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.Â My imagination took wings the minute I picked upÂ a pair of scissors for the first time. MyÂ big sister is the painter in the family and my baby sisterÂ is theÂ perfectionist crafter.Â We threeÂ inherited the “I can make that” sensibility from our mom and this has always colored howÂ we look at things at the store or in magazines.Â I’d deconstructÂ smallÂ machines, clothes, and accessoriesÂ just to see how they were madeÂ or whether I could improve on the design.Â Â Of course this wasn’t always a good idea because curiosity oftenÂ can’t help you put things back together.Â Â ButÂ 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.Â I’m not so much a perfectionist as I am an expectationist.Â Â For brands that meet my expectations of producing insanely well crafted items, I’m forever loyal.
These daysÂ when we get together and have our impromptu crafts (aka sweatshop) sessions, it’s the littleÂ sis who helpsÂ me finish off the details. Me? I’mÂ more about concept and design.Â Technique is something I can’t master even if I tried. But I do loveÂ taking classes, fromÂ how to develop film in a dark roomÂ to silversmithing. From sheets of silver, I made theseÂ rings and necklace in a weeklong class in NY:
I wish my imagination came with an instructions manual.Â What I have in creativity IÂ woefullyÂ lack in patience, soÂ theÂ hack in me throwsÂ a design together and hopesÂ for the best.Â Ideas don’t stop even if you are justÂ fumbling around. Â AtÂ some point,Â paper dolls led to other things. My sister made stuffed bunniesÂ from felt (I got toÂ name them asÂ her bunny factory delivered one after another)Â and I made…checks. I made checkbooks for us, using names of two classmates whom I admired.Â 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 onlyÂ thought it was cool to use the sewing machine to perforate the checks!Â Little did I know I would eventually move onÂ 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.Â We spent a lot of time talking about life lessons in general butÂ by the end of my class I’d made a purse completely from scratch.Â 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 theÂ assembling, sewing, and edging:
And voilÃ :
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.
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!
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.