And so Boxpleat Fashions' very first designs were created. The materials of choice? Paper towels and scotch tape. There were probably a few forays into fabric (usually from the very center of a piece from mom's fabric stash,) but my earliest memories of fabric, fabric of my very own, came from the box.
I don't remember how old I was, ten or eleven I suppose, when I got the box. It was an old trumpet case, the inside covered with velvet, the outside with locks. Inside, it was filled with the most wonderful treasure - fabric. Mom had acquired some fabric sample cards with what seemed like hundreds of different pieces of fabric, all in 3x3 squares. The pieces were too small for anyone else to use but they were perfect for me. The dolls I was playing with then were "Glamour Gals," and were only about 4 inches tall themselves. There were also pictures, a pattern book perhaps. I don't know what happened to the box, but I do know what happened to all those little pieces of fabric.
Summers at Grandma J's took on a new meaning as I moved into the world of sewing. I became fast friends with a temperamental treadle machine in the hallway of the old house. It took some ingenuity and a great deal of persistence to sew on an old machine like that. I remember that there was a vent in the floor right below where it sat, and I am sure many a pin or bobbin had to be rescued from its depths. And so I sat sewing, my small feet growing larger as I pushed the treadle, trying to make the vision match the creation. I am sure they weren't much to look at (and none of them have survived) but it was certainly a labor of love.
Mom had an old Singer that was a little more intimidating than the treadle. When it was uncooperative, the results were spectacular. I remember the bobbin case coming out in my hand, a wad of tangled thread with little bits of my fabric from above, pulled on through and out the bottom. It didn't much like tiny doll clothes. I never used the hardened plastic cams that provided the fancy stitches. They seemed arcane, and certainly more than I was willing to risk. That machine still sits in my mother's basement, tucked in it's flip open cabinet... with the new machine resting on top of it.
One summer, a Saturday perhaps, I was out with a friend hunting for treasures at garage sales. By then most of the sewing was for myself and the few doll dresses that got made were for the benefit of little sisters, of which there are three. I don't know what we were looking for, just a bargain I suppose, as we roamed the neighborhood. We followed the signs to a sale but were a bit hesitant because unlike most, this sale was inside. There were no "gangas" arrayed on the driveway or in the carport, the sign said simply "Come in." Inside were the treasures of a lifetime, the collected years of an elderly lady. As we poked around, I came upon a small leather case, much the worse for wear. When I opened it, though, I knew I had found something that must be mine. There, crammed unceremoniously inside, were patterns and patterns and patterns. I remember feeling anxious when I asked how much. I wanted them so desparately but I didn't know how much it was really worth to the unemployed teenager that I was. "Oh, five dollars." I even had to ask if she meant all of them. She said sure and said I could take the case too. Five dollars!
The patterns are still in my collection. I don't know how many there actually were; perhaps fifty altogether. They ranged in size and style, from the late 30's to the earliest 60's. Every once in a while, I still just get them out, thinking I will sew something but spend my free afternoon just gazing at the stylized fashion drawings, poring over the placement of darts, the fine detail that makes Fashion.
More recently my fabric hoarding took an interesting turn. I was working at a fabric store that was going out of business. Over the months that I worked there, I was very proud of myself; my little house was not over-flowing, crammed full of pieces of fabric purchased for it's potential rather than out of any actual need. With the close of the store, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with myself, my time, my energy. More as a joke really, we started talking about a "business" venture, doll dresses, my old friend Barbie. It turns out there is quite a world of collectors. I started buying. The ladies at the store laughed and laughed as I gathered all the tiny pieces of fabric, a bit of silk, a little wool, some fancies, some plain suitings. The goal was to fill up the little room I had at the time, fill it to the ceiling. (It was almost full when the baby was born.)
After a few months of Barbie work, several customers (and observers) suggested that I start designing for Gene. Hesitant to spend the cash necessary to get into that market I waited. Was it really worth building a pattern collection, buying model dolls? Of course, she embodied the perfect era for me, with options for costumes and historical designs.
Since its inception Boxpleat Fashions has been a business, a hobby and a dream. When the baby was born in early 2003 the little office and the little time got filled up with other things. Now that she is getting bigger and we have changed houses, it seems that there will again be time for new designs and tiny hems. We hope we can make something special for you.