I began designing clothes for my dolls at age five with cuts from the center fold of the choicest fabrics from Mom’s exotic fabric stash. 

Designing clothes is in air quotes. 

Though made of fine fabric, they were extremely rude little dresses, made for my troll doll. Typically, they were a rectangle that overlapped in back with a safety pin to fasten, and holes snipped for the arms to go through. 

No edges were finished.

Mom had a great eye for gorgeous textiles and she stored them in one of the built-in closets on the second floor. By chance, I’d discovered the secret stash of voiles and taffetas and dotted Swiss, brocades, peau-de-soie, and bouclés, rayon velvets, and herringbone and would stand in there often just to slowly run my hands over the stack of textures, eyes lingering.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the closet was more than space to store fabric.

It was space Mom had claimed just for herself.

We moved into the house when she was 23 years old and already had five children. I see that fabric closet now as a protective space, safeguarding that creative and unique part of herself that threatened to get lost in “Motherhood”.

I recognize the importance of reserving such a space, as I have endeavored to do. Did I learn by her example?

By age six-and-a-half, she was teaching me how to use her sewing machine and at age eight I successfully put in my first zipper.

By age eight I had also learned to knit and crochet, embroider and cook (though knitting and crochet didn’t really “take” until later).

I thoroughly enjoyed preparing breakfasts for my whole family, replete with freshly pressed linen napkins at full place settings (Currier & Ives!), including a multi-vitamin for each person. Though it would be several years before I mastered the art of coffee-making with the Sunbeam electric percolator, I did pour OJ for everyone and they waited for me to (proudly) serve them their plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast.

I was well on my way to becoming a fiber/textile artisan by then and I did enjoy taking a place within the circle of women artisans in my family.

Image credit: By yours truly–hand- and machine-stitched monsters made from an assortment of vintage and modern textiles.

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