I learned to machine sew without any electricity. When I was a kid, we often visited my Grandparents in the Northern Ontario woods. The place was called Boakview, and once upon a time it was a train station. In my years it was a place filled with cousins, Grandma’s scones baked in the wood oven, and fiddle and piano music at night around the wood stove fire. At the top of the stairs on the way up to bed just below the oil lamp, was Grandma’s treadle sewing machine. I longed to give up my embroidery hoop and hand sewing to learn to make it go.
When the time was right, Grandma showed me how to operate it. I was off and running and my head was spinning with ideas of things I saw in Seventeen magazine that I could make for myself. That sturdy machine would sew through just about anything when you got it threaded and rocked the pedal back and forth and although it wouldn’t stitch in reverse, it would get up to a very respectable clip. My most hilarious memory was making a reversible brown corduroy and eyelet ‘puffy vest’ which I thought was all the rage in ’78. A far cry from the light down versions of today, Mom and I filled it with foam bits that were incorrectly called Kapok. Thank goodness we were outside, because we created our own tornado of tiny foam chips that we inhaled as we gave in to fits of laughter. Well, the treadle machine sewed through all that Kapok when I made the channels, and I finished up just beautifully, only to discover that a 5 pound foam chip vest was not exactly the flattering fashion statement I craved. Picture a short haired, blonde version of the Michelin man, and remember to sew and always being ready to laugh and learn from your mistakes…
Today I have equipment that sews 1500 stitches a minute (with electricity) and an embroidery machine with 10 needles that once programmed, will sew by itself and sing to me to let me know it’s done. I can create artwork in Adobe Illustrator, digitize it, put it on Flash media and embroider my own lace. I’m not sure what Grandma would think if she saw it stitching, cutting threads, and changing colors on its own, but I hope she would approve. What’s amazing to me is that all these years later, I still think often of that treadle machine while surrounded by the best sewing technology, and I marvel at the doors that technology has opened for me as a fashion and textile designer and maker. And, I’ll be honest, I love that I still pick up a hand sewing needle occasionally to add texture and personal meaning to my work.
I have a deep love for textile traditions, couture techniques, and cutting beautiful clothes. I hope you will enjoy following me here to share my joy of creating artful fashion with fabric, thread and technology.