The Power of Craft

_MG_1493I hope you had a very merry Christmas. I’ve been bursting to share this story and these images with you for weeks now, ever since I sewed the last stitch on this dress.  Allow me to start from the beginning: this past summer and fall proved to be a very challenging time for my parents as they dealt with many difficulties related to my younger brother.  I saw my mom stripped of so much of her joy as she internalized the stress of the situation and quite frankly, it broke my heart.  I decided that I wanted to use the power of handmade to create something of beauty for her.  I decided that I would finish her Alabama Chanin dress in time for Christmas (you might remember this past summer when my mom and I took a class from Natalie Chanin at Blackberry Farm– this was her garment from the class, which she had barely started).  It was a ridiculously lofty goal what with 6 large panels of applique to conquer, so I decided to enlist the help of my community.  I envisioned an old-fashion quilt circle with women coming together to create something of beauty.  I imagined each stitch sewn with intention and love.  Three amazing women came forward and offered their sewing assistance, and together we created this masterpiece.  I sent them each a panel, and made a little instructional video, and a few months later they sent me back their panels, each completed to perfection.  I stitched up the panels- my three, plus the three others, and finished off the neck and arm holes.  In all it was a six-month project.

bustOn Christmas morning I had the dress swathed in sheets of tissue paper, wrapped in a big box covered in red sparkly wrapping paper.  It was the last gift my mom opened and she was absolutely speechless.  Nestled in along with the dress I had notes from the women who helped to sew her dress:  Kellen Meyer, my sweet Squam friend, was one of the amazing women who lent her talent to the project, along with Amy Mercer, a lovely knitter, seamstress and blog friend, and Ann Ryskoski, a long-time friend of my moms.  The dress fits my mom perfectly- it is quite amazing.  I hope it brings her joy each and every time she wears it.  There is something so powerful about wearing a garment that other hands made for you with love and intention.  This was the most fulfilling and uplifting project that I made this year and it got me thinking: the power of handmade is incredible.  I would love to do this again- craft a beautiful garment for someone who needs a touch of joy in their life.  What do you think?  Would any of you be into that?  Together we could pick someone to receive the gift, and then decide on the garment.  Together we could make beautiful things and spread some handmade joy.  Give it some thought…and keep in mind you don’t have to be a master crafter.  If you can hand sew, you can make an Alabama Chanin piece.  Another idea- an Alabama Chanin sew-a-long in the Providence-area- I’d be happy to host at my house!  Wouldn’t this be a fun way to kick off 2016?!  I’m ready for some deeper, more fulfilling making in the coming year.


Your thoughts on “The Power of Craft

  1. This is an amazing story, I was choked up envisioning your mom opening that gorgeous dress through the layers of tissue. As someone who has been on the end of needing a well loved and crafted gift, i think it is a beautiful concept to get a group of women together to create a piece like this. I would love to be on board!!

  2. This is so beautiful! Both the dress and the story behind it!! I may have gotten a bit teary eyed.
    I hope your mom wears it often and receives many complements because it really is beautiful!

  3. I love the idea of sharing a project and making it for someone else. I have been wanting to make something in the Alabama Chanin style for years, it is just so beautiful and I love hand stitching.

  4. So very beautiful and touching!!

    I am only a VERY basic (think straightish lines) sewer, but LOVE the idea of putting handcrafted love out to the world.

    Our family has taken on the goal of being more conscious of paying it forward for 2016. I have some ways that i’d like to see this happen as my own pet projects, including some handmade items. With our 3 year old, we do monthly cards/crafts for meals on wheels. When I discussed this project for the new year with her, she decided she wanted to give birthday presents, so I am talking to a couple local DV shelters to see if we can start a program wherein kids in their program who are celebrating a birthday (and celebrating LIFE) can receive a card and a small gift when they may have nothing else. I want to put love and joy out into the world and this is our way of doing it!

  5. SIGN. ME. UP!!! Congrats on a magnificent piece and I hope it does, in fact, bring your lovely Mom some much deserved joy…. YOU are an incredible friend, daughter and mother. HAPPY NEW YEAR! xoxo

  6. What a beautiful dress and an equally beautiful and heart felt idea. Love any and everything hand made. Would love to see a photo of your Mom wearing it. Wishing her all the best.

  7. Such a beautiful dress and story behind. If New Zealand was a little closer to Providence i’d join your group. Wishing you and your family all the best for 2016.

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience through this story – How inspiring – I would be interested in partnering in an experience like this. I did this once with some friends where I volunteered to knit a square for a baby blanket to welcome a first addition to their family – It turned out to be a beautiful and meaningful gift – full of love and intention. It was fun for us all to gather and share stories of the making as well – I was able to share some out-take photos of my toddler unraveling and running around the house – – long story short – count me in!

  9. Christine, the dress is beautiful and the story behind it even more so. I can just imagine your feeling of anticipation as your mom opened that box. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it!

  10. What a wonderful gift, all the love that’s gone into it. I have to admit I also teared up a bit when reading about your Christmas morning.

  11. Sign me up too. I can learn finer stitching, I’m sure. I am in awe of your goal and the method to accomplishment. I am sorry I didn’t know as I would do anything for your beautiful mama; the woman who would do anything for anyone else in need of cheer.

  12. I really believe that the power of handmade, when created with love and intention, has the ability to express love in ways no words can. True unconditional love is shown in our actions, not through our words and my personal experience has proven that love can come from the most unlikely of places and in the most surprising of ways.

    How much would I LOVE to be a part of a sew-a-long and come hang out at your place…. oooh so so much! Of course, you know I’m always keen to be a part of making something beautiful so we can spread some handmade joy. Long live the ripple effect! Sign me up for sure 🙂 xoxo

    ps/ the dress is totally beautiful and the handwork by all 4 of you is utterly incredible! It blows me away!!! xo

  13. I agree that the power of handmade is magical. I remind myself of that each time I am in the thick of it and have a brief moment of “why am I doing this instead of just buying this?” I love to sew and would love to participate if you do a group sewing project again for someone special. Your gesture, along with your caring friends, was amazing. Your mother will remember that forever.

  14. Thank you so much for all of your amazing comments. I am going to give this all some thought and pull together an action plan for the coming year that is going to include a Providence sewing group as well as a sew-along to gift a garment to someone in need of some uplifting! You guys are the best- I can’t wait to get started!

  15. This dress is gorgeous. It is elegant in the simplicity of design, yet the hand stitching and reverse appliqué work just say a very quiet – look at me, I am softly special. Much like life cutting into our hearts we then mend them in with nurturing. The stitches around the open appliqué mirror the soul stitches we weave into our beings to make something difficult become beautiful. I’ve been down that deep hole of worries and hurt about an adult child and it is very hard to pull oneself up through the dark bit to navigate yet again into light and sun. You were so on target with this carefully crafted garment for your mom. It is a firm reminder that she is beautiful and gave life to two (or more!) beautiful and ever growing adult children. Yes, I would love to but not too sure if my handiwork is good enough but please put my name on the list!! I’m thrilled about this!

  16. A wonderful story. If I could sew I would love to join you – and I am in Providence – but it’s not one of my (current) talents. I hope you find a lovely group!

  17. Oh Christine!!!! What a beautiful gift and a true labor of love. A testament to the power of community. I live in the Providence area so if you do gather a group just let me know.

  18. What a beautiful testament to a daughter’s love and appreciation! Thank you for sharing this story and inspiration. I live across the country from you and do not sew, but will most certainly enjoy reading of your community-based endeavors. Happiest of new years to you, Christine!

  19. Please count me in, Christine! I was moved to tears by your story and by the power of such a loving hand sewn gift. There is nothing in retail that could even begin to have the love in it that your mom’s dress does…you’re both so lucky to have each other…cherish every moment!

  20. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, and photos of the dress. I too, was moved to tears. What a loving and thoughtful gift to give – to your mother, and to us.

  21. such a beautiful, touching story!!! I too am obsessed with the Alabama Chanin way of doing things and I love the pieces I’ve created with her patterns and techniques. She’s pure magic! I’m sure your mom was moved beyond words for this amazing gift. I would totally be into the sew along if I were not in Upstate NY. I do vacation in RI for 2 weeks every year though…. 🙂 I think your idea of starting this trend for someone in need or having a hard time is just perfect. It’s really more of what the world needs! I applaud you.

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