My Love of Fabric Yesterday and Today

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A post by artist and seamstress Marilyn Petersen:

My love of fabric began at a very early age.  My mother, my grandmother, and my great- grandmother all sewed and made their clothes and anything else needed in their homes such as drapery, tea towels, and hot pads.

I used the name “tea towels” to give you a bit of information about my family. My extended families always included the grandmother living with the next generation.

My mother married my father the day before World War Two ended. She was 29 and he was 42. They thought that they were incredibly old to start a family, but within several years they had two daughters. Five years later my grandfather passed away, and my grandmother moved in with us in 1955.

This began my thorough lessons in fabric and sewing. My mother and grandmother never thought about going to the store and buying any clothing for themselves or for my sister and me.

Going to the stores and looking for fabric was a regular occurrence. On many occasions, my mother’s older sister joined in the search. Fabric stores were in almost every neighborhood and fabric could be found at very affordable prices.

We were three females and two little girls moving from one section of the store to the next. As my mother ran her finger through the cloth, I came behind her to repeat this action. She crinkled it in her hands to see is it wrinkled, and I did the same.

When it came time to sew, we went into action making the latest styles.

With intensive training from my mother and my grandmother, I was making my own dresses by the age of twelve.

Now I am sixty- two, and I have never lost the love of fabric. Thanks to recent technology and the love of design, I have now found a way to not only use fabric, but to design it!

Small businesses have opened to make it possible to print designs that you submit to them. You can purchase the fabric in sizes as small as an eight square to as many yards as you need  for you project.

This Easter egg design above is based on a small swath in an antique quilt. I have come full circle from a quilt that belonged to the generation of my great- grandmother to the present.

The fabric below is inspired by Matisse:

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And bunnies and other creatures in honor of spring:

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I’m very happy that so many more people are again interested in fabric. This new interest allows creative people to join together with small business (often run by women) to make endless numbers of beautiful projects.

I design my fabric through Spoonflower.  To find my page, CLICK HERE. 

The Easter Egg design is part of a weekly contest between Spoonflower designers.

For the Matisse, we were to design a fabric that would be comfortable and part of the décor of a room in Matisse’s home.

The designs were to be limited to four colors. I created my design referencing a group of life drawing sketches that I call “My Dancers.”  The dancers are free and full of movement.

Here are the baby animals. I’ve received some nice comments on this design!

Marilyn Petersen was born in Dallas Texas and has lived in Laurinburg, NC since the year 2000. She majored in Fine Arts while attending Austin Community College and the University of Texas at Austin, and she’s had a long career as an artist, working in enameling, jewelry, fiber arts, and visual arts.

While living in Mexico the previous five years before moving to North Carolina, she also studied painting and drawing in San Miguel de Allende and in San Juan del Rio.  All these experiences in her life have given her a rich background in color and design. Here she is below, in an outfit she made in Junior High!

Clothing for Jr. High Assembly 001

15 responses »

  1. I used to sew— high school prom gowns, maternity clothes, some baby things. Now I try to do some mending and make aprons for the grandkids. I’d much rather knit. But I still love seeing bolts of fabric in stores.

    • I think that many people that sewed in the past are not coming back to make their clothes again, but to use fabric in so many other creative projects. There are a lot of quilters working with fabric, but there are also so many other things that people are making. I like the spoonflower idea, because you can order any amount to create. Thank for reading and taking the time to comment. Marilyn

  2. Lovely designs and family memoir. We miss so much today in our smaller nuclear families. You make me want to start quilting again, never thought I’d be able to design my own fabric!

    Chris Sent from my iPhone

    • It seems like the sky is the limit! With women wanting to be creative and others making it possible with small business helping us a long with new exciting technology, we can make anything that we wish to make. I never thought about making fabric until my daughter in law told me about spoonflower in Durham. Pull out the stuffing and start quilting again. Thanks, Marilyn

  3. Beautiful! And such a rich history. Love it. I, too, have a history of sewing. My Mom and Gramma both sewed, and I picked it up and sewed for years. I made things for myself, and then for my daughter. I sort of quit after she got older, but then picked it up again for my grand-daughter. I used to do things like close the seams of my daughter’s little dresses and sunsuits with binding tape so there were no raw seams. I was quite obsessive about the details. Probably that’s why I gave it up. I’d stay up until 3 am ripping seams, re-sewing, ripping again, until I got it perfect. [[sigh]]

    The concept of designing new ‘old’ fabric is very cool. I’m going to scroll around the links right now. Thank you for this wonderful guest post, Barbara. It’s nice meeting you, Marilyn.

    • Oh yes, and the memory of exploring those bolts of cloth, pouring through the pattern books, and then having my Mom try the pattern on me for size are definitely warm and fuzzy! Thank you, Marilyn, for reminding me!

    • Thank you for your comments. I have followed the same path. Clothes for myself, then my daughter and now I have grandchildren to sew for. I made a bunch of summer clothes for my one year old grandson last summer. His mom said that there are no bright colored clothes for little boys. She was thrilled to have them. He looked so sweet with his little legs showing with his short snap shouldered overall.
      I appreciate your interest in looking at my site. I hope that you enjoy it. Thanks, Marilyn

    • Thank you for your interest. I enjoyed working with Barbara and sharing my story with her and now her followers. It is fun to learn to use technology with things that we have had in the past and have been left behind. Now it has a new spin and it is fun to go along for the ride with good friends and new friends in the future. Thanks, Marilyn

  4. Love your fabric designs! I had no idea designing your own fabric was possible; great idea. Glad you enjoy sewing. I used to make some of my own clothes when I was a young teenager. My middle school’s insistence that ALL girls take home ec was partly responsible. Also my grandmother sewed a lot of her own clothes. But I think it skipped a generation b/c my mom tried to avoid sewing.

    • Thank you for commenting. I appreciate the interest in my art. I didn’t really know how to use illustrator to design, but after my husband to a small continuing ed class for it, I had to see how it worked. I just couldn’t playing with it. My daughter in law told me about spoonflower in Durham and that inspired me to use it for my love of fabric.
      Yes, I think they should teach home ec again. It always helps to know the basic to help out when you need it.

      • The very good news is that YES – you CAN major in Home Ec! You will find that some schools now call it “Family and Consumer Sciences.” But there may be hope for us yet!

      • I do think that is good news. We need the
        schools to offer home ec and those students will have job to go to. I have two sons and a daughter that cook beautifully and they enjoy preparing meal for their family and friends. I love tech, but we all need to be well rounded. Marilyn

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