Everyone asks me how I learned to sew. Where did the compulsion come from to sit down at this machine & see what I could do. I thought it was best to tell this story in reverse.
The newest generation…my girls. My girls have been around sewing machines since they were born. My eldest who will turn 11 in just a few short days…had her entire nursery linens handmade by me. Then we moved onto her toddler room & I hand painted a beautiful mural on her walls & also made all the linens for that room. Each milestone in her life has allowed me to sew something special for her. My little one, just turned 7 today. She has been in the mix of my business since pretty much the day she was born. I have pictures of my girls in my studio, helping me out & even learning to sew. My oldest has gone to fashion camp, making her own dress. The little one has done hand embroidery. So my two girls will be able to sew as much or as little as they want. They will & pretty much have the skills to do it.
When did I start? Well you got a little preview with my girls. My mom gave me a sewing machine when I got married. Other than a home economic class that I took in middle school, I hadn’t actually used a sewing machine. In high school, I made my own curtains & sewed them by hand. When I got married, my husband and I couldn’t find the curtains we wanted. So we both got crafty and built window boxes & I sewed panels. For the most part I worked full time after we got married & I only sewed when I needed to. This all changed when I stopped working to be home with the girls. Suddenly I found myself with more time & quite the urge to sew. A business was born thanks to the e-commerce site Etsy.com.
My Mom – Linda She is such a talented sewer & crafter. I remember so many nights hearing the buzzing of the machine. When she was a teenager she didn’t have a ton of money. She was quite resourceful and made beautiful clothes & matching bags for herself. I imagine she looked a lot like Jackie O. I remember seeing a few pictures of her as a teenager. Not too much later on…my brother and I came along when she was in her 20’s. Again, not blessed with a ton of cash, she made a lot of our clothes. She also made many of our halloween costumes. She would make fun items for craft shows & sell them so that she had extra money to buy us store bought gifts. Then the day I will never forget. Is the day my mom made my prom dress. I really wanted the Jessica McClintock dress in YM magazine. it was pale pink & perfect. How 1990 could you possibly be? Well, we couldn’t afford this dress & quite honestly off the rack probably would have looked terrible. My mom said…I bet we can find the same gunne sax pattern at the store & buy satin fabric. I wasn’t convinced. I had no idea how lucky I was to have a “Seamstress” in my own home. A personal dress maker. Duh, hello. What was I thinking. My mom probably said a few bad words during the dresses making but oh my goodness was this dress the most beautiful thing I had ever set my eyes on. It was so pretty & totally one of a kind. I had no idea how good I had it. This was a strong theme throughout my childhood. Ugh.
My Grandmother – Virginia I had no idea that Virginia sewed. I just remember that my grandfather died when I was very little. My grandmother always working really hard but never behind a sewing machine. My grandmother grew up in the Marlboro area and worked at various factories as a young woman. It wasn’t until the factories closed down that she went off to find work in other capacities.
My Great Grandmother – Agnes My sweet Agnes. She held me for the first few months after I was born. I cried a lot. I had acid reflux but they didn’t know that back then so they called it colic. She rocked and held me. Talking to me. My mom, poor thing was on bedrest. I put her through the ringer while she was pregnant & it didn’t get much better after. I was always this hard headed kid. Well, I guess I still am hard headed. Agnes was a stitcher. I had no idea what a stitcher was until talking with my mom recently. A stitcher is a person who does the decorative stitching on leather shoes. Frye Boot company was one of the first shoe manufacturers to industrialize. She worked for Frye Boots & Marlboro Footwear. Many European shoe companies came to America to learn the process. She also spent time working for Bally Shoes & Diamond Shoe Company. You can read more about the industrialization here. I love history, fashion history well that is a no brainer.
What I have come to know is that the beautiful lace work found on many of Bally’s shoes today was a part of my families legacy. That the diamond shoe company, I believe was the first to introduce the diamond cut in loafers which would later become the penny loafer. Frye boots we all know their legacy & I just love the picture on their history website. I wonder if one of those ladies was Agnes. What is sad is that all the shoe manufacturing has left this small town of blue collar workers. The companies moved on to other locations & many are now manufactured overseas. In writing this article I came across many obituaries of people that worked for the various shoe companies that I never knew existed in my small town of Marlborough, Massachusetts.
I really enjoyed researching the story behind the companies. It would be amazing if I could find pictures of my family working in the factories. I guess I’ll save that for another day.
Thanks for walking down memory lane with me.