Sally's Profile

About

I grew up sewing and made many of my own clothes as a teen and young woman. I assumed it would always be that way; sewing was fun, and you could have nice clothes without spending a lot of money. What was not to like! Sewing was also a useful occupational skill in those days. A mile from my childhood home in Minneapolis was the huge Munsingwear plant, whose remnant room was one of my favorite sources for fabric and trims. I still vividly recall workers not much older than myself leaving the plant at shift change, talking and laughing, their hair casually tied back with pieces of colorful fabric I recognized from my remnant room foraging.

In the 1980s I was a working mother--a secretary, then a grad student and teaching assistant--with two young children, and my sewing machine spent most of its time in the back of a closet. But my being "too busy" was not the whole story!…

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  • Joined August 23, 2009

Favorite materials

gingham, vintage tablecloths, feedsacks, cotton, linen, indigo batik, bias binding, button jar buttons

Shop

About

I grew up sewing and made many of my own clothes as a teen and young woman. I assumed it would always be that way; sewing was fun, and you could have nice clothes without spending a lot of money. What was not to like! Sewing was also a useful occupational skill in those days. A mile from my childhood home in Minneapolis was the huge Munsingwear plant, whose remnant room was one of my favorite sources for fabric and trims. I still vividly recall workers not much older than myself leaving the plant at shift change, talking and laughing, their hair casually tied back with pieces of colorful fabric I recognized from my remnant room foraging.

In the 1980s I was a working mother--a secretary, then a grad student and teaching assistant--with two young children, and my sewing machine spent most of its time in the back of a closet. But my being "too busy" was not the whole story! During that period, manufactured clothing became so inexpensive that it was actually cheaper to buy a new outfit than to make one. Why? One after another, American clothing factories went dark as manufacturers moved across borders and overseas in search of workers to exploit for sub-subsistence wages. (Munsingwear shut down in 1981 and the old factory building was turned into a gigantic showroom for fancy designer furniture.) Home sewers--along with garment workers--were disenfranchised by the flood of cheaply made clothing from abroad. All over America, sewing machines went into storage. Fabric stores went out of business. Schools no longer bothered to offer serious sewing classes. Americans were well on our way to becoming a helpless, silly people, dependent on cheap consumer goods, no longer able to make things for ourselves, strangers to the pleasures of remaking and “making do.”

When I pulled my 1970s Kenmore out of the closet a few years ago and went on a sewing rampage, I simply wanted to distract myself from the stresses of my day job. But I was happy to discover that I'm part of a small but growing movement to revive the traditions of craft and thrift and do-it-yourself, to re-engage in productive labor.

I'm now completely hooked on sewing again. I am inspired by things close at hand--the sturdy, beautifully crafted bungalows of my 1920s neighborhood, its working-class and immigrant history, the mix of cultures from all over the world right at my doorstep, the folk art treasures that turn up at church rummage sales, and most of all by the astounding creative energy of LOLA, the League of Longfellow Artists.

For everything I make, I think of ten more things I’d like to make. I especially love figuring out how to repurpose old textiles, plotting carefully how to make use of as much of the cloth as possible before picking up my scissors. I also love working with vintage patterns. Everything in my Etsy shop is made with gratitude toward my mom and my awesome home ec teachers in the Minneapolis public schools for teaching me to value technique and skill, and how to make a basic mechanical sewing machine do just about anything.

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