Wednesday, 1 August 2012

My Family - Sewing and Crafting Through the Generations

Mr Needles and I just came back from a weekend at my parents house, where I spent most of my time wandering from room to room, noticing how much of it was home made. After all these years, I suddenly noticed that it was easier to pick out the pieces of furniture, soft furnishing, and other decor that my parents DIDN'T make, than to count what they had a hand in creating. And I felt quite proud! 

Here's a few examples:

Pictures - framed by Dad. Desk and Egyptian-style chest - Mum and Dad collaboration

Pictures - framed by Dad. Chairs - thrifted and covered by Mum. Dining table and mantlepiece - Mum and Dad

Wall panel, plinth, table, and lamp - all Mum and Dad

Gilded door frame - Mum

Kitchen pictures - framed by Dad

Downstairs bathroom - mirrors by Dad

Painting by Mum, framed by Dad

My childhood furniture - Mum and Dad

Japanese inspired wardrobe - Mum and Dad
There's loads more, but my camera ran out of battery!

It just got me to thinking that this is probably why I think nothing of making stuff. I'm more comfortable with fabric based projects, but I don't mind turning my hand to painting, changing fuses, filling holes with plaster, and so on. My sister's also pretty handy - she has redecorated her flat practically on her own, and a beautiful job too! She's also a pretty skilled crocheter. Growing up, we were always taught that there was no such word as 'can't' and that lack of funds should never hold you back from having nice surroundings and clothes, as long as you had imagination and a willingness to try new things.

As is often the way when you visit parents, the old photos came out, and I noticed even more evidence of our home made life:

Mum and Dad, Colorado, around 1969. Dad's jacket and Mum's cardigan both made by Mum. (How cool is Dad - he looks like Bradley Wiggins!)
Me and Mum, San Francisco, early 70's. Mum's top and baby clothes, all crocheted by Mum. (She thinks the perm may be home made as well!)
San Francisco, early 70's. My fancy dungarees made by Mum. We also had cushion covers in the same fabric!
Me and Mum, San Francisco, early 70's. How Biba does she look! Her 1930's top was thrifted, another element of fashion my parents introduced me to.
Dad and me, on a visit to England, early 70's. It's the same jacket as earlier, which Mum made from upholstery fabric.
The homemade family, San Francisco, around 1976. Mum and Dad's trousers, and all the crochet worn by my sister and I were all made by Mum. She cut all of our hair as well!
So it's pretty obvious that with that amount of handiwork going on around me, it was a pretty sure bet that I would be sewing and thrifting as an adult.

And it goes back even further - this is my maternal Grandmother, in 1942, in a dress she made:
Olivia Rodriguez, San Antonio, 1942
I never met her, but she looks like a stylish lady. Like my mum, she made most of her clothes, and clothes for her family. (In fact, I seem to remember learning to sew at age 11 or so on her old Singer machine.) Of course, home sewing was the norm in the 40's, and these skills were obviously passed on to my mother in the 50's and 60's. Then my mother got me started in the early 80's. She was never dictatorial about it, but instead encouraged us to experiment and learn what worked through trial and error. By the time I left home at 18 to go to college, I made sure the first thing I bought was a second-hand sewing machine and I found out where the fabric shops were in my new town!

I don't know if my handiwork with a needle is a freaky genetic disposition that runs through the ladies in my family, ot if it's just a case of being lucky enough to have been exposed to it at an early age and taking to it. Whatever the reason, looking at these photos, I can feel the decades of experience moving through the generations.

I'll leave the last word to my Dad, who in a family of women sometimes has to fight to be heard:

A decoupage lampshade made by my Dad in the 1970's, dedicated to football (soccer), and a Camel cigarette pack framed by him. Manly!


  1. What an amazing collection your parents have - so many pictures - beautiful! Your grandmother was beautiful and what a stunning dress - thank you for sharing :o)

  2. Wow, I love this post and reading about your creative parents. You know what they say: 'The apple doesn't fall far from the tree'! xxx

  3. Oh my goodness, how cool are your parents!? I love them! Yes, it's no wonder you think to create so much, what inspiration. Thank you for sharing! ...Cassie

  4. No wonder. You come from a family of creators. That is so great. How did you guys end up overseas from California?

    1. Like lots of others in the 1960's, my mum and her sister decided to explore Europe. She met my dad in England, got married, then they went back to California to live, and have a family. Ever the adventurers, they decided to move back to England in the 80's. I think they were worried my sister and I would turn into blonde cheerleaders, or something. Like that was ever gonna happen! And here we are, over 25 years later.


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