Darlynn E.

Exercise #1

My First Cloth Memory

                I can’t ever remember a time when I did not have access to cloth scraps. My mother sewed all our clothes when I was little and my older sister soon followed suit. I used to sit by the Singer Treddlemachine watching them work and being enthralled with what they were making. To keep me happy, and possibly quiet, my mother gave me the extra scraps of cloth to create clothes for my dolls. I was the proud owner of a toy Singer machine that actually sewed. It was small and clamped to the table to keep it stable. I would lay my dolls on the fabric, measure their body circumference and cut the fabric large enough to create a dress. It was during this time my mother taught me how to sew on a button and snaps so that I could have some kind of closure for my creations.

                My mother had to go to work when I was nine andno longer made our clothes so I was probably about seven years old when this occurred.   By the time I was eleven I had learned to operate the treddle machine and was on the way to making my own clothes. My inspiration was certainly my mother and my sister because they were already creatingWearable Art in the 50’s. My mother used to decorate our clothing with embroidery, sometimes our names on our collars, or add some type of embellishment such as little Nosegays.

                By the time I was in high school and college I made almost all of my clothing. When my children were little I continued sewing clothing for them. It was my creative outlet.  To this day going into a fabric shop is still one of my favorite things to do. 

My Favorite Room

                As a child my favorite room was my bedroom. It was the bedroom I acquired when my sisters grew up, married and left the house. For the first time I had a room to myself. That meant I could paint it any color I wanted, pick out any curtains and bedspread, and decorate it in and way that was pleasing to my personality.

                The room had a set of double windows on one side, and two single windows on the other so it had plenty of light which was a must for me. I painted the walls lavender and hung lacy curtains of pure white. The baseboards and crown molding were painted white which accented the wood floors. The light in the room uplifted me and the color soothed me. I spent many troubled teen years in that room.

                Ironically, years later when I was going through a troubled time, I painted my bedroom periwinkle with white curtains and a white lacy bedspread. I never thought about the correlation until just now when I was writing about it.

                Purple is still my go to color. I use it in a lot of my quilts as both an accent and focal point. When my grandchildren ask me “Grandma, what is your favorite color,”  I always say “purple”. Now I know why.

Susan S.

Earliest memory of a cloth

My Mother and her mother were knitters and tapestry/needlepoint makers.  They were lucky enough to be able to afford to go to a dressmaker if they needed something made.  My Mother would even have a dressmaker make my ballet show costumes.  Although we had an old factory Jones sewing machine, she rarely used it.  Sadly my Mother, who is 99, has dementia and has lost the ability to knit or needlepoint.

One of my earliest memories of a cloth/textile was Jennifer, a doll and bed knitted for me by my Mother when I was about three.  I had been in hospital for a week for a tonsillectomy and we were going to Leeds to visit my grandparents for Christmas shortly after I was released.  My Mother had made Jennifer to take on the train (a steam train back then….the type one had to close the windows on for travel!)  I don’t know/remember if she was also a holiday gift.  Jennifer had a pale pink face with embroidered features.  She wore a white or off-white knitted dress.  She is about 3 or 4” tall and pretty flat.  She had a blue knitted bed with a white pillow.  Somehow the bed disappeared over time, or was worn out.  But I used to sleep with Jennifer under my pillow together with some bits of yarn called my “cuddly bits” and a white bear given to me by Japanese neighbours.  I have no idea why I slept with them under the pillow.  I still have a very worn Jennifer hidden in a draw for safe keeping.  She has a handkerchief around her to keep the remnants of her dress on, a repair done by my Mother.

Jane M.

First cloth

I had a pink blanket on my bed when I was a little girl. This was in the days of sheets and blankets. The blanket was a dusky pink and it was bought not homemade. I am not sure but I think it was made of wool. It's not because of the blanket itself that I remember it , it's because of the silky ribbon edging . The edge was just along the top edge and I can imagine , but not remember it folded neatly down over a white sheet. I just loved the feel of this silky edge and stroked it to get to sleep every night. The edging was about three inches wide on both sides and fastened to the blanket with a double line of stitching which gave a slightly embossed effect on the edge. I like the feel of this part of the edge too.  

I am not sure how old I was but I had only the one bed when I was a child , so I guess I started this love when I was two to three. I know my sister who I shared I room with had a matching blanket but she did not love the silky edge in the same way. This blanket was single bed size and so stayed on the bed. I think remember this blanket , it colour and the feel of edge because it was a big comfort to me , night after night for years and years. It was my go to sleep aid. I loved and rubbed this blanket silk so much that I eventually wore out the edge. This must have been a problem to me as my mother replaced the ribbon for me . After that it was never the same , somehow it's feeling had changed or maybe I was just growing up. 

First garment

My mother was a talented seamstress . She made all my clothes when I was a child. One garment stands out in my mind. This was my best camel coat. I loathed it. It was stiff and uncomfortable and I did not like the camel colour. I remember wearing it in church , which was a regular Sunday outing. The church was large , echoey and had soaring pillars and stained glass windows. There were statues and candles burning . Attending was of great importance to my parents. My coat had one grace. The buttons. You could undo them and then fit them back together. They where those brown leather type buttons , always used on camel coats.

I am sure my coat was beautifully made. My mother would have been proud of the quality of the fabric and the stitching, and probably the button holes. If later examples are anything to go by she would have sourced the best quality , minimum cost , minimum quantity of fabric from a big market and probably made the coat pattern herself. I would have liked a a swingy red coat. I had auburn hair and my mother thought I suited creme and brown colours and red was banned. Possibly true, in terms of my pale freckly skin, but I longed for what I thought of as real colours. Shame we could not match our desires. 

Vernon S.

Several of u G have been discussing cloth as a tool for communication.  You will note that on my list are several esoteric topics,.  I'd like to expand that list astrology, I Ching, tarot, and numerous other items as material and tools for creative thinking and making.  The esoteric materials are not about religion but are about transformation and that is what art ultimately is all about.  john Cage, my personal favorite Artist and composer used the I Ching AS A PROMPT TOOL FOR HIS ART AND MUSIC.  HE ALSO DID A SERIES OF COMPOSITIONS HAT WERE BASED ON IMPERFECTIONS IN THE PAPER HE WAS CREATING HIS SCORE ON.  =Now this may all sound silly, but I isn't.  It is wise to use the tools at hand, and explore possibilities that even seem silly.  However, having an open mind doesn't mean having a hold in your head.

You must find your own comfort Zone and then insert material that makes you a little uncomfortable.  If you are only working with ideas that are comfortable, then there will be no growth.  CREATIVITY IS A PROCESS OF TRANSFORMING NOT ONLY THE MEDIA YOU CHOOSE TO WORK WITH, BUT ALSO YOURSELF.

I'm writing this to trigger discussion not only among ourselves, but to make myself ask and try to answer the hard questions.

Jane O. M.

          One of the earliest memories of my garments were my cowboy boots. I absolutely loved them. I was about to enter the 'horse crazy' phase of my life. I also loved roller skating. Those days the roller skates were metal contraptions with curbed hooks that grabbed around each side of the soles of your shoes in the front, and straps that came up over the ankles to hold the heels in place. It was really hard to get them adjusted to just the right length (there were two parts with a bolt to lock the position), and get the hooks cranked with a key to just the right width. Once everything was in place then you could probably get in 15 minutes of skating before one came loose. For some reason I insisted on strapping them onto my beloved cowboy boots. That worked just fine except it often made a knee lock up, and I would go down and couldn't move because it hurt too much. One of my parents had to come lift me up gently until my knee unlocked and I could skate off again. I wish I knew why I wouldn't use my regular shoes, and I wish I could thank my parents for their patience. I do remember Mother saying, every time, that I should use my shoes and that I had a hard head.

Kris L.

I love this assignment. My first memory of a childhood garment that meant a lot to me is from my grandma and grandpa Keenan, my mother parents.  They traveled quite a bit during my childhood, and on one of their return trips they brought me a kilt from Scotland. I was only in the first grade but I thought I was the fashion diva on the playground. I remember swinging on the monkey bars in my kilt, doing twirlies, jumping rope, nothing would stop me from feeling like a queen, especially with thebronze pin that had yellow stones attached.

The material was wool which I cannot even wear today but as a child nothing would stop me from wearing the most beautiful kilt in the world.  You are probably going to ask me if I still have my kilt and the answer is yes I do. It is neatly put away, and until this assignment, I havent even thought of it for a very long time.

So, down memory lane we go... I was young, so young, but I know that I felt loved by my grandma and grandpa and Ihad the best time at school playing on the playground wearing my scottish kilt from Scotland....

I was the playgound diva! :-)

Sue K.

Earliest Memories of Cloth.

Some children have a special ‘security’ blanket, but I had Bidey. This was a many-times washed, soft cotton diaper that my mother had given to me, or that I had appropriated, perhaps, as a very small child. I carried it around with me everywhere, and remember chewing on one corner of it, and remember especially the smell of that one corner. In my imagination, it had a soporific effect on me, which might explain why I was said to become agitated when Bidey was taken away to be washed. 

Other early cloth memories are so numerous; the christening outfit that I still have preserved in tissue; a pink and blue paisley polished cotton party dress with a full skirt, puffed sleeves and a wide pink sash; the beautiful satin, velvet and lace dresses and suits that my grandmother had made for my mother’s trousseau. I have been sewing since I was around 7 years old. I have made clothing for people, dolls and the occasional animal, bags, guitar straps and cases, pillows, quilts, draperies, wall hangings, flags, sails for boats, upholstery, many dolls, costumes for halloween, costumes for the stage, and special garments for every very important event in my life, most recently, my mother of the bride outfit. If it can be sewn I have attempted it at least once. I even tried to make myself a pair of boots back in the 60s. 

My maternal grandmother was my first inspiration and mentor in sewing. She came from a family of tailors and milliners, and was a very accomplished needle worker herself. Though she was not able to interest either of her own daughters, she made sure to teach me to sew by hand first, then loaned me her old machine (an old Singer vibrating shuttle machine that had been converted from treadle to electric somewhere along the line). She was always interested in what I was making, demanded regular reports, and was thrilled by my successes. Though she has now been gone for many years, I feel Nonnie’s spirit in me still when I am sewing. I often wish I could show her what I’m up to lately. My mother hated sewing, but is still my biggest cheerleader.

Jane made a comment in the intro that resonated with me...”maybe you just have a passion for color”. I think I fit that description, and I have always had a passion for cloth in general, its colors, its feel, its design, how it is made and decorated and used. I don’t remember a time that I did not have this passion.

June M.

Hand-me-downs, the bane of my existence. All through elementary school I wore hand-me-downs from my cousin, Linda. Every summer I hoped for that shopping trip where I got to buy new clothes that were all my own. When I saw my aunt arrive with a big box my heart would sink. I knew it was not to be. Hand-me-downs again.

As I wore these dresses to school, I was sure that all my friends were whispering behind my back that I had to wear used clothing and that I couldn't afford new clothes. I was sure they had trips to the store where they spent wildly on clothing to get ready for the new school year. To make matters worse, my mother worked at the Belk department store in the Junior Dress department. She was always bringing home dresses for my older sisters but not for me. They were so lucky. I longed for the day when she came home with a bag for me.

When I was in the eighth grade, I finally got my bag. My mother came home with the most wonderful dress I had ever seen. It was burgundy, the “in” color. It had a little white shawl collar with a trim of light blue piping and a light blue sailor bow. It had princess seams with gold buttons down the front seams. It was glorious! I remember the first day I wore it. It was stylish and so was I. I always had more spring in my step when I wore it. It was the first of many lovely dresses that my mother bought for me but it was always my favorite. I don't have a picture of myself in it so I did a little sketch.

OK, I've lamented about the hand-me-downs. In hind sight, I have learned a few things. Linda's clothes were really nice. My mother and my aunt knew quality and style. I look at my class pictures and see that my clothes are quite spectacular. I was probably one of the best dressed in my class but my child head trash wouldn't let me understand that. Even though I complained, I actually liked many of the clothes, I just didn't like to admit it. Most of my classmates probably wore hand-me-downs too. We were all in the same boat, I just couldn't see it then.

To cap all this off, I now hate to shop for clothes. I hate trying on clothes and looking for things to match. If I can't find something within an hour I'm done. Today if I came home and found a box of clothes from my aunt, I would do a happy dance, dig in, and wear them with great joy!

Moira M.

I like to joke that my love of sewing and all things fiber is "congenital".  My father bought my mother a sewing machine when I, the second of three girls, was born.  Many times my mother stayed up until the wee hours finishing matching dresses for a special occasion.  She sewed a bumble bee costume (requiring rows and rows of nylon net) for one of my dance recitals, and swore it was the last costume she would make.  She taught me to sew (an apron, of course!) but got frustrated teaching me to set in sleeves and left that to a Home Ec teacher (who, as it happens, was Jean Wells!)

But of all those memories, my favorite was the first-day-of-school outfits for my older sister and I when we were in Junior High School.  It was 1964, the time of Twiggy and Carnaby Street.  I remember her coming home from the Pendleton Woolen Mills outlet store with mounds of fabric for school clothes.  Green (my favorite color) and pink (my sister's) tweed wool for drop waist jumpers.  Some coordinating polka dot knits for turtlenecks and stockings.  Yes!  she made stockings for us- because matching turtlenecks and stockings were the all the rage!  As if that weren't enough, she had purchased mohair yarn and knit us sweaters to match.  And when it came time to shop for shoes, I got olive green shoes with little stack heels that were a perfect match to the sweater: the first time I got something other than "sensible" oxfords for school.

We were quite chic!

Vernon S.

This is not going to be easy.   What do I say?

Writing about of th and clothing is easy!

What I am most interested in is how we use cloth as a tool for communication conscious ly or unconsciouwsly, but Lowthatryt is not what I want to explore, at least not at the present.

Here is a list

Lost languages

As above, so below

Illuminated texts

Ceremonial magic



Archesalogy of the soul

Landscape as a metaphor


Using the artist book  as format

For the above topics

Barbara D.

My first cloth memory … Hmmm   it must be my baby blanket which is folded carefully in a drawer downstairs amongst the rest of those precious items one chooses to cherish.  It was a small quilt which printed figures - circa 1957.  I don’t even know if it was new to me or a hand me down.  It was blue and we had all girls in our family.  

Or wait - maybe it was the bathrobe my mom made me for Christmas that year - or the orange and yellow bedspread on my bed.   The items keep floating in from my memories.  

My first memories of cloth came from my mother - very similar to many of the women of my generation.  I am a baby boomer and back in those days, our mother’s made things from scratch - clothes and food.    She loved to sew and knit - spending many hours under the bare light bulb which hung in the hand made sewing cabinet her father - my grandfather hand-made especially for her.  There is a dark knot of wood on the floor and she always told me that was Grandpa smiling up at her while she sewed.  It is one of my priceless possessions now - also carefully stored near the carefully folded baby blanket.  I was the third of three girls.  Fabrics in our life was widely used  before I was even born.  My maternal grandmother taught home economics in the first decades of the 20th century and certainly my mother learned much of her skill from her … and so it went and so it goes.  Until now however… as I find my daughter has had no interest in sewing.  She is now a busy mother of two, a business owner, wife and friend to many.  Those days were different, we had less distractions, more time, less technology and TV.  Families played games and conversed around the table.  I find myself striving to recreate them.

I’m wandering - I wander. It’s OK … right ?

Back to cloth.  I’m remembering the fabric store we used to go to … It was called Greenbaum’s and it was in downtown Salem, Oregon - a few doors down from where she worked.  Sadly, they just closed their doors after decades of being in business.  In any case, You would walk in the antique building to find tall shelves lining both sides of the narrow store - colorful bolts filling the shelves.  Old ladies with glasses hanging around their necks,cut fabrics and chatted with the customers.   Mom would walk amongst the bolts - looking for the right color - the right feel - the right texture and  I would walk then … and still do … with my fingers reached out to  brush the fabric while I trotted behind her.  Those are comforting memories.  When the sewing began - she would be seated at her machine and I would stand beside her - watching for what seemed like hours.  I often recall this memory and I never recall tiring of hearing the hum of the machine and feeling her close.  

My mother passed 40 years ago - when I was 18.  Oh how I would love to show her some of my work…asking her opinion - listening for her praise and pride.  I believe I am so like her in many ways.  Not necessarily learned behaviors but because I choose to be the best of what I can remember of her.  

I find this subject line taps into a fragmented part of my memory - somewhat because of the time that has passed but also because I was so young when she died.  The sorrow lasted for years and I forged forward by trying to forget and being fairly successful in that attempt.  Now - when I try to recall what should be easy memories - there is a fair amount of black space.  Since I read your first exercise description I immediately knew I would need to light a candle in the darkness.  

Back to cloth… It all evolved and revolves from my mother.  I can still hear her slippers scuffing down the hardwood floor of the hallway to my room.  I can smell the coffee perking in kitchen - I hear Ella Fitzgerald on the turntable on Sunday mornings.  I remember calling her … “Mom - where are you ? “ to hear her answer coming from the garden … “Outside honey”.  

Thank you for asking such a simple question.  

As I close however, I am asking myself is this too much to share with a total stranger whose eyes will read this and wonder?  Then I ask myself - perhaps this is why I find such comfort in fabrics and fibers - it is what was woven into me by her and where I can find a shred of familiarity in a life long past.  

Here is a photo of my husband and I …  A face to put with the thought. 

Micaela F.

Orange and white, silky soft and billowing – a parachute. Made into a dress – voluminous – like Cinderella’s ball gown. The orange and white shaped sections, curving to a point at the top of the parachute – all gathered together at the waist – flowing out in the wind. A fitted bodice and small orange puffed sleeves. I wore it every day that summer (except when I rode bareback on the big horse) – gathering strawberries on a country hillside that sloped away far below to the banks of the Missouri River; playing in the garden shed that was transformed into a play house, with curtains on the windows and a tea set on a tiny table; spinning; sweeping the hearth – two of them – still Cinderella. A parachute transformed by the hands of my loving grandmother. My father was a pilot.

Many years later I visited the house. The garden shed was still there – now painted dark green. The hillside still quiet, open and lovely - the river, more distant than I remembered it. No strawberries; it was October. The hearth was clean. The couple who live there now remember my grandmother. I showed them pictures of the house “back when”. Black and white photographs from my childhood are now in colour in my memory.

Maureen M.

First Cloth memory

I must have been 6, first year at school, with dead straight, thick hair that just falls from the crown – perfect for “pudding bowl cuts”.  Was it me, or Mum who wanted the curls?  I don’t know, I guess it must have been both for all the hours that went into wrapping rags into my hair, wound and pinned, each small section of hair at a time.  Left there to dry, tight on the scalp.  And all for what?  The lovely curls fell out within an hour!  I remember it more as a story told, I think, but there is a vague picture memory too.  And this remembering reminded me of almost 20 years of having very tight perms done, using horrid chemicals, but my hair is so strong, and the perms held, and even today, decades later, some people think of me as having curly hair, and ask if I have it straightened!  I am thinking that there must be a fun curly haired little girl within!

A room:

The only ‘my room’ I remember was the one I shared with my sister, and later occupied alone. We lived in that house from when I was about 7 to leaving at 23 to be married, my wedding dress hanging on the wardrobe drawer, getting dressed, the classic “mirror photo” at the dressing table, where my sister had sat before me, on her wedding day, and we both have a photo in that mirror, with the long crack from top to bottom, with the transfer of wildflowers placedto try and distract the eye – put there by my mother, or was it her mother? The dressing table, and the mirror are still with me.  When the room became mine after my sister left to go nursing, I painted it purple – an early claim to it being ‘my space’.  But my memory too is how it could never be closed off from prying eyes (3 brothers!), as the only window was into an enclosed porch, a well used room through all the years, the constant flow of people coming in and out of the house, and always they could see into my space.  The curtains were an open weave to let in light, and so my space was always open to viewing – wow that’s an insight that is ringing loud bells.  Even today, as I willingly share my home, and my studio with others – I am often questioned why, how? The gratitude of my two fellow artist friends who have shared my studio for the past 16 days of our Open Studio event always seems out of proportion, to me, for what I am doing – but maybe I have just never learnt to truly create my own space, and to give it privacy and boundaries that cannot be seen through. Who is the me, what is my sacred space, just for me? Do I truly protect, and nurture, and give space, private space, to my inner soul, my core, my child within?  Food for thought.

Lisa C.

Exercise #1:  Get Comfortable With Writing

I do not have any early childhood cloth or clothing memories. Growing up in a family of four kids, I remember a lot of hand-me-downs from my older sister and my Mom home-sewing clothing as time permitted. Sadly, my fabric obsession did not begin until I was in my thirties. 

I do remember a favourite piece of clothing from my teenage years. I had totally forgotten about it until I started thinking about this topic. My best friend Liz and I were typical teenage girls - checking out the clothing stores in the local mall (Sherway Gardens, west end Toronto) on the weekends, trying on lots of outfits but buying very little.  We were in one of our favorite stores - believe it was called Fairweathers, when I discovered a trench coat in my size that I could not love without.  It was midi length, double breasted, wide lapels, matching fabric belt with a buckle, silver buttons and side pockets.  I cannot remember the absolute specifics of the styling but I do remember the color. It was a soft shade of lilac, reminiscent of those early days of spring. One of the first times I remember wearing the coat I was standing in line outside a downtown Toronto movie theater with a few of my girlfriends waiting to see "The Way We Were" with Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford.  It was a rainy night so it was a perfect opportunity to wear this coat. The movie was released in 1973 so I must have been sixteen years old at the time.  I felt so grown up and pretty wearing this coat.  I have no idea what happened to the lilac trench coat when I left Toronto for university. 


Exercise #2:  Favorite Room

I didn't have a favorite room until I went away to university. Up to that point in my life I was always sharing a room with one of my sisters. I studied Chemical Engineering in the late 1970's at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. After a year in residence, most students rented houses near campus, fondly referred to as the "Student Ghetto". I rented a house with four other students on 288 Earl St. during my junior and senior years. The best thing about this room was its proximity to campus - it took less than five minutes to get to class!

My room was on the second floor at the back of the house. I painted my room before classes started.  I was going for a forest theme so I chose a bold shade of spring green for the walls and a chocolate brown for the trim. A very bold choice as I later discovered.

The doorway into the room was on the north wall near the northwest corner of the room. My small twin bed was located against the north wall adjacent to the doorway and was pushed into northeast corner of the room. Next to the bed there was a wicker laundry hamper that doubled as a nightstand with a small reading lamp perched on top. The base of the lamp was a moss green and the white translucent lampshade had pressed wild flowers embedded in it. In the southeast corner I had a drafting table facing the east wall. On the south wall near the southwest corner there was a set of French doors opening out to a small outdoor patio.  The railings were wobbly so it was not used often. Also in the southwest corner on the west wall of the room there was an old rather large white porcelain sink mounted on the wall with water taps that actually worked. Very handy feature with five students sharing a single bathroom!  Adjacent to the sink on the west wall was an old, dark, wooden wardrobe that somehow fit all my clothes, I have no idea how!  I remember one of the doors on the wardrobe would never stay closed and was always swinging open. 

I took my daughter on a campus tour about ten years ago only to discover 288 Earl no longer exists.  In its place stands the next generation of university buildings.  Good thing my memory still works most of the time!

Meegan M.

My First Cloth Memory

I remember vividly my first sewing lesson with my Grandma Eva in Portland, OR at about age six or seven. I loved doing and making things from the time I was small, and Grandma was so patient and kind with me. I got a much-needed respite from my hyper-tense, 1950s Mom and my two younger siblings. Mom was utterly overwhelmed with the three of us by the time I was six, and rather hard on us, too. So sending me off to spend a month each summer with my Grandma Eva and Granda Charlie was simply heaven to me…peaceful, loving, fun.

Grandma taught me so much in her gentle, quiet way. She was an expert seamstress and made all of my mother’s clothes, and mine when I was little. She worked at a fine women’s clothing store in Portland called Ungar’s, where the women would come in for new dresses and the seamstresses would drape bolts of fabric over them. They were not allowed to do any basting in the creation of a new garment. Designed and completed using only pins!

So Grandma one day turned her remarkable skills on me, and patiently taught me to sew. I remember at the end of the first day Grandma said to me: “That’s very nice, honey, but now I want you to rip it all out and we will start all over again tomorrow.” And so I did! This might seem harsh, but I understood that Grandma just wanted me to learn to do sew as beautifully as I possibly could. And indeed I did. I became one of those seamstresses whose garments could be worn inside out. 

My expertise was not appreciated by the people in my life as a young woman. In college, my boyfriend and later my husband, could not understand the labored hours I would spend making a beautiful formal, or some of my later special projects. That perfectionism ingrained by my Grandmother seemed a curse for a long time, and it is only in the past few years that I have reveled in my ability to turn out a beautiful project that celebrated that heritage of technically excellent handwork.

Debbie R.

I think I was about 6 yrs old, my family was visiting my great grandmother.  My younger sisters and I were in a bedroom jumping on the bed instead of playing with toys.  Boy did we get into trouble.  My great grandmother came in to the room and took my hand and told me she wanted to show me something. What she wanted to show me was a quilt she had just finished for my mother.  She said I was the first to see it, did I think my mom would like it.  I sit here today remembering this and almost in tears.  I almost can smell the baking bread.   Back to the quilt, it was made of blocks of colorful fabric, looking back I am sure it was feed sacks, there was also embroidery done in red thread. My mom’s favorite color was red.  I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I hugged the quilt and then my grandmother gave me a few scraps from the quilt.  I still have those scraps in an envelope somewhere.  This was about 58 years ago.  That is my first memory of cloth.

Another memory of cloth is my first shopping trip for fabric.  I was 6 or 7 years old.  My mom had given me old linens and other things to sew with.  One day I showed her a dress for a doll.  She looked at it and said where did you get the lace?  I had cut up a slip of hers for the lace.  She told me in a calm voice that I should have asked and the next day she took me to a variety store and purchased the start of my first stash.  My own scissors, lace, fabric and needles.  She gave me a small box that we covered with fabric and this was my sewing kit.  When I tell people I have been sewing forever, I am not exaggerating.

Jean D.

Material- an early memory

In my grandmother’s drawer.

I looked inside secretly and saw treasures and felt and gazed and carefully rummaged and came back again and again to kneel down and look inside the drawer.

Her silk scarf. She would have worn it just showing under a coat collar.

I don’t remember her wearing it.

Perhaps it was her treasure too.

Lilac purple with flower panels at either end. Silky soft and good to touch and smell.

And it isn’t so much the scarf which is important. I still have it, rarely look at it, have never worn it. 

It is what it represents.

It is the revelation and sense of wonder in the little girl and the link with her gentle Grandma. 

A garment      

The Coat

I remember very few garments from my childhood. just an itchy knitted swimming costume and a coat.

My parents took me to a smart shop for a winter coat. I was five or six years old. We must have had to go to the market town. The journey is not part of the memory and I have no idea what prompted this special occasion. I vaguely remember the nice lady, the tryings on and getting the right fit. But then came the choice and I was in a minority of one. I would not have the camel coat. We bought the green.

I might read a lot into this. My parents remembered it with some pride or amusement. What did it show? Perhaps one or two of the following list. But I have to remember that this is not the end of the story. Life experiences follow across the years which can blunt potential and smother creativity. What stays?

Sense of identity?

Self awareness?

Self belief?


Linda D.

On Becoming an Octogenarian

Having already taken this class earlier, I have written about my early experiences with cloth and, while trying to get involved with other experiences, I became aware of a deep seated emotional experiences I was currently going through and thought I would share that with all of you.

When I married by sweetie, I was 25 and he was 27. At that time my life expectancy was age 65 and his was around 63. We thought that neither one of us, let alone both of us, would live to see a Golden Wedding celebration. Now we have 54 years behind us. In two days I will become an octogenarian and DH will celebrate 82 years in August. I sometimes think to myself, “I can’t be married to at 80-year-old.” I am, but my eyes still see that 27-year-old, handsome military officer that swept me off my feet all those years ago. And soon he will be married to an 80-year-old woman. Yes, in my heart I am still that 25-year-old, young, innocent, full of life and living in awe and wonder at all around me.

I rejoice I still have him to share my life and that I still find peace and solitude in my studio working with my beloved cloth. I create art cloth for me to love, enjoy and share with my friends and family. And I am currently at Focus on Fiber in New Smyrna Beach, Florida throwing my heart and soul into being creative for the next eight days. It is easy to exercise your Artist’s Strength in this atmosphere. Just need to keep it active once I return home to my studio.

Ricki O.

When I was tiny, probably about 3 years old, my big aim was to learn to dress myself. Some of my dresses had a line of buttons up the front.  The hardest thing was buttoning these up all the way/

(Funny, - I still have trouble with that.  My cardigan buttons never seem to line up first time.)

On this particular day I woke up before my Mom and Dad. I got myself out of bed, I dressed myself andI buttoned myself in. I crossed into my Mom’s room to show off what I had done.  

She was delighted that I had matched all my buttons up correctly for the very first time.  I was proud of myself!

But…………. she told me that there was a little thing I had forgotten. 

I had forgotten to take my pajamas off first. I was very disappointed.  She said that I would get it right one day,  that I just had to keep trying.  

I guess there is something I can learn from my 3 year old self. After all, I did eventually learn to dress myself. I am often not good at persistence in the face of small failures in my studio work.  If I made an artwork about this it would have to a length of buttons that have been done up wrongly and it would be titled“Keep on Trying”.