I Heart Handmade {Valentine’s Day 2012}

Abby in 2011 wearing a dress made by Caila’s grandmother in 1982.

Last year around Valentine’s Day I posted about a red dress my grandmother made me 30 years ago, and how my daughter wore it to a Valentines party. The dress was–and is–in remarkably good condition even after so many years.

For someone who loves to sew children’s clothing, this is good news. 🙂

I love the thought that someday my granddaughter could wear some of the dresses I’ve made. I smile when I think of Abby opening up the boxes years and years from now, picking up and fingering such textile reminders of her childhood. There are always so many stories connected with special childhood outfits.

These thoughts are always on my mind, and about a year ago I had the chance to write them down when I submitted an application to participate in a historical arts and crafts fair. I was asked to present my answer to the following question: “How does your work relate to traditional arts & crafts that were done in the 19th and 20th centuries?” 

Here is my reply.
Caila with father, Craig, in 1982

When I was a little girl, my grandma made me dresses.  We lived far away, sometimes across oceans and only saw my grandparents, at most, once a year.  Those summer days in their garden were enchanting, but my memories are punctuated by clothes.

Beautiful dresses came from far away in the mail.  Blue, yellow, pink, red.  Frills, ribbon, lace, voile, cotton. Sometimes even velvet.  For my brother she sent shirts and pants, blankets and other gifts.  But for me, she made dresses.

These dresses still hang in my closet.  When my mother found them in a box awhile back I gasped as I pulled back the warped cardboard.  There was my childhood, in a brown box.  The blue dress from those family pictures in the park, the twirl dress I tossed up over my head even though my underpants showed.  A white and pink frock I recognized from baby pictures.  The dresses were all there, and you know what they said to me?

 They said “I love you, Caila.”

Love is a baby dress made by your grandma who lives far away.  Love is a pillow with your name embroidered on it, sitting on your daybed until you go away for college.  Love is a quilt you snuggle under every night, or a stuffed animal, or your prom dress senior year.  Handmade by mom, grandma, auntie or friend.  Handmade is love.

That’s why I make and sell handmade babies’ and children’s items.  I make them because I’m a mom and I want my children to have the best from my very own hands.  I want others to be able to give a gift they know is made with great care, top-quality materials and hours of that most precious commodity: time.

Our heritage is filled with handmade goods. Hand-pieced heirloom quilts, hand-embroidered baby dresses, handcrafted cribs and rockers and pillows.  In the past, a mother welcomed her baby with a hand-made layette.  In essence, placing her newborn baby in his crib was like placing him in her very own hands.

While I design, cut and sew I think about my children and the other children I know and love.  I carry on my grandma’s tradition, spreading out my love through the items I create.  The other day while I was quilting, my son came to me and said, “Are you making me a blanket mommy?  Because you love me?”  Oh my son, I am making you a blanket.  And yes, I love you very much. 

Truthfully, I don’t make and sell handmade items anymore like I did when I wrote this. But I still sew for my children and for friends and family. And the heart of my work is still the same. I love to do this and I love those for whom this is done.

It’s a reaching out. 

And that’s why I heart handmade.

Right and Left: Abby in 2011
Center: Caila in 1982

And since Valentines Day is coming up and I HEART HANDMADE, I’m ordering this print for abby’s Valentine dress. Stay posted for pics!

How about you? Are you working on anything for Valentine’s Day? I’d also love to hear about how handmade items from your past have impacted you. If you have a story, please don’t be shy to share it in the comments section below! As always, thanks for reading, friends. 


  1. says

    I am so thankful for that warped cardboard box! Those dresses are completely sweet and extremely well made, and every stitch was indeed placed there with love from your grandmother. It certainly does NOT seem like 29 years ago, when you first put on that darling red dress.