Sewing, Knitting, Quilting — Real Women and Real Men Do These Things

Mountain Lake, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson. Click on the image to see it on the gallery website.

I’m a Baby Boomer, which means that I am one generation removed from the “I walked 10 miles in the snow to get to school every day” stories.

Okay, so my parents drove me to school every day. I did walk home, just not in the snow.

However, I do have my own tiresome tales to tell my captive progeny audience, especially when we’re in the car and they forget to charge the I-pod or MP-3 player or whatever electronic device they have stuck in their ears (“I heard literal voices in my head,” will begin their own tiresome tales someday).

Mine have to do with being in third grade and owning four dresses, worn in rotating fashion throughout the week, and washed every weekend.

With three brothers ahead of me, I had no hand-me-downs, and for some reason, nobody in the family knew anything about second-hand stores. I myself did not discover their existence until I began dating the Norwegian Artist, who was taken aback at my initial reaction:

“This place is incredible! They should open up stores like this in other towns!”

Back to the third grade, just temporarily, since it is best left in the past:

The class was going on a field trip, and girls were advised to wear pants. I was in a panic — since I owned no pants other than a pair of jeans that magically made it past the third brother.

True to my high strung nature, I agonized, stressed, and woke up at night, worrying, but never thought to actually mention the matter to my parents, who, being parents, eventually figured out that their youngest child was in a state.

Bainbridge Island Sail-by, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson. Click on the image to see it on the gallery website.

“I have no pants to wear to the school field trip!” I wailed. “I won’t be able to go!”

My mother looked at me, looked at my father, then disappeared into the nether regions of her bedroom closet, returning with a festively wrapped birthday present.

“It looks like you need to open this early,” she told me.

Inside — oh joy! — was a striped polyester brown/mustard yellow/cream stretchy top and matching pair of brown pants.

Not only was I dressed for field trip success, I had a fifth item in my rotating weekly wardrobe, expanded even further when, on my actual birthday, I received the identical outfit again, only red, white, and blue this time.

Eight rotating outfits — doubled from four!

The Fruit Vendor, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson. Click on the image to see it on the gallery website.

While this experience did not result in an adulthood of Paris Hilton shopping sprees (you need money for that, I find), it did create in me a need to create. From an eight-year-old’s dreams and actual attempts at sewing and knitting (not very successful in a family of microbiologists who know how to use a microscope but not a sewing machine), I grew into an adult her taught herself to sew and knit unique garments to compliment the name-brand finds in those miraculous second-hand stores.

Every day, I wear at least one item that I sewed or knit — top, socks, hat, no slacks yet since I’m not that proficient — and I sleep under a bedspread I pieced and machine quilted, with my head on matching pillow cases. Meals feature place mats and potholders spun from my fingers. Scattered about are pillows and table runners. The Toddler can look forward to years’ worth of customized jammies. The Norwegian Artist gets a vest now and then, his supply abruptly cut off at the knees if he ventures to make any less than positive comment about fit, look, or style.

“Is that sweater for someone you know?” people ask when they spot me knitting.

“It’s for ME,” I reply. “Who else would fully appreciate all of the work and time that went into it?”

Like any mother, I am generous with my time, but my knitting and sewing endeavors largely benefit myself and that eight-year-old girl who smiles with wonder every time she finds herself with yet another piece to her wardrobe.

I have more than one week’s worth of rotating clothes!

And I have a passion, a hobby, an activity to make time for, somehow, everyday that uses a different part of my mind than writing and marketing and calling on the phone and sending paintings to galleries and shows.

At the Norwegian Artist’s receptions and opening nights, I appear in something that exists all its own on the planet — no twin at Wal-Mart or Nordstrom’s — what I’m wearing is as unique, unusual, and imperfect as I am.

The eight-year-old within me laughs with joy.

Wading, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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8 Responses to Sewing, Knitting, Quilting — Real Women and Real Men Do These Things

  1. Patty H says:

    I am fortunate in that my mother taught (showed) my sister and me how to sew. Also, when I was a freshman and my sis a senior in high school, we could wear each others dresses and skirts and blouses.

  2. My sis is ten years older than I am, which meant that, by the time I raided her mini-skirt pile, long skirts were in (and I don’t have the knees for short short stuff anyway).

    How wonderful that you learned to sew — and that you had a sister to share clothing with! Do you still sew?

    • Patty H says:

      I am still sewing. I now have a granddaughter I sew for. Mostly I sew summer clother for her and odds and ends of stuff(purses, quilts, toys, ect.) She is also sewing now and making very nifty stuff. Teddy bears and mice for her mom and pillows and toys for Aunts cat. I sew with my moms featherweight she gave me. I am lucky.

  3. This is a wonderful heritage indeed.

    For all that people worry about their “legacy,” it really isn’t that hard to leave one. It’s generally not splashy and dramatic, but it is long lived.

  4. Lorben says:

    I really must get back to my domestic side…so much to do in the world! Soon!

  5. When the time is right, it will happen. If you’re like me, you certainly don’t need anything else in your life to add stress or make you feel guilty, so pursue your passions with gusto when you can, and when you can do no more than flop into bed at night with a cheap paperback book, then enjoy the cheap paperback book!

  6. Dianne says:

    A yes, a subject dear to my heart. My mom was a mixed bag of creative talent, but the accounting side affected all other aspects. She was a dear fuss-budget who could sew, play the violin, sing and paint, but approached them with an accountant’s idea of detailed perfection. She drove us nuts, but she taught me to sew. The other things I flatly refused to let her teach me after watching her with my older brother and the violin. I too had one outfit for each school day, and weekend things made from remnants. She gave me the bug for this and I eventually became a theatrical costumer. The painting side of my nature was expressed in the “renderings” of designs, and fortunately by opting for the piano, I was sent to a piano teacher, and a voice teacher.
    I now crochet lace, knit sweaters (don’t need them much here in California) embroider, make period costumes for myself (I belong to a Costumers Guild that holds period events), record audio books for the blind and dyslexic, and paint, paint, paint! My office job (in accounting) went away, so now I have more time for the important stuff.
    So much yarn, so little time!

  7. The amazing thing about yarn is that it requires the use of your two hands, and the project gets done slowly and steadily — you can’t rush it, and you can’t work on two sweaters at the same time. I still can’t fully grasp this.

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