When I was a little girl, I would watch my mother and grandmother’s work with their hands. On Sunday’s they would make “a pot of gravy,” our name for marinara sauce. Meatballs and pasta would accompany the sauce. Sometimes I helped make the meatballs, my hands squishing all the ingredients together . I can still smell the gravy cooking on the stove and hear the soft bubbling sound as the sauce simmered.
My mother’s mother would get together with her sisters once a year and make pizza dough in the basement of my great grandparent’s home in preparation for our summer family picnic. The dough would be kneaded, set out on a big table and allowed to rise. Four generations of family would come to eat, laugh and tell stories. The pizzas could not come out of the oven fast enough and by the end of the day; we had consumed close to 50 pizzas, some eggplant parmesan and Italian pastries for dessert.
After dinner the women would sit around in a circle and knit. They would talk about their children and recipes and their plans for the summer. I loved listening to their stories and watching them create blankets, booties and sweaters.
When I was 10 year old, my mother and grandmother took me to our local yarn shop to pick out my first knitting project. Little did I know that I would be turning this skill into a lifelong passion for working with fiber. When I walked into that little yarn shop stacked with wool, I took in the bright and warm colors and was filled with a sense of beauty and possibility.
I was 16 when I made my first garment; a knitted dress made with chunky pink merino wool on size 32 needles. It was the 1960’s; a time of changing and diverse trends in clothing. This influence of breaking fashion tradition is visible today in the playful way I combine wool, silk and other fibers to create nuno felted fabric. Nuno is a Japanese term meaning cloth. I use silk as my base cloth and add merino wool, silk roving and strips of fabric that I then use to make clothing and accessories. Recently, I have been experimenting with other “shrinking” techniques to create fabric to incorporate with my nuno felt. I enjoy up cycling garments; taking them apart and incorporating them with my felt fabric to create new fashion.
When I am creating, I feel connected to my mother and grandmother. It takes me back to them and it lets me feel like I’m a part of a circle of women, working with their hands; connected and loved.