Thursday, October 22, 2009
It is always an honor when someone writes an essay about you. This is an essay written by a very dear sister/friend that I met on this journey called Life. Sometimes you think that you have learned so much from a person, then you find out that they also learned something from you. I hope that you enjoy this as much as I have.
A Stitch At a Time
By Gaylynne Shade-Rudison
The first time I met Doreen Bryant, who we all called Stormee was at church in Fort Dodge, Iowa. My first impression of her was that she looked quite exquisite. She stood out from the crowd. Her salt and pepper hair in dreadlocks, twisted up and wrapped in a scarf. One of her many dreadlocks hung down the front, framing her cheekbone. She wore a long, layered, draping, pastel pink, yellow, blue, green, and white dress with wide flowing sleeves almost appearing angelic. She was one of the first members to come over to me, introducing herself and welcoming me to the church. I complimented her on her beautiful dress and she then told me she made it herself. I remember even then thinking of how creative she must be. She was certainly talented. During the course of our conversation, I found out that she was my neighbor as well. She was very warming and she even invited me to come visit her sometime. I had just made my first friend in Fort Dodge.
I remember the first time I went to her house, coming into what should have been the living room, I noticed a long rack of clothes hanging. There was a form that looked like a headless mannequin, colorful, neatly crafted cloth boxes, and purses with patchwork designs. There was a lounger that sat in front of the bay window with two oversized pillows that leaned against it and the curtains that were hanging from the window matched the pillows. As I went into what would have been the dining room, I saw a sewing machine, a surging machine, a cutting board, ironing board and iron, and piles and piles of fabric. It was clear she had a passion for sewing. I later found out she also loved to teach the art!
As a child, I made a pillow or two but really took no interest in sewing. The patterns seemed like a foreign language to me, a bunch of mumbo jumbo. I had no patience when it came to pinning, tracing, and cutting out patterns. Then there is the unexpected poke you get from the needle in which you are controlling and still forget your finger is in the way. Ouch.
Every time I saw Stormee, she would say something like, “I’m working on a new project, you have to stop by and see it.” “Maybe we can get together and do something.” “I find such peace in sewing.” “You ought to try it sometimes.” My response would be, “Yeah, we’ll have to do that some day.” While thinking to myself, “blah, blah, blah, How in the world could sewing be relaxing when all I have ever experienced was agony and defeat?!” I felt like maybe I didn’t want to ask her how things were going anymore because it was always sewing, sewing, and more sewing.
At Walmart, church, or on the front porch, it didn’t make any difference where I saw Stormee, she talked about sewing until I finally gave in and agreed to come over to her house and at least try to follow her directions.
The next time I came to visit, her husband opened the door and welcomed me in. As I came in I saw her sitting on the other side of the room, in her hand-crafted, black with Kenta’ print sundress with the matching head wrap on. Her dreadlocks hung out from the top of the wrap. Her eyes were focused on the pieces of violet and red cotton fabric squares she held in her hands against the base of her sewing machine.
I could hear the steady beat of the needle going up and down. The ceiling fan spinning above her and the chain that hung from the fan clattered against the glass bulb. A halogen lamp sat in the corner near her workstation illuminating the room. Behind her was a white rectangular table and on the table was a pair of scissors, a pin cushion shaped like a tomato with pins sticking out, spools of multicolored thread, and rainbow colored fabric squares. The squares were stacked orderly as if in line to be stitched together with the pieces she held in her hands. I later found out they were set up just for that purpose. She was making a quilt for her granddaughter. Although, it’s not something I can do, I thought it was a great gift to give someone. I wouldn’t mind having one myself.
As I had promised Stormee, the time came when I began to sew with her. A group of teen girls from the church were designing their own squares and then stitching them together to make a quilt that would be displayed at the art center.
Prior to this day, Stormee cut out these 9x9 muslin fabric squares. She also had a bag of scrap fabric of many colors and patterns from other projects she had done. These pieces were used to sew together on the squares to appear as if they were puzzle pieces connected all together. After showing me quickly how she wanted it done, Stormee gave me a handful of the squares, small pieces of colorful fabric, and told me to take it home and work on it over the next week.
I agreed, took it home, and over the next week I experienced the peace she talked about in sewing. I was able to allow my mind to focus totally on the project at hand and not everything else that was either on my mind or going on around me. Following her directions, I watched the plane muslin squares turn into art. This was wonderful. I felt like a creator. I did just a small piece of the quilt but when it was put together, it was beautiful. My eyes were opened to the art of sewing. This small project helped me to see the calming side of sewing.
I was anxious to get started on the next project. I would go to Stormee’s house and just watch her in creating her masterpieces. There were times when she would ask me to do little things on her projects such as, Iron a piece here and there while explaining to me the importance of the fabric needing to be straight and how the pieces fit together easier. Just what I dreaded the most, she would ask me to cut out patterns, pin the patterns to fabric, and cut the fabric after pinning the pattern on and amazingly, it wasn’t so bad. She had shortcuts and it didn’t seem so frustrating.
I thought to myself, “time to venture out a little.” I began to try simple patterns, like children’s shorts with no pockets and simple tanks for children. They came out pretty good and my children loved them all! I remember going to church and hearing some of the ladies and children complimenting my girls on how beautiful their dresses were and they would smile and say, “Thank you, my mommy made them for us.”
Seeing this and hearing the children’s kind words encouraged me to step out of my shell and try more things. I made dresses for my daughters to wear to a wedding and even for a couple of girls at the church.
Everyone would rant and rave about my work. This made me want to do more! It became fun to me and I loved getting the compliments with each new project.
Stormee was really proud of me! She would wear the dress I made her and tell everyone who inquired about her attire, “I didn’t make this dress, it was my Protégé who made it for me. Isn’t it beautiful?”
I now love sewing!
It’s something to see this flat piece of fabric come to life. With a little cutting, pinning, sewing, and love, it becomes a piece of art to be enjoyed by you and others.