Sunday, February 5, 2012

Paying it forward

I'm struggling with my 6-year-old knowing everything there is to know about sewing and not needing any help.  Apparently that's the way it is and I have to just butt out and take my pesky sewing-teacher habits elsewhere.  
Softly, softly... when the girl wondered why her very Japanese-designer-looking wrap-around dolls outfit didn't look quite like the High St Fashion she'd envisaged, I offered the Enid Gildchrist "Teen Dolls" book that I used at her age (it was my eldest sister's before I had it). 
I bit my tongue about technique, and remembered how much free rein I was given as a kid.  I remembered how this book taught me what garment patterns look like, and gave me the basics to start designing and drafting my own Barbie Doll fashions. 

I was shown how to use a sewing machine when I was 5 or 6, given lots of fabric scraps and access to craft and sewing books and magazines. I consulted the odd pattern for guidance when I needed it, but mostly did my own thing, learning from my own mistakes.  While Enid Gildchrist taught me about garments, soft toy books showed me what soft toy patterns looked like.  And then I free-formed it and made my own up.
The turtle, above, is one of the few surviving pieces from my childhood of sewing (regular readers will have seen this before).  I made it when I was 8.  Members of my family can still remember the original garments from which every patch of the shell was made.  My fabrics were my big sister's offcuts, and she sewed for all of us.
The peg dolls and cloth dolls I made (aged 11-13) reveal an early fascination for historical costume.  Some things never change.....
By mid-high school, all my art projects were textile-based and I'd learned the value in using resources for technique (the motifs on this Australian-themed garment were an exploration of applique, machine quilting and embroidery, fabric paint, print, pastel and 3-d fabric sculpture).  As the only Art student in my year at my school,  I was studying the theory by correspondence and working on the practical assignments on my own.  I had no teacher to show me what to do, but my mother and my school made sure I had access to books and materials to use.  I free-formed it and did my own thing, and earned myself top grades.
 I didn't make the parrot.... that was some other kid's art project.

My clothing design in high school was nothing, if not original..... I didn't slavishly follow fashion, I just thought of stuff to make
...And yes, I wore this sort of get-up around the small country towns of the Goulburn Valley when I was 14  and 15.  Heaven only knows what she thought, but my mother let me make and wear whatever I wanted to.  She let me out in public in it.

I didn't know it at the time, but she was letting me become the designer - and the individual - that I wanted to be.  She gave me the tools, the space and the confidence to know that I could make whatever I imagined.   She knew I'd sort it out eventually.
Here I am being a fashion designer, somewhere around 1992 in Brighton, UK (note the lack of balloon dresses and leg-warmers).

I have no idea if my mum has any concept of what I do now or the dedication I wrote in my book.  The best that I can do to thank her, is to pass on what she gave to me.  I hope that my girl will pass it on to her children. 

I'm reminded to take a step back, to praise every attempt at making anything, to provide materials and resources .....but never insist upon them being used in a particular way.  (Note the book on the floor - closed and not consulted - as the girl free-form cuts out a "dress" for herself).  She'll find her own way.

Yesterday, I had a wonderful reminder of the other things we leave behind.  One of the lovely gals in my Purse Frame class went to the same tiny country primary school as I (briefly) did.  She went through with my elder siblings.  I was utterly heart-warmed when she talked about her memories of my Mum bringing birthday parties to the school. 

We lived  "next door" (across a paddock) from the school, and rather than inviting a few kids to a party at the house, my Mum would load up the VW Combi with cake and party food and drive over to the school, to share with all 20 or 30 kids.  Not only did she give her own children great memories to carry through life, but that feel-good childhood memory from our family has gone beyond us all. 

Food for thought, indeed.

24 comments:

Carmel Morris said...

Good on you for standing back and not taking over. There are a couple of times in my life where I remember people taking over something creative I was doing and neither time was a positive experience. It will be interesting to see where your little girl goes with it all in years to come.

Breakfast Jo said...

Glad you didn't jump in, the Wee girl is exploring her creatvity genes. She will come to you if she needs help ( or Google it lol) I STILL have my Enid Gilchrist Dolls book somewhere!! and do you remember, I think it was the New Idea, used to do Barbie Patterns?....ahhh memory lane, how longgggggggggggg and winding you are :O)

Tania said...

That's some Family Legacy you have happening there, N...

Craftysquirrel said...

My 5 yr old has started asking for sewing "lessons" from me, I love her enthusiasm and like you bite my tongue at times. My mum was like yours and fantastically supportive - she unpicked any errors when frustration got too much for me and helped turn my random designs into wearable items- all while making me feel I had created them myself. It's a great skill to pass on - plus that belief that you can make anything.

Sew-4-Fun said...

Nikki, are you serious? You grew up in Cobram? So did I and I went to primary school there!

Frockfarie said...

I think I had that same dolls clothes book when I was a kid. Wish I still had it. I too have to bite my tongue with daughter and hold down the teacher inside me. It can be hard to let them do it when you know a much easier or better way.

Lynne said...

Yay for mums like you and yours!

Fiona said...

Great photos! And good on you for stepping back and letting the 6 year old have free rein. I remember some of the wacky things my sister used to make for us to wear ... I'm hoping there are no surviving photos!!

Bree said...

Thank you Nikki, I'm crying again!! You are a beautiful mother, partner, daughter, sister and friend. Miss R is a very lucky little peanut! ox

Tanya said...

Hooray for you, standing back. Takes great restraint! Look at that girl go! Ohh, I remember my fascination with peg dolls!

Fer said...

Your Mum sounds like a very wise and wonderful woman.

I'm also thankful for these posts, it gives me something to remember as my wee girl grows and explores (she already wants to use my sewing machine!).

tazbride said...

What a fantastic story, I wish I had had a supportive Mum like that. I still struggle with confidence issues, even though I now have fantasic friends who boost me. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and nobody should have their art criticized , only helped xx

Midge said...

Lovely blog Nikki. It isn't easy to stand back and let others learn "the hard way", but well done to you for seeing the importance of doing just that.

NessaKnits said...

Your mum sounds grand. I have booked my daughter (10 years old) into sewing lessons this year after school from 4 pm to 5.30 pm one afternoon a week so she can at least thread a needle and sew a button on something without my advice! She has had one week and loves it ....

Larri @ Seams Inspired said...

What a fabulous mother you are! I'm taking a page from your book, and doing my best to let my children create without any 'hep' from me.

Linda T said...

Lovely post! Thanks for taking me along down that memory lane about your Mother and your independence with designing. Your daughter is lucky to have the benefit of your own experiences!

Trash said...

That is a big effort Missus, the staning back and just letting the small make what they envisage (or not as the case may be). It always drove me nuts at toddler groups when the parent would direct whatever the craft activity was so the child's effort would be acceptable to the grown-up sensibility.

A Peppermint Penguin said...

kid doesn't stand a chance not to make things!

aw, look at the mini Nikki designer in the making :D

Katy Cameron said...

Definitely sounds like a fun way to learn! Can't believe you've abandoned those leg warmers though... ;o)

sooz said...

Thanks Nikki. A great reminder of the importance of letting them do it their own way - something I really struggle with.

Posie Patchwork said...

Love that, i too was given free reign (how my perfect mother let us all loose & go for it, i'll never know, she was so calm & ready with the unpicker, not that we knew it though) & i'm doing the same with my 4. All mine could spool bobbins aged 3 - such a chore to me, thrill to them, & rethread new colours, yay!! I just bought my 3rd girl (she's 10) her own machine Janome 1012 (neato & under $200 but does everything a tween could ever hope for, mind you, stretchy leg warmers might be a test of her skills) & best school holiday toy ever.
Also if they break the needles/ get something stuffed in the feed dog, it's not MY machine & i can live happily with that. My 4 children had a habit of breaking my last needle!!
So your girl is to sewing what those incredible cooks are to MasterChef Junior. Love Posie

Janelle said...

Thank you for that reminder - my older daughter (8) want to make things and I want to "teach" her - she only wants suggestions and then to be left alone. I needed to be reminded that I have taught myself nearly all of the skills I have in sewing and other fiber arts, she can too and will ask if she needs me. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

I love this post! My own daughter is just now deciding to learn to sew, at the age of 26! I have two daughters and it took 26 years to get one interested! I'm loving it though :)
Kathy

Taccolina said...

What a thoughtful post. We were given fabric, paper, pens and space - and encouragement in bucket loads. It works! She'll come and ask later or find her own way.