Fabric, Liberty Lawn Print, B&J Fabrics
Photography by Santiago Vanegas
When I was 5 years old, my family moved into my great grandparents house. The large old place was pretty much as my great grandfather left it, which meant it was filled up with the most amazing collection of history you can imagine. It was common to unearth antebellum ball gowns, World War I bayonets, and every National Geographic magazine probably since their inception. My sister, my brother and I spent loads of time exploring closets and armoires, searching for treasures, and we found plenty. Looking back on it now I realize it’s the stuff of children’s novels, as good as finding a hidden door to a secret garden.
Those treasure hunts were formative experiences that I’ve carried with me throughout my life. Whether I’ve been working to preserve historic architecture or photographing abandoned buildings, preservation plays a big role in who I am and what I do.
What we leave behind and what we carry forward matters. It’s no different in the world of sewing. Making clothes is rich with history and tradition and as I continue to grow as a designer and sewist, I understand the importance of bringing the older skills to my current era. This top represents my first attempt at heirloom sewing.
A while ago, my friend Anna took me to visit her mom Ashley who is an incredibly talented and accomplished heirloom seamstress. To be able to look at and handle the garments, gowns, and bedcovers she created was such pure joy for me. But the gift didn’t stop there. Ashley no longer sews and she very VERY graciously decided to pass on her beautiful stash of fabric and lace trim to me. I’m still overwhelmed by her generosity.
At first I was intimidated about using anything from her stash because whatever I made could never rise to her level of expertise. But eventually I realized that the best way to honor Ashley and her gift to me was to use what she gave me. So this sweet top was made with a whole bunch of gratitude and a respect for the traditions of sewing. Heirloom sewing can use a variety of techniques but for this project, I tried out pintucks and lace insertion.
In keeping with our historic theme, it seemed only right to apply the same thinking to our photography. Santiago made the images above with a pinhole attachment on his digital camera. An act of bringing together the old with the new. Because there was no lens and merely a tiny pinhole, the exposure was two minutes long. Meaning I sat still, not moving for the entire two minutes that the camera was capturing the image. The “soft focus” comes from the nature of the pinhole and my micro-movements during the exposure. I’ve heard that when people had their portraits taken long ago, they were strapped into a chair to help them to stay still.
(For more detailed and sharper images, scroll down.)
That’s it for this week. Look for another post on October 5. It’s gonna be a good one with the very first Featherstitch Avenue giveaway! See you then.