Saturday, January 30, 2010

Continuing the Tradition--Debra


I decided to take a nostalgic look back to my sewing roots for my self-portrait. What I particularly liked about the snapshot of me and my Grandmother Callaway is the prim and proper girl standing there in that dress. I came from a very structured family where following the rules was expected and coloring outside the lines was not encouraged.


When I began to think of my role as an artist, it became apparent that I had followed very closely in the footsteps of both my grandmother and my mother’s sewing habits. In an effort to fit into the fashion expectations of the era, my grandmother and mother both sewed outfits from commercial patterns. Every sewer did that!

At that time there was comfort in conforming; you belonged. When I studied the picture of me standing there, I decided to do some research on the patterns popular at the time (circa 1960). As luck would have it, I also have a Sears, Roebuck catalog from 1961 that has an entire section devoted to sewing fabrics and notions. All the while I was growing up, the Sears catalog was the standard for successful living. If you could not afford to buy clothes in the catalog, you could at least sew them.



While talking with my mom about my picture, she told me that the fabrics available were pretty boring and to liven up the dresses, mothers would use rickrack, cute buttons and an apron. The apron would also serve to extend the life of the dress (and the washings). You could wear the dress more often if you changed the apron frequently. If you look closely, you will see that I have a print apron over my solid colored dress.


I have fond memories of the dresses my mother sewed for me. She spent a great deal of time on details; piping on collars, buttons on the bodice front, ruffles and sashes. What I would give for one of those dresses now!

Continuing the Tradition explores the common elements of sewing during the early 1960s; particularly, dresses of calico with novelty buttons, rickrack, and little daisy appliqu├ęs. It also highlights the patterns, fabric and notions any sewer would have used during that era. For me, Continuing the Tradition is a valuable part of who I am. It speaks to a life of following rules, using patterns and making something pretty from nothing special. In a subtle way, this piece explains who I am & from where I came. It lays the foundation for the quilter I have become; still grounded in the traditions of sewing but less concerned about coloring inside the lines.


Continuing the Tradition
20 x 35 inches
Photo transfer, hand quilting, machine embroidery, applique, vintage fabrics & embellishments


Please feel free to comment as you see appropriate. If you would like to comment on your own sewing experiences, those comments are welcome too.

18 comments:

  1. I do love all of those different elements put together. You invested a lot of thought and energy in researching and remembering and it really shows. Plus, I like the colors:)

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  2. Once again, the personality comes through, not in the photo so much but in the focus! It's a sweet tribute to your sewing history, and shows your love and skill. I particularly like the tape measure wandering through the piece. That's an unexpected embellishment.

    The photo's great too! I've got some that look so much like that.

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  3. What a fun piece. As usual, your work is rich with elements that all work together, and visual details that cause your eye to pause over each item, remembering them from long ago. And yeah, the tape measure is super. I'd say you really rang the bell with this great piece. And the story behind it is wonderful, all of it. What a cute kid you were!

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  4. What a wonderfully done tribute to your memories, your family history, and that era. The style or the way it's put together is recognizable as yours ... a foundation of orderliness with the a surface of surprises in the what is chosen and how you present it which is definitely "coloring outside the lines".

    It never occurred to me how many diverse ways there are to approach this challenge. I've found myself looking forward to each reveal and reading other's thoughtful reactions as well as recording my own.

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  5. You've really brought back some memories for me, I also learned to sew under the tutelage of my mother and grandmother. What a wonderful collection of images and memorabilia from your childhood, and a glimpse for us of your history and influences!

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  6. Deb's Grandmother and her shared the love of aprons, also This brought back some fond memories, that dress had several top changes..always a new dress.

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  7. "It's so you!"
    Now, I finally understand how others have been seeing these reveals. The story told through your words and images is wonderfully expressed in the design. I particularly like the sweet pastels that surround the storyboard.

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  8. This brought back so many memories for me. I think I made some of those dresses for my daughter in the 80's! She does remind me of that often and not in a good way. Love the photo of you and your Grandma and this quilt just tells your childhood story perfectly.

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  9. This is so you! I am totally awed by all the personality put forth in these self portraits! What a great way to get to know one another as we move ahead through the challenges. I remember having a lot of ric-rac on my clothes, most of which were made by my Grandmother. Brings back memories for me!

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  10. I can't really tell, are the buttons on the card real buttons on a real card? Are the patterns really paper patterns? You know me, I want to know the details!

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  11. This whole Reveal has been so much fun! Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to comment and stroll down memory lane. Working on my piece helped me understand my need for order in my sewing--some habits never go away.

    All the elements on my piece have been photo transferred from the real items. I wanted the piece to be fabric so made the elements fabric instead of sewing the real items on the surface. I also padded the pattern envelope so it looks like it has a pattern in it. I added felt behind the rickrack package so it feels like a piece of cardboard the rickrack is wound around. I made the wrapper separate so it wraps around the rickrack. The button cards are flat and in hindsight I wish I had put a piece of felt behind them too. The fabric page is from a real page of the 1961 Sears catalog (when fabric was 37 cents a yard).

    I did the quilting with perle cotton to evoke "basting" with white cotton thread-something we used to do so much when sewing!

    The background is supposed to look like the front of a dress with 2 buttons at the bodice and rickrack at the waistline--it's subtle but I like that kind of "trick". *wink*

    I used the blues, aquas and yellows because they were popular colors of the day and also because I was always considered a "sweet little girl" (I know, gasp, cough) and wore lots of pastel colored dresses. Even to this day, I wear lots of pastels.

    So that's my bag of tricks--it was a fun piece to make and I look forward to making more pieces this year.

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  12. This is great fun and does bring back memories. I love the details - they do look "real" - very dimensional. Today while I was ironing & tearing fabric for the pillowcases I realized how much I truly love fabric & sewing. Your love of it really comes through, it truly captures your personality. Love it.

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  13. Thanks for the clarificaton. Oh my, I am totally in awe!

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  14. Debra, I love your piece. How wonderful to be able to go back in time. I can remember my mom sewing ric rac on my clothing she made as well. I still have an apron she made me with yellow ric rac that she made to match the coverlet she had made for my bed.

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  15. You were SUCH a cute kid! Love the whole thing...the story...your research...the pic with your grandma (she looks a lot like mine!) and all the little delightful bits of ephemera. So glad you're coloring outside the lines now.

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  16. I love the narrative element that accompanies this piece. You are definitely outside of the lines, now, and watching your continuing evolution is great fun!

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  17. What a fun piece. It's darling and the notions evoke such memories for me. My Mother made all my clothes at that age as well and she made some real beauties. I, too, wish I had some of those dresses. Really nice work Debra.

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  18. Debra, I love it, every detailed you put into it. Your work is creative, impressive and full of love. Your work evokes memories of my childhood with Mom and Grandma. I learned to sew with my Grandma and Mom. They both use to sew all my dresses. When Grandma past away Mom gave me Grandma sewing notions like buttons, needles, fabric, ... I did a memorabilia frame with a fabric embroidery sampler stitch by her hands, a picture of her and a poem I wrote her. My Grandma sewing machine was given to me last year by my aunt, who my Grandma wanted her to have her sewing machine. So I feel that part of Grandma is still with me. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Thanks for stopping by and commenting!