Growing up in The Bahamas, sewing was always present in my home. My mother made our everyday clothes, home décor accents, play costumes, and our school uniforms. Sewing was as utilitarian as cooking and cleaning. I appreciated the skill involved, but I failed to see it as a creative outlet. When my sister wanted a satin prom dress, my mom made it. I needed a clown costume for a dramatic performance, and she whipped it up. In my mind, it was an act as everyday as making a meal.
I learned to sew along the way, and I sewed some simple things in college and graduate school. I certainly did not consider myself a sewist or maker. It wasn’t until years later, when I unexpectedly became stay-at-home mother to a premature baby girl, that I began to sew again. As an introvert, I used my computer to discover the online sewing community, and I found a wealth of creative inspiration. Those that I discovered catapulted my mindset from functional sewing to creative expression.
Sewing is a very personal experience for me. I admire the work of so many creative people. When asked to choose 5 individuals to highlight as inspirations, I chose those whose influence has spurred me act or think in a new way and not simply to look at in admiration. These people have lit a spark for me to make, to improve my corner of the world, to make as advocacy, to make with a plan and purpose, to make better constructed pieces, and to make with a true appreciation of the diversity of cultures.
Make To Improve My Corner of The World: “Little Miss”
I began sewing for my daughter after seeing adorable (but high priced) clothes for infants in local boutiques. I would admire a garment, flip a price tag, cringe, and say, “Oh no, I can make that better, and for less.” My creative sewing journey began with my making clothes for her. Along the way she participated with pattern and fabric choices, and she provided enthusiastic encouragement for coordinated outfits. Our Mama and Me outfits had me say, “Thanks! I made them” so frequently that it was only natural it should be the name of my blog and business.
On the playground one day, she was teased for wearing her naturally curly hair loose and free flowing. Someone she thought was a friend, called her big hair “weird” because it wasn’t straight like theirs. I was hurt, angry and saddened for her, and I wanted to remind her of her awesomeness. I wanted to remind her that people don’t define us; rather, we know who we are. As a result of that experience, I was inspired to design fabric,
and recently, my first quilt to celebrate the beauty of our natural hair.
She loves them all and encourages me to keep it going and to do more. Every day she and my big haired son celebrate their uniqueness. They are fierce advocates for those around them to do the same. She knows there are problems in this world, and she knows we can “make” it better.
To Make as Advocacy Entropy Always Wins
Hillary is my longest known online friend. I “met” Hillary over a love of bag-making, repurposing materials, and the joys of jersey hand-sewing. Her career as an ER doctor is inspiring on its own. She is also an incredible quilt artist and remarkable newbie garment sewist. When a company we both loved broke our hearts over an issue of race, I chose to stop supporting them. I couldn’t see myself slaving for months on hand-sewing garments using books, patterns or stencils by a company who unceremoniously trivialized my very skin. When I pulled my support from the company, others did as well well. We spoke up and out, and eventually the company made the necessary change.
It was in this time, I came to know Hillary as a maker advocate. She envisioned a message quilt that included the family skin tones of all its collaborators from all corners of the globe.
I am inspired by how Hillary can go from social outrage to creative output beautifully. I admire how she can process societal problems, political injustices, and tragedy around us and channel them into meaningful art. I am often overwrought emotionally, tempering rage, overthinking situations, and weighing offences in a heap on the floor. Hillary is an “along-sider,” and she gets down there with you; she is not in a heap, but rather in a starting position preparing to act. I admire her ability to shift from “WTH?” to “What now?”, apparently seamlessly.
Her quilt titled “Caged” gave me goosebumps. Without explanation, I could see the statement on the current immigration crisis laid out in fabric.
Her day job in the ER shows her both the beneficial uses of narcotic drugs and the ramifications of its abuse.
I am inspired by the overt and subtle storytelling in her quilts. She does it in a way that visually holds the passion of story.
To Make With a Plan and Purpose: AC Makes
In most areas of my life, I like to have things planned and organized while factoring in multiple contingencies. In my sewing life, I am spontaneous and whimsical. I move when the inspiration hits. I make what strikes my fancy without much thought to how it fits my lifestyle. I have not been bothered by this because I enjoy the process and the need to expend my creative energy. I have joked though, that my hangers get more use of my clothes than I do. Following AC Makes on Instagram has inspired me to get a tighter rein on my sewing plans and to make with a plan and purpose. I love how she plans her collections.
She draws sketches,
pulls coordinating fabrics and patterns that all work together.
She follows through on her plans and has a cohesive wearable wardrobe that is consistent with her lifestyle. Her clothes are well constructed with added personal touches. When I thought about wardrobe planning, I felt I would be stifled creatively and would lose the adrenaline rush of inspiration. Watching Amanda’s creations go from the planning stage to perfected garments and bags has helped me have a shift of mind.
She has inspired me to be more deliberate and practical with what I make. Her planning has helped me think responsibly about how I use my precious patterns, fabrics, and sewing time.
To Make Better Constructed Bags and Garments: Cheryl of Paradiso Designs
I first met this independent pattern designer with hustle at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. The dresses, skirts, and bags in her eclectic booth caused my heart to leap. We stuck up a conversation, which led to friendship, and I learned about her patterns. I am a self-proclaimed bag lady. They are a great way to add pop to an ordinary outfit, to use a small cut of a treasured fabric, and to have a satisfying make without contending with fit issues.
I have been quick to buy and make the newest on-trend bag pattern. I have a closet full of good looking bags with too stiff stabilizer, bags with straps that don’t stay on my shoulder, and bags that are scaled to big or too small to be practical. Cheryl’s patterns are inspired. They are not just written; rather, they are engineered with practical use in mind. The stabilizer choices, pocket construction techniques, and Pleather sewing techniques all combine to make for awesome wearable bags.
Her strip cutting techniques, wide elastic casings, and overlapping side splits in skirts are brilliant. Her patterns are different from commercial patterns and have a slight learning curve with her techniques, but I enjoy everything I have made with them.
From her patterns, I am inspired to think about how and why garments are made the way they are. I have learned much from her patterns and live classes. I have applied those techniques to improve the construction and longevity of other patterns I have sewn.
To Make with Appreciation of the Culture of Others: Sandra Johnson Designs
I can be so impatient in non creative aspects of life. That being said, I surprise myself with how much I enjoy slow-stitching and fabric dyeing. Every time Sandra posts her work with these media, I am tempted to cancel all my plans, prepare sandwiches for dinner, and make everything I see. Among her many talents, she is a master of Japanese sashiko stitching. When she adds her stitches to the simplest pair of jeans,
or basic top,she elevates it to art. She stitches with care and honors the art form with the use of proper materials and correct techniques. Whether she applies the designs as an accent or a complete garment, I am always inspired.
I want to drop everything, slow down, and stitch. The same can be said of her work with shibori indigo dyeing. She folds, manipulates, and binds her fabrics with anticipated results in mind.
She works the fabric in and out of the dye pot repeatedly for hours to achieve gradients of blues in the fabric.
Her slow work on the fabric always produces enviable results. She is, additionally, inspiring because she shares her passion with others in the classes that she teaches.
Thanks for for allowing me to share these inspiring people with you. I am grateful for their influence in my creative journey and the way they have changed both how and what I make. I appreciate the varied impact each has had on me. I hope they can see that impact in my work. In seeing my work, I hope that they will smile.