With these hands I thee made

When we were little, my sisters and I never played with Barbie. Or Ken for that matter. Instead we’d learn to make our own dolls, whether out of paper or fabric remnants. My mom’s side of the family had a textile business so you might say I have linen and silk fibers woven into my DNA strands.  My imagination took wings the minute I picked up a pair of scissors for the first time. My big sister is the painter in the family and my baby sister is the perfectionist crafter.  We three inherited the “I can make that” sensibility from our mom and this has always colored how we look at things at the store or in magazines.  I’d deconstruct small machines, clothes, and accessories just to see how they were made or whether I could improve on the design.  Of course this wasn’t always a good idea because curiosity often can’t help you put things back together.  But the more I learn how to make something, the higher my expectations rise when it’s time for me to buy an article of clothing or an accessory.  I’m not so much a perfectionist as I am an expectationist.   For brands that meet my expectations of producing insanely well crafted items, I’m forever loyal.

These days when we get together and have our impromptu crafts (aka sweatshop) sessions, it’s the little sis who helps me finish off the details. Me? I’m more about concept and design.  Technique is something I can’t master even if I tried. But I do love taking classes, from how to develop film in a dark room to silversmithing. From sheets of silver, I made these rings and necklace in a weeklong class in NY:

I wish my imagination came with an instructions manual.  What I have in creativity I woefully lack in patience, so the hack in me throws a design together and hopes for the best.  Ideas don’t stop even if you are just fumbling around.   At some point, paper dolls led to other things. My sister made stuffed bunnies from felt (I got to name them as her bunny factory delivered one after another) and I made…checks. I made checkbooks for us, using names of two classmates whom I admired.  I was Heidi Lambrecht (she was the head cheerleader) and my little sister was Bridget DeGroot (who was my older sister’s debate partner). Yes, in hindsight you might call this identity theft, but at 13 what did I know? I only thought it was cool to use the sewing machine to perforate the checks!  Little did I know I would eventually move on from a little desktop Singer to an industrial machine.

In February of 2008 I spent a few days at Arthur Porter’s studio to learn how to make a leather handbag. He has a wonderful studio/store in Dallas called Designing Dreams and will provide one-on-one or group instructions.  We spent a lot of time talking about life lessons in general but by the end of my class I’d made a purse completely from scratch.  First, I cut a pattern from cardboard paper and selected a piece of hide for the bag and some buttery turquoise suede for the lining:

Next came the gluing for the lining and gusset and shoulder strap (which I also learned how to dye):

Then the assembling, sewing, and edging:

And voilà:

It’s a bag only I can love but sometimes it’s not the destination that’s as memorable as the journey. I’m just happy to look and whisper to it: with these hands I thee made.


  1. Bridget DeGroot

    Hello Larkie,
    Are you Larkie Dam – Janie’s little sister from San Antonio, Texas? I am living in New York. I would love to connect and catch up with you and Janie!
    Bridget DeGroot

  2. Tiffany

    Larkie! That’s a gorge bag! It’s reminiscent of a Dior Gaucho with the little dip at the corner. I remember when I was 10 and took sewing classes with my mom…I made a denim outfit lined with this flower pattern…looking back on it now, it makes me doubt my sense of style as a 10 yr old…but I still feel super proud of it.

    Great work!

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