BEHIND THE BRAND
My favourite colour is yellow
.... just by the way
... in case you were wondering.
The Handmade Closet really began back in the mid 1970’s when Mum bravely allowed me to use her sewing machine. I’d been asking her for ages, so perhaps she just gave in to keep me quiet. I’d also been hand sewing together scraps of fabric to make dolls clothing. Mum was a sewer, both my Grandmothers sewed along with Aunts on both sides of my family. I recall several other strong influences within our family and friends circles too. If I wanted to find an actual date for the beginning, it would be impossible. I grew up thinking to make your own clothing was what everyone did. Mum made all our clothes as children. I still keep her pattern books by my side, when i’m pondering construction of a design now, that’s what I reach for. Preferring the skills and traditional craft of a dressmaker.
I can easily recall the sewing spaces set aside in our family homes. It seems all the adult women I was surrounded with, as a child, had a dedicated sewing room in their homes. I was fascinated with them, the colourful stacks of neatly folded fabric, the myriad collections of spools of thread, the lidded sewing boxes of random notions, sweet little home made pin cushions and needle books and the current work-in-progress creation strewn haphazardly on a table.
I shared Mum’s sewing machine, until I bought my own in 1983. In comparison to today’s values, I paid an absolute fortune for that Janome. Based on my average weekly pay packet I spent 10 weeks of my full pay to buy that machine. She gave me 37 years of faithful service before suddenly stopping and stitching no more. I cried. I remembered the many hours of creating together, everything from everyday clothing, special occasion outfits and wedding dresses we made, the children’s clothing and fancy dress costumes, the craft projects for gifts and school/community fundraisers and then the very first The Handmade Closet garments. I’m glad she was with me for the beginning of this adventure.
In 2016, that machine after a few years in a dark corner resting, helped me to begin and complete a year long challenge. To make myself, anything I needed, using what I had available to me. In a way, it was also a kind of minimisation process to make useful what was stored for a rainy day. The irony is it wasn’t a rainy day when I began. It was a stinking hot 40 degree humid summers day in early January, I was home alone and I needed a new handbag! I didn’t even used the sewing machine. I had discovered leather work as a teenager, attending classes with my Dad, who was also a creative inspiration to me. I had the tools… I also had leather… all I need was a pattern and I knew how to draft those. That hot summers day I hand stitched using harness needles and waxed linen thread and made a handbag. It’s the same design I teach others how to make now. It took me most of the day, and it reminded me that I had missed creating with my hands. That year was a cross road in my life, I was transitioning, I just didn’t know it.
Inspired by a good friend’s linen tunic creation, I drafted the pattern for linen pants for work. You’ll find the grown up version of them in the collection today as The Lazy Day Pants… which also became the basis for the Everyday Linen Pants.
That year, without knowing it I began The Handmade Closet in earnest, using brown paper to create my patterns, tweaking the toiles, and making improvements with each use. I made the first Gypsy top that year using a length from of a 20metre roll of white linen sheer I’d bought to help decorate the beachside setting for a friends wedding. That fabric made a number of tops and night dresses actually now I think about it. I still use that same white linen sheer fabric in the range today. It’s tried and tested, so why not!
A unexpected chance conversation over the counter while seeking ceramic buttons at Paper Boat Press in Brisbane sparked a realisation. An unfolding of the idea that I was a maker. The Handmade Closet instagram account was already underway. It was that conversation that opened my mind to an understanding of myself as a Maker. After all, I’d pretty much always had some making project on the go all through my life. It was time to acknowledge this.
The Clara Wrap Dress is responsible for the shop in Dayboro. Again sparked by a serendipitous conversation. I reflect back on these moments often. Seemingly everyday comments by ‘strangers’ which stayed. Both the comments and the strangers , who are now friends.
So began the next chapter of The Handmade Closet in earnest during May of 2019. While the public face is a new one, I bring to it many many years of quiet and contemplative skill development. A honing of all the things I needed to be where it is today.
Linen Clothing made for you to be loved and lived in.
Now I spend my days sewing my designs for you, using 100% linen fabrics personally selected for colour compatibility, quality and ethical and sustainable production standards. Pure Linen is my fabric of choice and you can learn more about why on my journal pages and in conversations on The Handmade Closet Instagram.
I've always loved old things. Perhaps it is because I imagine the story they wish they could tell or the romantic notion of the past they travelled through. Mostly I appreciate the way things were made to last in the good old days! I like to think of what we do as the past being revisited and reinvented for a sustainable clothing future.
I choose to sew for you on rescued and resuscitated vintage Bernina semi-industrial machines who I've given nicknames too (Bernie/Nina/Bernhard). They are all likely to outlive me!
My personal sewing machine is a vintage Singer 201K manufactured in the 1950's and sews like the day she was made.
It will therefore come as no surprise that all The Handmade Closet clothing is constructed using traditional techniques, slowly and carefully made with a strong focus on quality rarely seen anymore in commercial garment production. I stand firmly on the side of slow fashion, of having less and capsule wardrobe dressing, supporting quality and locally made, mending to extend the life of items that are serving me well.
What else would you like to know... take a look around .... send me a message... pop on by the instagram and connect with my conversations there. I hope you'll stick around.