My Story

In the beginning………….. 😉

I was born in McKees Rock, Pennsylvania on a hot August night in 1951.  The first to a young Air Force Sergeant and his wife.  My existence on this planet nearly came to an end when I was only a few weeks old and hospitalized for 6 weeks.  But I’m tough and determined and still here.  Shortly after that traumatic experience, dad was transferred to Puerto Rico to the air base there.  I remember my mom telling me what a paradise it was and how much they enjoyed the years they spent there.

Then on and on to more and more places.  By the time dad got out of the Air Force, he was deeply entrenched in the pattern of moving and dragged the family all over this country and even into Canada.  I didn’t complete one whole year of school in the same school.  When I entered high school,  I got to spend the whole year in one school, but a different school every year.  (pretty tough on teenagers)   As a kid my family lived through two, complete loss, house fires.  But I’m tough and determined and still here.

I met my husband, Christer, in northern British Columbia, Canada the summer of 1972.  He was a dashing bronzed God working a very physical job at the copper mine where I was working in the office.  We were both summer hires.   Christer was an engineering student up from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.   We met on my birthday, had our first date 2 days later.  By Sept 2, Christer proposed to me and we were married November 25.   WOW !! 

And so, our journey began………………….

I’m tough and determined and still here.

Chapter Two

I’ve sewn almost all my life.  My mom was a very busy seamstress, making all the clothes for her large brood.  She made curtains for the windows every time we moved, home decor items and sometimes sewed for other people too.  I loved sewing.  Using the scraps left over from mom’s projects, I made doll clothes, costumes, and decorated doll houses.  Sometimes she would give me a whole piece of yardage to make something out of.  When I was about 8 or 9 my mom said to me, if you want to wear it, you have to make it.  She was too busy with everything else and needed me to make my own clothes.  I distinctly remember the first dress I made completely by myself and wore to school.  It was a gold and burnt orange floral with set in sleeves, a gathered skirt and a zipper!  I wore it to school and loved it.  I was quite proud of myself and that dress, even though I’m sure it didn’t look the best.  Many, many, many more were to follow over the years, as well as every other thing there is to sew.

I learned to quilt from my paternal Grandma, Afton Johnson.  She was a master, award winning quilter and hand quilted beautiful designs.  She always made whole cloth or single fabric quilts.  The hand quilted design was the beauty of the quilt.  She taught me to make small, even stitches, how to stretch a quilt out on a frame and roll it as you quilt and how to bind them when you are finished.  I made a king size patchwork quilt for my parents for Christmas one year when I was in high school.  Here is a picture of a quilt grandma made for me when my first child was born.

Baby quilt for Brenda

Baby quilt for Brenda

My mom taught me to sew pieces of fabric together to create something wonderful and unique.  My grandma taught me to hand quilt beautiful art onto practical items.   I combined the two skills and developed my own style.  Today, I mostly use my faithful sewing machines to piece and construct and quilt my creations.  But I love to do hand work and sometimes hand quilt.

And my suddenly husband, remember him ?   Well, our first outing/day date together was to a sewing machine repair shop to get my sewing machine fixed, and then on to buy fabric.  He learned right then and there that sewing, of any kind, was my passion !

Chapter Three

I am mostly self-taught, when it comes to everything that relates to sewing.  I experienced a lot of “trial and error”.    I made some colossal mistakes and also developed some innovative methods and tricks .  I took Home Economics in high school,  a couple of different times.  By that time, I knew more about sewing than the teachers did.   However, I still look back at some of the things I have sewn and laugh.  We all have to start at the beginning.  And the first time we do something is always the prototype.  We all make mistakes and we all struggle with certain projects.  Eventually we get proficient at what we do and become good enough at it to teach others the skills we have learned.  Over the years I have taught many women and girls, and even some boys how to sew.  My children, 2 daughters and 1 son, were top of my list to teach.  Unfortunately, neither of my girls were the slightest bit interested in learning to sew when they were living at home.  {it’s a different story today}   My son, on the other hand, was quite interested and learned to sew.  After all, a sewing machine is a power tool !  Right ? 🙂  Recently I have been teaching my husband Christer to sew.  He is picking it up very nicely and is now working on his first quilt.

Out of my mother’s 5 daughters, I was the only one to really embrace, be passionate about and become an avid seamstress.   All of my sisters can sew and have sewing machines, but most of them don’t sew very often.  I am the oldest of the family.  The next one is line is my sister Amber.  We grew up always sharing a bedroom and many other things as well.  We have had our share of fights, secrets, and most of all laughs.  She is my sewing soul sister too.  She never did much sewing until she discovered piece work quilting.  Then she went quilt crazy.   She is the one who introduced me to the fine art of  piece work quilting.  Up to that point, I had always designed my quilts on the fly without a pattern.  Some just a couple of pieces of yardage sewn together, sandwiched with batting and backing, then tied or tacked.  Most of my piecing was quite big, 12 inch squares and triangles or sometimes even bigger.  Amber showed me what you could do with a pattern, smaller precision cut pieces to make  beautiful works of art.  She introduced me to patterns and magazines with fabulous designs.  I was In heaven !  Make no mistake, I’m precision to a fault, a perfectionist with my work.   I just didn’t know what I was doing when it came to piecing a quilt top together.  I was fumbling around trying to make the best of what little knowledge or exposure I had.  Remember, Grandma didn’t do piece work, she made whole cloth quilts.  It was Amber who built upon grandma’s foundation and expanded my quilting experience to the point of owning a quilt shop !!

Amber and I

Amber and I

The quilt Amber made for my 60th birthday

The quilt Amber made for my 60th birthday


Chapter Four

After Christer and I were married in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, November of 1972, the top of our priority list was to get Christer graduated from the University of B.C. so we could get our life set up.  But you know how it goes, the best laid plans and all.  We got married at the end of the fall semester, right before final exams.  Probably not the wisest of timing choices.  (I don’t think we thought about it to be honest).  Christer flunked 2 exams.  Guess he had other things on his mind. 😉  He has always been a brilliant student and it was a real blow to his ego, but we survived and carried on.  By the middle of spring semester,  I discovered that I was pregnant !!  WHAT !!!  That wasn’t suppose to happen, not yet !  Now what ?????  Life has a way of throwing you curve balls when you least need it.  I guess that’s what makes you strong.

Christer only had one more year to graduate with his Engineering degree.  But we decided to delay that final year of schooling, for a year to have this baby and catch up on the finances.  That required a move to get a job, the first of many moves to come.  Our daughter was born 3 days after our first anniversary.  And with her came a host of new adventures and struggles.  And new sewing projects !!!!

I had never sewn for a baby before and I got busy making little night gowns and bibs and diapers. (this was 1973, only cloth diapers were available)  I made receiving blankets and little wash clothes, cradle sheets and of course all my maternity clothes.  We didn’t know if we were having a girl or a boy, so everything had to be useable for both.  Until she was born, and then, I went crazy with the pink and frilly little girls clothes and accessories.  I got very imaginative with making things to fill any need that arose.  Baby seat covers, stroller covers and pads, shoulder burp cloths, etc.  I loved it !!  I have always loved making kids clothes, they are kind of like doll clothes, only just a little bigger 🙂  And, I decided, more fun !!

Well, that year off from school stretched into 2 years before we made it back to Vancouver to finish up Christer’s degree.  But we made it.   Along the way we found out that I was pregnant again !!!  Geeeezzzz !!  It seemed no birth control method was very effective for us.  Our son was born 3 months before Christer graduated.  As soon as his classes and exams were completed, we moved again to his first “career” job after graduation, and bought our first house.  Go big or go home, ya know !!

I was a stay home mom at this point, busy with 2 babies and sewing up a storm for our house, clothes for all of us, and even a suit or two for Christer to boot.  Blankets and quilts were always on the “To Do” list to accommodate our growing needs.  My sewing “space” (everywhere we lived I have carved myself out a sewing space) was always humming with some project or other.

Remember the sewing machine I took for repair when Christer and I first met?   Well, I had been sewing on that used machine for years.  I took it every where I went and sewed non-stop.  It had thousands of miles on it and it was wearing out.  I needed a new machine.  But, we were up to our eye balls in debt, from the schooling costs, having two babies,  moving 5 times and buying a house.   Didn’t know how, but I had to have a new machine.   Sewing has always been my therapy, without it I would go crazier than I already am.  So we found a way and I got my very first new sewing machine !!  It was a top of the line Kenmore in 1976.  WOW !!  It did everything.  It did monogramming.  It did automatic button holes.  It did a huge list of decorative stitches.   It had a free arm, the latest innovation in sewing machines.  It was a work horse, capable of sewing denim and leather.  I felt like I was a queen with that machine.  I could do anything !!!!

My Story – Chapter 5

Writing this Blog is a full time job !!!  I had no idea when I decided to do this that it would be so time consuming.  So please bear with me if I miss a day here and there.  Right now I feel like I am juggling  5 full time jobs all at once.  I’m sure there are many of you out there that can relate.  But I digress…………………………Where was I ????   Oh yea, my first new sewing machine………….

We lived in our very first house for only 17 months.  Working for an oil company and living out in the oil field, presented many challenges for a family.   But we were young and up to those challenges.  Our house had a full unfinished basement, 2 bedrooms on the main floor and only one bathroom.  So, true to form for us, we set out to finish the basement with 2 more bedrooms, a family room, a storage room and a laundry room.  It was difficult with 2 little kids and Christer was gone a lot out to individuals wells.  I think we were crazy !!!!  When I look back at the amount of work we did on that little house, it boggles my mind.  We learned a lot about remodeling and home construction.  Wow did I have a lot of energy back them.  But I guess that is the natural progression of life.

We were 12 miles outside of a little town in northern Alberta, Canada.  We had a little over 1/2 an acre.  Lots of grass for the kids to play on and we made a nice big garden plot at the back.  I set up my sewing area on a table in our bedroom.  The plan was to use one of the new bedrooms in the basement for my sewing room when we got it finished.  I was having a blast with my new sewing machine.   I  did alterations and custom sewing for women in the area.   I was monogramming everything I could think of for the kids and my family.  I was making all our clothes, of course, and everything that we needed for our new house.  I tried different techniques and stitches.  I felt so capable, thanks to my new sewing machine.

But our time there was short and we were transferred to Calgary.  We sold our little first house and bought a bigger house with a full basement that was partially finished.  It was a smaller yard and in the suburbs.  Not my favorite place to live but we had to be within a reasonable distance from the office.  Again we set out to “improve” our house.  Completely redoing the kitchen, the stairway, the basement, the front entrance and added on 6 feet to one entire end of the house, expanding the kitchen and living room.  We planted raspberries and a big garden and built a patio.

I set up my sewing room in the basement and really got busy with sewing.  I wanted to contribute to the family income, but I had 2 little kids at home I had to take care of.  So I contracted with a Bed and Bedding store to make custom order quilts.  Back in those days, the big four poster water beds were all the rage and everybody wanted a “country” quilt to go on it.  I sewed like crazy !!  I continued to make all of the family clothes and any home decor we needed as we remodeled and finished each room.  As if that wasn’t enough, I started making custom wedding dresses and went to work at a fabric store in town, a couple of evenings a week.  I really enjoyed that.  It was a nice change for me.  Getting out of the house and working with all that fabric !!!!!  I kept very, very busy, but it was how I survived.  Sewing is my passion and therapy.

Our stay in Calgary was only a few short years.  The future of the company Christer was working for was not good and he was restless working in an office every day.  Our oldest was now in school and I wasn’t really happy with the school in our area.  I wanted to go back home to the US to live.  I was quite done with living out of the country.  So we made plans, found a new company to work for and prepared to sell our house in Calgary and move.  We were headed to Denver, Colorado.



2 comments to My Story

  • Brenda  says:

    It is quite enjoyable to read your story Mom!! I keep coming back to see if you have added another chapter. I am so proud of you and lucky to be your daughter. =)

  • Carroll B. Merriman  says:

    I simply want to tell you that I am new to blogging and truly savored you’re blog. Probably I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You actually come with fantastic articles. Cheers for sharing your website.

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