How the arts have impacted me
Julianna Montminy, Staff Writer
The soft and steady hum of a Singer sewing machine buzzes through my mind as I recall when my mother first taught me how to sew. I was 7 years old and I distinctly recall holding a pink plastic sewing needle while sitting at the kitchen table, moving it in and out and in and out of a felt teddy bear cutout.
The needle was hard to handle and I could never get the stitches straight. I became easily frustrated and would toss my project aside when my loops would get caught or my stitches were messy. My mother would calmly coax me back to the project, softly tear out my mistake and show me how to redo it. The joy I felt when I officially cut the end of the string after my last stitch was indescribable. I had finally made something all my own. This feeling of success after hours of dedication to a handmade craft has always stayed with me and from that day I wanted to learn more.
Arts and crafts and sewing have always been important hobbies in my life. My mother and grandmother were seamstresses, and together they greatly influenced my desire to learn how to sew. I remember hearing stories from my grandmother about sewing clothes for my mom for her first day of school or being intrigued as they bonded over making matching dresses for dinner parties. At the time, the concept of making one’s own clothes seemed foreign and complicated. I could easily buy clothes in a store.
My attitude completely changed, however, when I was 10 years old. My mother deemed it the appropriate age for me to start learning how to sew on a real sewing machine, not just with a hand needle. A local sewing studio held summer classes that specialized in teaching young students how to sew. That summer I learned the basics of picking fabric, cutting fabric to fit patterns, pinning fabric and, of course, the basics of using a sewing machine.
Quickly, sewing became a whole new world of possibilities. I could make anything, and I was entranced by it. I started off with the basics, such as sewing in a straight line when making a pillow case, then learned more complicated patterns such as bags with pockets and eventually designed skirts and summer dresses. By the end of the summer, I had a mini collection of creations and could visually see my progress ranging from crazy seams to a decently constructed dress that I would actually wear.
I continued to take classes at the studio into the school year and eventually up until high school. I learned something new every time I was there. Every few weeks I would work on a new project, practice a different skill or try out a new fashion trend. Some of my favorite things to sew included every type of bag, whether it be a small pencil case to an oversized purse, and every type of dresses.
In the beginning of my sewing journey, many of my clothes and accessories looked terrible. I was embarrassed to wear or use them. Yet, as I became more dedicated to each project, I learned to fix my mistakes and take particular care in sewing certain sections. The clothes I made turned out better and I felt confident and proud to wear something I created and that was unique.
Sewing also opened many doors in my life that I would never have experienced otherwise. I got my first job working at the same sewing studio teaching new students my love for sewing. It was a rewarding experience to come full circle in seeing my students learn the basics of sewing, as I did, to mastering more complex skills in their own designs. I will always cherish the joy of seeing students’ faces light up when they accomplish a project or have a mini fashion show modeling their latest designs.
While I was in high school I also had the opportunity to work with a famous fashion designer named Sondra Celli. She was best known for designed and bedazzling gypsy wedding dresses on the TLC TV series, “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.” Working in her studio was an incredible learning experience. It was fast paced, exciting and demanding. I was able to use all the skills and techniques that I had learned in my years of sewing and apply them in a fun and professional way. My job tile was a “Blingette” and I bedazzled and sewed, with crystals, intricate patterns on wedding dresses, shoes and accessories. I even appeared on one of the TV shows. Sewing became something that I was extremely passionate about.
Today, it is the sad reality that the art of sewing is a fading and obsolete hobby. It is much easier and cheaper to buy clothes at a store and no one has the time anymore to dedicate to picking fabric and completing a whole design. I even admit that during college, I have not committed much time to the craft as I once did, besides sewing on the occasional button or fixing a rip in a friend’s shirt. Even though sewing may be fading, I am still grateful for the lessons it has taught me.
Sewing has allowed me to see the world from a different perspective. I have become more aware of how pieces fit together and how designs are constructed, learned important qualities of patience and commitment and developed common bonds with my family. Having the ability to sew and design is truly a gift and I am forever grateful to my mother for being the catalyst of my sewing journey.