Winter Coats To Giant Elephants

It’s funny how our interests change as we move through life. Some things we loved to do when we were younger no longer inspire us. For me that thing is sewing. I will do almost anything to avoid sewing. I used to sew every free moment I had. I dropped out of Home Economics and I taught myself to sew as a teenager. Partly because it was cheaper to sew things than to buy things. Those were the days when fabric and patterns were so inexpensive. Plus I was so skinny that it was very difficult to get things that fit. There was no size zero in stores in the 70’s.

By the time I was in my twenties, I sewed most of my work clothes: pants, skirts, blazers, blouses, etc. At twenty-four, I began studying fashion design and merchandising in Toronto. There I added to my skillset by leaps and bounds. When I finished, I could make just about anything including wedding dresses, bridesmaids dresses and winter coats.

I did design and make many things, for both myself and others. Lets just say that you got asked to be involved in a lot of weddings if you could sew back then. Bridesmaids could be the worst to make dresses for. I honestly swear to that. And no one wanted to pay custom prices either. Everyone thought that homemade should be cheap, or free–especially if you were a friend or family member. So no, I didn’t make a living at custom clothes. I wasn’t fond of the customers. And I was developing a huge dislike for the pretentious world of fashion.

There was a short period when I did make a meager living by designing and sewing, but not by designing and sewing clothes. Nope! I got a job designing and sewing advertising inflatables. Large three-dimensional shapes that were inflated by fans and used to attract customer attention. It was a short lived job. Maybe for a year, maybe less. It was a challenge; and in reality, I enjoyed the challenge.

Inflatables were like large balloons. Inside walls, called baffles, were required to enable the designed object to retain its shape. You never really knew what it was going to look like until the magical day it was inflated. That in itself was pretty stressful… not knowing if all those sleepless nights were worth it until it was all done. During the design process, I spent more nights sewing them together over and over in my head than I spent days actually sewing them.

While in that position, I created a giant birthday cake, a twenty-five-foot pink elephant, the Beaver Lumber beaver, a huge snowman, a giant whale that went to the Cannes Film Festival and several more custom shapes.

Although I enjoyed the creative challenge, the whole process was old school. Literally! I designed on graph paper and grid the pattern up manually by rolling out and taping heavy Kraft paper together, measuring and drawing a large grid, then filling in the pattern information on each square. It was very hard on the neck and the knees. Then there were pounds of rip-stop nylon to be dragged around and manhandled through the sewing machine. The working conditions were not great and the pay was crappy.

Today such designs are done on computers. Details are screen printed and pieces molded and fused together by machines, somewhere in Asia, not by a lone women who was losing sleep and catching colds hell west and crooked due to this lack of sleep. I left to become a marketing coordinator for a fundraising company. Another job that only lasted about eight months… but that is another story. Changing jobs was a habit for me and provided many interesting experiences.

By the time I was in my forties, I no longer made my clothes but still made home decor items, such as Roman blinds, curtain panels and bed coverings. It saved us a whole lot of money at the time. My interest in sewing waned as the years progressed. To the point where I absolutely hate it. The last time I tried to make myself an outfit was in 2007 for my stepson’s wedding. I never did finish it, purchasing a dress instead.

I may begrudgingly pull out the sewing machine once a year to sew something, but I repeat the word begrudgingly. Perhaps this change in interest it is because I learned to design things on the computer where creations happened quicker and corrections were made with an undo key stroke. Perhaps it is because sewing had become tedious. Perhaps I sewed so much that I got sick of it. It was no longer a fun hobby.

I don’t miss my old hobby. Like so many other things in my life, it helped make me the person I am today. It provided a skillset that improved my brain. It showed me that I was capable of teaching myself and learning new things. I have moved on to new interests–yoga, kayaking, gardening and learning to play the piano–that I find so much more enjoyable and inspiring at this stage of my life.

Thank you for reading. 

Photos: Jenn Stone

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21 thoughts on “Winter Coats To Giant Elephants

  1. I have to say I’ve always hated sewing. I won’t use electric sewing machines as I find them a faff to thread up and they literally used to run away across my cloth when I was using them at school – sometimes my foot was under my chair and nowhere near the pedal (static electricity perhaps?). So, if I do sew, I use a needle and thread – even to make large items like curtains. The things I then hate most are trying to thread the needle (I’ve now got one of those needle-threaders which helps) and then tying the damned knot!


  2. I wish I could sew, it would really come in handy. I’ve been known to Super Glue clothes if that gives you an idea of my seamstress skills.
    And I hate to say it… but nice giant beaver.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. If memory serves, the only things I ever sewed involved projects in my Home Economics classes in middle school/junior high. (These classes were required, so they were filled with jocks who refused to participate in any of that mess, making fun of my gay little ass who was actually interested in completing all the projects.) The most memorable sewing extravaganza involved constructing animals that could be used as pillows. I opted for the pattern that was a giant purple mouse with big, floppy black-felt ears, a concoction that I christened “Junior”. (No idea why, now.) I was rather proud of him, and he lived on the family couch for years. He eventually disappeared, lost to parts unknown, as do most childhood treasures…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a cool job, though! You’re obviously very talented, and you’re right — all our varied experiences help make us who we are.
    I started sewing my own clothes at 8 when I got a sewing machine for Christmas. My undergrad degree is in fashion design. Now, I will duct tape a hem rather than fix it with needle and thread.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was a cool job but and exhausting one. A lot of crawling around on the floor. Hemming is not something that I do anymore either. I usually wear pants and roll them up. But duct tape would work too.


  5. Wow you are very talented but I can see how it would no longer be fun. I can’t imagine dealing with brides and bridesmaids, that would have turned me off instantly. I took home-ec too but probably learned more from my mom than from class. I was never very good at sewing though and didn’t get into it. Glad you found more relaxing hobbies. Maggie


  6. I grew up as kid and sewed. I design dresses and mini skirts and my Prom Dress and my Mom taught me how to sew . I made my living drapes in our house and made cushion covers and place mats but now like I stop sewing too.
    I love how you were an amazing designer and sewer .

    Liked by 1 person

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