A Lifelong Love of Textiles

I first learned to use a sewing machine when I was very young. My mother taught me the basics on our home sewing machine, and I fell in love straight away. The smell of the machine, the whir of the needle, the feeling of fabric running through my hands, I found it therapeutic. Around the age of 10 I began buying my own fabric and dressmaking patterns with my allowance money, impressing the staff at Joann Fabrics with my enthusiasm. Although my mother knew how to use the machine and could sew basic household items like curtains and pillowcases, she was not experienced in dressmaking, so from that point onwards my journey has been a self taught one.

It didn’t take long for my interest in raw materials to stray away from the clearance section at Joann Fabrics. I discovered that I could get more fabric for my money in the curtain and bedding sections of thrift stores, and more interesting fabric too. Better yet, when people I knew found out I had a passion for textiles, they wanted to support it, and so I soon found myself amassing a rather impressive collection of secondhand fabric and other materials from family and friends. I became particularly drawn to the idea of making garments out of“unconventional materials”. My favorite Project Runway episodes were the ones where contestants would be allowed to spend $50 at a pet store or party store for their fabric, and only allowed into the fabric store for a few notions. I began experimenting myself, making dresses entirely out of shoulder pads, or metal hardware.

When I finished high school I began working in the gift shop at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and the manager of the retail operations was incredibly supportive of my creative work. My colleagues were also supportive, many of them giving me their staff shirts they no longer needed or wanted to use as raw materials. I washed and cut up the shirts and sewed them into dresses, and then covered the dresses with delicate hand embroidery. My manager loved them, and allowed me to display and sell them in the shop. Before long the box office began to give me bundles of leftover wristbands from the museum’s music festivals, which were the most wonderful material I could have imagined. They were most certainly an unconventional material, but at the same time soft enough to sew without too much difficulty, and the finished product was very wearable.

Festival wristbands have dates printed on them, and therefore leftovers can’t be used again for future festivals. I loved the idea that I was saving these wristbands from being discarded, and giving them new life. That was when I began to think more consciously about where my fabric and materials came from, and I began to take pride in the fact that so much of my fabric was secondhand. Sustainability slowly but steadily became the most important factor in my work. Luckily by the time I decided I wanted to be working exclusively with repurposed materials, I had already collected a massive amount of secondhand fabric and other notions. My dad is an avid thrifter, junk shop scourer and tag saler, so anytime he’s ever found a box of sewing supplies for a few dollars, he’s bought it for me. Once he found an enormous collection of embroidery thread - every color imaginable in a huge box - for only $5. I am still working my way through it! I wash everything that I am given or that I buy from a thrift store, and then I keep it all neatly organized. Because my materials are clean and well organized, I convince myself it is not hoarding……..

The more I learn about the textile industry and fast fashion the more passionate I become about my sustainable sewing practice. I am a mother now, and I want to do whatever I can to help keep this planet green for future generations. I enrolled in a green energy program, and am proud to say 100% of the electricity that powers my studio and home comes from renewable sources. When I opened my Etsy shop I purchased packaging materials made from recycled materials, and I sometimes reuse packaging as well.

Motherhood has also provided me with an incredible amount of inspiration. I started making fabric play food and costumes for my child, and after enough inquiries on social media I decided to start making them to sell as well. Initially I made fabric food entirely out of felt as many other makers do, but then I realized that that well loved felt toys tend to pill over time, and felt can also be something of a dust and hair magnet… So I began to experiment with other fabrics, using linen and velvet scraps to make carrots instead of felt. Instantly my work sprang to a whole new level. I still use the odd bit of felt occasionally, but not a lot of it.

Everything in my Etsy shop is ready made and will ship quickly. I am open to commissions also, but my sewing time is limited so depending on the time of year and the scale of the commission, I may or may not be able to take it on. The same goes for wholesale orders. Anything made from wristbands is exclusively sold through MASS MoCA.

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