Do you ever look back over your life and wonder how you ended up where you are today?
I recently attended an Instructor Summit in Denver hosted by Craftsy. I am sure by now you know that I have a slipcover class that I did for Craftsy in May of 2015. One of our guest speakers asked us, ‘What’s your story?’ Hmmm, I had never really thought about it or asked my self why I do what I do, which is of course upholstery and teaching upholstery. When I sat and looked back, wayyy back, ok I am slightly old, but not that old am I?? I found the answer started way back in Richmond NH when I was probably 5 or 6 years old. Wow, that was a long time ago.
Reminiscing back to my child hood and what made me love to create was an eyeopener. I remember arriving at my grandparents house located on a country road in Richmond NH. This was my mom’s parents. They lived across the street from where my grandmother grew up. My great grandfather still lived there. It was a hoarders home for sure. With electricity in only one room and running water only in the kitchen sink. I never liked using the outhouse, yucky. My great grandfather was a collector of everything, maybe this is where I get my addiction from. The upstairs of the house was like walking into a flea market, which I LOVE today. All kinds of hidden treasures that I was way to young to appreciate, but wish they were still there today.
My favorite times at my grandmothers house was sitting with my grandfathers mother. My great grandmother was always working on a project. I would sit by her side for hours just watching as she knit doilies. Do you all remember the doilies? They would be placed on an end table under a picture frame or showcased on the back of a chair. I would watch in amazement as this ball of twine magically became a thing of beauty! When I was old enough she gave me my own supplies so that I could follow along. We started with granny squares, I am sure most of you remember these. I would make loads and loads of these little beauties. She then would teach me how to join them to make a blanket for my dolls, wish I still had these to share pictures. We later moved from crochet to embroidery. Ah everyone in my family got something hand made from me for the next few years. From framed embroidery to little pillows that I had made from the embroidery pieces.
I am sure after a couple years my family was knowing just what I would be giving them for their holiday gift and were all relieved when my grandmother asked me if I would like here old sewing machine, YES!!! How exciting was that. I remember my eyes being as big as saucers when I first laid eyes on it.
I had never seen such a beautiful sewing machine in all my life (well all of my 8 years any way) and it WAS MINE! The sewing machine was housed in its own little stand that fit ever so perfectly in my purple bedroom. It was a blue color Brother sewing machine, I wish that I still had this one. This was one of those machines that never skipped a stitch. Everything I created was so perfect, at least in my world. From blankets for my dolls to dresses for my barbies. I was in heaven, and out of my mothers hair too, a good solution for both of us. The women on my mothers side of the family were all very talented seamstresses. My Aunt Bev would make me clothes for Christmas. She also made her own slipcovers which amazed me as to how someone could do that? My grandmother also sewed her own clothing. Do you remember the “house coats”? Every women in my family had at least one but usually more. They were all home made and I couldn’t wait till I too was old enough to have one of those lovely creations, what was I thinking?
As I got older and into hanging with friends my sewing did take a back seat for a few years. I still liked to indulge once in a while but was not fast to admit it to the neighborhood girls, so not cool when your 13 or 14, at this point boys were coming into view as well as polishing your nails. Fast forward a year or two when I was able to take home-ec in high school. YEAH it was sewing and cooking time. Our first project was to make a vest. Mine was a light blue corduroy and I remember it like it was yesterday. They say the long term memory stays intact
So a few years passed and again my love for sewing was still there but I had not quite found my niche. For graduation from high school my mom bought me my first brand new machine and I said good buy to the one my grandmother had given me. I loved my new machine and continued sewing clothes. My freshmen year in college I took a pattern drafting class and learned how to make more clothes from detailed blazers to jumpsuits and those gaucho pants, yikes. Skirts were always my favorite because I was a girly girl for sure! This all while majoring in computer science and learning how to write programs. You would have thought by now that I should have caught on to where my true talents were, but nope not yet. I enjoyed the computer world and was good at it but it never really moved me. I graduated and decided to go on to another year in college where I would become a photographer. This was my other one true love. I have had a camera in my hand as long as I can remember. So this had to be it, right!
Now lets fast forward to 1988 when my first child was born, a son, Joshua. I picked this name out when I was about 16 and never steered away from it. So Joshua was born and every child needs a quilt, right? That is when the next phase of sewing began. My mother and I would quilt together for hours. We took several of those quilt in a day classes where you left with a quilt front completely done. Oh what fun and gifts for everyone! Now being a house wife and Mom I needed curtains too. So my Mom with her great talents made window treatments for my living and dining room windows. Tab top draperies and rod pocket panels were in every window of my home back then and all beautifully made by my Mom. Did I mention she made my wedding dress and maid of honors dress too. She was one talented lady. Of course when my daughter Kirsten arrived a year later she needed a quilt as well. My Mom made her crib size one but when she graduated to a twin bed at 18 months, not wanting to be out done by her brother who had a big boy bed, I made here a twin quilt too.
A few months later we moved into a new home and of course it needed window treatments, now using new fancy terms too…wink wink (not curtains any more, lol) So together my mom and I dressed the windows in my new home oh so beautifully. I think I changed my curtains every year sometimes, just because I had found a beautiful new fabric that I just had to have. This was when Waverly was all the rage and they happened to have an outlet very close by. So now I had a sofa that was in need of upholstery. My Mom and I decide we could tackle the cushions if the upholsterer could just redo the frame. He was willing to work with us on this so that is just what we did. The cushions came out perfect with the guidance of my talented mom and I am sure the upholsterer didn’t mind not having them to do. A few years later I found an upholstery class but there was no available space at that time, because now I want to try this too. Well unfortunately my Mom wasn’t here to see me reach my dream. In June of 1995 she passed away at the young age of 52. It was not an expected illness but a stroke that took her from me.
Later that same year I did get into the upholstery class and had found my dream craft. I took the class for two years. Al Goss was my instructor and this man new his stuff. I hung on his every word as he would show me the steps I needed to take. He was a great teacher and wouldn’t do the work for me, which is what I really liked. He walked me through the steps and then watched as I did what I had been told. Many of the people in the class were there for a night out away from the kids, but not me, I was there to learn and accomplish a task. My first project was an attached pillow back, UGH, not a great first project but I did it. Next I moved onto a wing back chair that my friend Kris was willing to allow me to do for her. She picked out a purple and white stripe as this was to go in her daughters room. Al looked at me and said “stripes, really?” I just smiled and said “um, yes, is that okay?” not having a clue of course. Well again it turned out great.t Al was very surprised at how quickly I was taking to this new art form and allowed me to do a channel back, which was unheard of in this class for beginners. Again my channel back went very well so on to tufting. “Hold on now” Al said “I will let you do a tufted trunk, but your not ready for a tufted chair yet”. I was of course agreeable. So Al built me a trunk and off I went. The fabric was a floral and I was in awe of this beautiful tufted trunk I had completed.
So its been two years and 4 projects, I must know it all now, right? WRONG. Having this passing thought I decided I didn’t need the class any more and off I went to play with all things upholstered. Of course there was a lot of head scratching and asking, “What would Al do?” but I have learned by doing and still enjoy my love for upholstery. From that day on I started doing projects for friends and then their friends and so on. After a bit I decided to try and make this a full time business and the rest is history. I have to say writing this has made me both smile and cry but I am so glad that I was asked that magical questions “What’s your story”. I challenge each of you reading this to go ahead and ask yourselves the same question and share your story with me and those around you. I had never really thought about why I do this thing that I love so much and was happy to trace it back to my childhood and the love I have for creating beauty and the fact that I now get to pass it on. Teaching what you know and sharing the knowledge with others is so fulfilling. I love seeing the pride of those who have taken my class when the share their project with me.
Never stop learning and always search for that one thing in your life that makes your heart smile!
Leave A Comment