Sep 252009
My first Simplicity half-apron and gray kettle cloth jumper are decades behind me, but I still recall many of the items on Miss Banovich’s 7th grade sewing supplies list: seam ripper, seam gauge, measuring tape, pins, fabric scissors, sewing machine needles, thread, and a couple of clear plastic bobbins. Interestingly, it was my father—not my mother—who helped me collect these items. In fact, I still have my first sewing basket, a rather humble-looking box in gold-flecked white vinyl that dates back to the 1970s.

My mother, whose brief foray into sewing included a set of unevenly cut yellow curtains that she hoped no one would remember, did not enjoy sewing. She was horrified, in fact, when she returned to Germany to visit her mother, and those curtains were hung in a window in her honor. With relief, she passed on to me the darning egg in her sewing basket to mend my father’s socks, along with a stack of trousers that needed to be shortened for the summer. She was my sewing cheerleader, but it was my father with whom I held discussions about how to thread our Sears Kenmore sewing machine.  These days my father wishes he knew what happened to that old Kenmore, but I think it’s likely my mother gave it away when I went to college and bought my own Brother machine. She is no longer with us, so I guess that will remain her little secret.

The garments I sewed and the events of those early years are connected like buttons sewn on a sweater. My boyfriend (who became my husband) was a midshipman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so every winter and spring during college, I sewed a floor-length gown for the Navy R.O.T.C. balls we attended together. Likewise, I made some of the dresses I wore as a sales clerk while working at Gimbels Department Store during college. And when John and I married, I made my own bridal gown and veil.

 In the early years of our marriage, we lived in southern California, where John was stationed as a Naval Weapons Officer. When we moved to the West coast, the sewing machine and cabinet—and all of my fabrics and notions—occupied a significant portion of the space in the U-Haul we rented, along with my numerous books. Eight years later, when our son was born, a Pfaff sewing machine had replaced the Brother, and I sewed many of David’s play clothes.

Today my sewing machine no longer occupies a corner of a bedroom or living room, but sits in its own dedicated space: a sewing room. Of course, that’s not the only place in our home where I create—John says that wherever you find horizontal surfaces is where you’ll find my work—but it is nice to have a home base, of sorts! My sewing room is where my Pfaff Creative 7530 sewing machine resides, inside a solid oak Parsons cabinet.

This is also where I write. I love my Mission-style writing desk.

The closet holds quilting rulers and templates, specialty sewing tools, interfacing and stabilizers, and boxes of sewing supplies.Fabric is another story . . . no space in this room!

Along one wall is Dolly (my dress form), who wears a half-finished apron. I like to “dial her down” so that I can imagine what I might look like if I lost some weight!

In a corner of the room stands a chest of drawers for needlework supplies. Next to it is a small couch where I like to do hand sewing, or browse through how-to publications.


Projects are always spilling out of my sewing room into other rooms because my working space is no bigger than a child’s small nursery. Still, this is where many of my Etsy products are created. In short, it’s a cozy place to ponder, poke at fabrics, and produce!

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

May 272009

In the last few weeks, a number of BBEST members have lost family members or friends who have succumbed to serious illnesses or long-term diseases. One of the advantages of belonging to an Etsy street team like BBEST is that when these personal losses occur, team members typically express messages of hope and support. Although I have not lost a family member recently, a close friend of mine did. The story of her daughter, Maura, was followed by many on the BBEST team, who posted messages of support on her mother’s blog, lit candles for Maura, and said prayers. This post is dedicated not only to Maura, but also to the memory of anyone we have recently loved and lost.

Maura was a 22-year-old college student at Sam Houston State University in Houston, Texas. She majored in music with an emphasis in voice. (See news story and video here.) Everyone who knew Maura thought of her not only as a talented opera singer, but also as a kind and compassionate person—someone who was inspiring and a wonderful role model. One year ago, she was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of sarcoma when tumors were discovered in her abdomen. From that point on, she dedicated herself to a rigorous course of medical treatments including surgery and chemo. At the same time, she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree, earning magna cum laude honors. Because Maura was too ill to attend her own commencement exercises, the administration of her college brought graduation to her hospital room. One week later at her home, she passed away.

Maura’s favorite flower was the sunflower, a flower whose stalk stretches tall and whose bright yellow head faces the sky in the same way that Maura carried herself throughout her short life. Many were touched by her struggle to stay alive, and by her faith. At her funeral, about 800 family members and friends filled the church with the sunflowers she loved. While none of the BBEST members who followed her story were able to attend Maura’s funeral, we can still honor her memory in our own way, and at the same time bid a last farewell to those we have recently lost. That being said, below are “sunflowers” in the BBEST tradition.