(Craftivism is a new way of sharing skills that can transform our relationships with one another. This is a guest post by my niece, Hannah Wardman. I love the way her connections with her mother and Reginna are feeding her relationships with her niece, nephews and other family members. Her sewing adds a beautiful creative, playful energy to the world.)
I grew up watching my mother do all sorts of crafts: knitting, sewing, crocheting, paper crafts, painting, etc. I started learning how to do some of these things myself at various stages in my life. I started out learning how to knit but wasn’t able to stick with it for very long. Then I moved on to crocheting and that was fun for a while. I dabbled with sewing every once in a blue moon but never got into it seriously. However, I did get a sewing machine when I was in my early twenties and I was determined to teach myself how to sew.
Life took me out to the other side of the country shortly after. I flew when I moved and was not able to take my sewing machine with me. It sat unused most of the time I had it anyway, but I left it tucked in my closet at my dad’s house where it happily waited for three years. When it was time for my dad to move, I went back to Illinois to clean out my belongings and happened upon my sewing machine. It was practically brand new so I decided to put it in my suitcase and bring it back to Washington state with me.
When I returned to Washington, I was determined to learn how to sew. I knew that there was a lot that went into it so I decided that I need to take some classes somewhere to learn how to do it properly so the frustration didn’t chase me away from the craft.
I made a post on a local facebook page which is called a Buy Nothing Group. These groups are set up to be a hyper local gifting economy where things are given freely between members to foster the sense of community. It is the modern day, “Do you have a cup of sugar” if you will. I put a post up saying that I wanted to learn how to sew, would anyone want to teach me? And that is how I met Reginna.
I call Reginna my sewing sage. She doesn’t even live within the bounds of my buy nothing group, but her daughter Jennifer does and that is how we got connected. Reginna worked for Hancock Fabrics for over twenty years before they went out of business. When they closed, she was unable to find another job. She also had to have back surgery which she had a hard time recovering from. The combination of the two made it hard for her to function. She wanted to teach someone her craft so that she could share something that she loved. That’s where I came in!
When I say Reginna knows everything about sewing, I mean it. When I first went to her house, she showed me everything that she had made. The bedspreads, the curtains, the pillows. It was all so impressive. She asked me if I wanted to do more home decoration sewing or clothes sewing. I said clothes sewing as I don’t really have much to decorate in my tiny apartment. She said that I should bring the fabric, notions, and patterns for what I wanted to make to my once a week lessons and we would work on those projects. And that’s exactly what we did.
I asked her if she wanted any payment for her time. There are places and people that would charge easily $20 per hour for this type of one on one lesson. She said that she didn’t want any payment. That she wanted to pass along her craft, which she knows is a dying art, and that me coming over was good for her mental health. I did bring her her favorite coffee once a week: a decaf, non fat, extra hot, white chocolate mocha.
We made all kinds of things together – dresses, skirts, curtains, aprons, onesies, bathrobes, shorts, swimsuits, all kinds of stuff! The lessons I learned from her are absolutely invaluable. I haven’t been going over to her house recently because my life got a little crazy and I needed to take some time for myself to mentally heal. Unfortunately my sewing lesson was the one thing I had to cut out. I hope to resume my time with her soon.
One of my favorite things that came out of my time at Reginna’s was a newly forged relationship with my niece who lives in England. She is eight years old. I haven’t seen her since she was five and don’t have the same kind of relationship with her that I do with my nephews who live in the same town as I do. I decided that I was going to start sewing for her to try and start a unique relationship between the two of us. I sew her dresses with fabric of things I thought she would like and write her letters to go with them. Her dad takes pictures of her wearing the things I made and she often writes me a letter back saying thank you and letting me know what she was up to. She says I am the best at making her dresses and that makes me happy. She currently wears a swimsuit that I made her to her swim class every week and carries her towel and clothes in a bag that I made her to the pool. How cool is that?
We live in a world that often doesn’t slow down. I am guilty of being a person who is always going. When I do slow down, I often find myself in front of a screen to relax. Watching tv, looking at things online, etc. Sewing breaks me out of that. Cutting out patterns, ironing fabric, making sure everything is lined up perfectly and centered before I cut it out. Pinning, sewing, ironing, surging, and more often than not if I’m being honest, ripping seams out and doing them over again! It gives my brain a chance to focus on the craft and forget about what else is going on around me. It gives me a chance to use my energy to create a tangible product that in turn makes someone else who I love happy. And none of it would be possible without Reginna. She has given me every tool in my tool box; all because she wanted to pass along her love of sewing. Thank you Reginna.