When I was 5 or 6 years old, I wanted doll clothes for my Barbie dolls, but my mother wouldn’t buy them for me. She said,”They are too expensive, and they are not made very well.” So if I didn’t want naked dolls, I had to learn how to sew. If you ask her, she’ll tell you that she taught me to sew. This isn’t true, although I am certain she helped me to the best of her ability. My grandmother, her mother, was the one who really taught me. Since my entire reason for learning how to sew was to make doll clothes, this was pretty much all I made for the first couple of years. By hand. I cannot remember exactly when I graduated to a sewing machine, but I do remember the first dress I made for myself when I was 8 years old. It had 3 arm holes (on purpose) and was a wrap-around dress. It had only the side and shoulder seams, and the whole dress was banded on the raw edges, so really easy. I chose a yellow (we are talking school bus yellow) kettle cloth, which I do not even think is made anymore, and orange binding. Yikes! What I wouldn’t give to still have that dress, though. As far as I know, there isn’t even a picture of it. Bummer! By nine, I could install a zipper, and I do have a picture of that dress:
I continued sewing, mainly because my mother would buy me fabric whenever I wanted it. Unlike today, fabric used to be inexpensive, and it was far cheaper to sew your own clothes. I never had to worry about anyone wearing the same thing as I had on. I never took Home Economics because by that time I was too far advanced. The truth is, I could have taught the class. I did make money sewing while in high school. I was on the swim team and every Friday before a meet, we had outfits that we had to wear. The skirts were some kind of purple cotton, and I ended up making the skirts for all the girls on the team. Apparently, no one’s mother sewed. I probably got $10 a skirt. I also made and sold Holly Hobbie dolls for $15. Those things were a lot of work, but, I guess for the time, that was pretty good. Also, these were not dolls to be played with; they were to be sat on a shelf and admired. If someone wanted to buy one for their daughter to actually play with, I wouldn’t sell it to them.
I took my sewing machine to college with me and used to get up super early to sew before my first class. I always had new clothes, and would make my outfits for special occasions, usually the night before. I was always aware of just how long something would take for me to make and I would always wait until the very last-minute to do it. Some things never change!
I always sewed. Except, that is, when I went off to Europe to model. I could not take my sewing machine with me then. Whenever I was back in the States for even a week, I would drag out the machine and whip up something to take back with me. When I moved back to the States for good in September of 1990, I continued to model, but started sewing on the side. I made vests, teddy bears, all kinds of things. I retired from modeling sometime in 1992 or 1993, and then realized I had to get a ‘regular’ job. I got one at Loomcraft (a Calico Corners-type store) in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago. The store did custom labor for the home, and though I had never done much of that kind of sewing, other than simple curtains or pillows, I decided that was what I would do. I worked at Loomcraft for 2 years, until I had enough business to quit and sew full-time. I am proud to say that I never once poached a customer from the store. It would have been easy to do that, but it was against the rules. I built my business back then the same way I do today – word of mouth. And as anyone who is self-employed knows, you work many more hours a week than 40, but at least you are working for yourself.
Today I am happy that my mother forced me to learn to sew. It has allowed me to have my own business for the last 23 years. I have the best clients and each one of them comes to me just as my very first one did. My business has gone through several name changes through the years until several years ago when I changed it to A Little of This That and the Other. Even though I only make things for the home, I don’t want to limit myself. You never know when I might decide it’s time to start a line of t-shirts or bathing suits or yoga clothes. This way, I’m covered.
I have always lived a creative life and cannot imagine living any other way. Creating beautiful things for people’s homes gives me great joy. I get to go into all kinds of houses that I would normally never go into. I’ve been in 14 different magazines over the years, although this has never gotten me work. Still, I love to see my work in a magazine. As of right now, I am awaiting a home in Carlsbad, CA that was shot for Coastal Living and another home on Saint Simons Island, GA in Country Living. I never know until it comes out exactly which of things I did will end up in the magazine, which is really hard. But when it finally does come out, I am excited and happy to see my work in print.
My other creative outlet is writing and this web site. It is a completely different kind of creativity and something I have done for most of my life, as well. Telling my story, at times, is hard. I think it is important, if for no other reason than to help me make sense of my life. And in the process, if I help others, then so much the better. It’s all a part of the healing process.