at Joann’s while I painstakingly, chose a dress pattern and then promptly fell in love with ill-fitted fabric. Then she’d adjust the dress to fit my body, pins in her mouth, swatting at me to hold still. Fight the cat for table space and tell me, you better pay attention, I won’t be around forever. I didn’t and she wasn’t…around forever. She died in the winter of my senior year of high school. Before we got the opportunity to take a color tour (and stay in hotels!) around Michigan. Before I learned any technical skills. Way before I was ready. But not before I became inspired.

In my late twenties, I was tired of trying on dresses in stores to have them never fit. Never. I finally , grudgingly accepted that I had a body that was not right for dresses.

Until one fateful day, while thrifting, I found a handmade knit dress that seemed to have been made for me. For my body. (I love to imagine the woman who made that dress. Would I see her and recognize her body as a mirror of mine? Did she garden and plant flowers in that dress? Did she wear it on picnics by the riverside? Run through a meadow of wildflowers with a straw hat and giant smile? I like to think so!)

So, being an intrepid maker, if not yet a garment maker, I traced the dress onto a grocery bag, found the perfect quilting cotton, and sewed it up. If you know a thing or two about fabric, you may know how this ends. Knit fabrics stretch, quilting fabrics don’t. Still I could squeeze it over my head, wiggle each shoulder and breast in to place and wear it with pride. I have no doubt Grandma Marian was there with me, thrilled with my success. She may have even told me my fabric choice was not a good one…or maybe not!

I was elated! It fit! Mostly. People stopped me in the streets, in awe of my dress! Well, maybe not exactly, but my friends were properly impressed and it certainly gave a new spring to my step and swagger to my walk.

A garment maker was born.

I never looked back. I now make (or thrift) nearly all of my wardrobe and it has been an empowering and delightful journey. I wear clothes that fit my body. The one I have right now. Nothing is more flattering than clothes that fit. I wear clothes that fit my style and make me feel strong and beautiful. Because, I no longer accept anything less than clothes that make my best shine through, clothes that help me glow. (and I get to connect with my Grandma! win – win.)

To be sure, I come from a long line of makers…male and female. My Dad a carpenter and maker of tools and materials for his hobbies. A Mama who made her own dress for my brother’s wedding, (I think it was out of quilting cotton!). And her mother, Grandma Hilda, who sketched and painted on fabric and created lovely things. And those are only the ones I can quickly bring to mind. For them, I’m deeply grateful.

If you want to sew clothes you love, I have a free mini-course to get you started. You can also join us for one of our garment making retreats and learn with friends!

This is that fateful, first dress.
Yes, I appear to be both pouring coffee and ironing! I’m sort of shocked that
there is an image in the world of me ironing!