Like many young girls who sew, I was taught by my mother. She learned from my grandmother. And my grandmother was taught by my great-grandmother. Inspired by the creativity, when I went away to college in New York City, I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) as a fashion design major.
In a colored pencil class, we received the assignment to create a drawing that focused on lots of textures. The sewing theme was discussed and given my background I ran with the concept.
I raided my sewing supplies, and then set up a photo shoot. In the end, I took 64 photos with an antique sewing machine, fabric, tools, and trimmings. Not every item ended up in the final picture, but you can read below about the ones that did.
I’d already been sewing for a few years. In this drawing the tape measure was my favorite tape measure I used in college. Yes, I have a favorite tape measure. It’s an older tape measure. You can tell because there are only inches on it – no centimeters. They don’t make tape measures like this anymore. Trust me, I’ve tried. 😊
The silver tray, which I’d received as part of a 30th birthday gift from a former boss, has a variety of sewing notions I acquired through the years. Thread, buttons, lace, ribbon, a thimble, and embroidery scissors.
Almost everyone recognizes the tomato pin cushion. Remember the attached little strawberry filled with emery to clean sewing needles? Your mother or grandmother probably had one. This one belonged to my mother.
The wood table is the console for the sewing machine belonging to my mother’s mother. She bought this Singer new in the 1930s. I know this because I inherited the receipt for this incredible purchase, though, I’m not sure of the exact location of that receipt right now. The pink thing on the table? No, that’s not a maraca. It’s a darning egg. Years ago, when socks (or most any garment) got a hole in them, they were mended using the help of a darning egg. This one belonged to my maternal grandmother’s mother (my great grandmother). Now you know why the art is titled “Darn It!”
The matting chosen for this piece is a combination of a soft white and a soft pink. It was all then bounded with a frame that has a slightly antique look to it.
A More Academic Perspective
While Darn It! is a still life composition, there is an inherent sense of action and activity. The composition was designed to appear as though someone who was doing some mending stepped away – just a moment ago.
Ancestry is often told with portraits. This family story, however, is told with everyday sewing tools used by four generations of women. Many of us have inherited special items in our family. Do you have a special interest, shared avocation, or family business? What kinds of items would you choose to tell your family history?