A Maker to Remember

A family photo. My dad, Edwin, mom, Beatrice, me and my brother Neil.
I’ve recently learned about a new phenomenon referred to as the “Maker Movement”.  (To trend followers this is probably old news.) In a nut shell “Makers” are people who “make things”.  They are those who tinker in their garages, make their own beer, knit, sew, engage in household DIY projects, bake, or preserve jams or jellies for themselves and others. Some Makers have created successful businesses as a result of their tinkering efforts (i.e. Apple Computers) or supplement their incomes by selling what they make on their Etsy site. Apparently the demand for, and interest in, handmade goods  is on the rise and because of the internet those who are interested in making or obtaining these items can easily connect to share ideas or sell their goods. According to recent articles, craft nights are replacing book clubs, sales of sewing kits at Walmart are up by 30% and thousands of people attend Maker Faire events that take place worldwide.  This Maker subculture is being touted as the next big trend that will affect the economy and the retail industry in a big way. I hope I will be around to see the Maker “takeover”!

“Making” is not new of course. The pioneers made almost everything because they had to. Our parents and grandparents made things out of necessity or because handmade items had a quality or uniqueness that you could not buy. As a product of the “counter culture” era I remember  making macramé everything, sewing covers for the foam bed in the camper van that my husband customized, and  refinishing  cast-off chairs and old trunks to furnish our first home. For me “making” was a practice that affected my economy.

I had an early introduction to “making”. When I was only five years old my mother introduced me to the art of embroidery in order to produce a tea towel as a shower gift for my brother’s wedding. My brother was fifteen years older than me and I guess she thought it would be cute for me to participate as much as possible in all the festivities. I remember her drawing the outline of a teacup with a pencil on a plain white linen tea towel and showing me how to do a simple embroidery stitch along the lines. My five year old eyes thought it was beautiful and I was very proud of my gift for the bride. While I have continued to make things and taken on many DIY projects throughout my adult life, my accomplishments as a “maker” pale in comparison to my mother’s.

In the late fifties, just as I was starting grade one (I know I’ve just confessed my age) we moved into a house that had not been updated in decades. Ancient wall paper from the thirties still remained and the whole place was dingy and depressing. My mom set to work steaming off the wall paper and having the whole thing repainted in the latest colours of the 50’s (I guess we did have painters do that). Part of this home “reno” project included a pretty little girl’s bedroom worthy of coverage in Ladies Home Journal. The turquoise bedspread that my mother made had piping and scalloped edges that hung over a coordinating printed dust ruffle. She installed a headboard by covering a sheet of plywood with matching fabric. My dresser was painted turquoise as well and my mom created a skirted dressing table with a glass top accessorised with a brush and comb set and jewelry box. It truly looked like the work of a professional decorator! Except for the fact that I wasn’t allowed to play in it, I thought it was great.

Knit, crochet, sew, reupholster, you name it, my mom did it. She even made gloves out of deer skin! (No she didn’t actually go out and kill the deer.)  Where we lived in Northern Ontario, deer skins were readily available. I remember my mom and a group of ladies would get together and use a pattern to cut out and sew gloves in a variety of sizes for both men and women. They were lovely and soft and great to wear during the bitter northern winters.

When mom wasn’t “making” she was cooking, and her dishes were not the traditional kind. We lived in Timmins, a mining town that attracted immigrants from places like Italy, Poland, Finland. With them of course came their cooking traditions and my mom was eager to perfect their recipes. While all the other “wasps” were eating meat and potatoes, our family was having things like gnocchi , cabbage rolls or chop suey.  French  tourtiere  was a staple for Christmas Eve and there was not a French bone in any of our family’s bodies. Everyone has ethnic food like Greek, Italian or Thai in their refrigerators today, but in the 50’s .... that was something!

My mother was into multiculturalism before it became a social term. She was also a “Martha Stewart” but didn’t create a multimillion dollar business. She could entertain the ladies auxiliary, serve cocktails and appetizers to neighbors and associates or enjoy a beer in the local tavern with family and friends. She was not ordinary. Ordinary women in those days cooked, sewed, kept a nice home for their families in a very traditional way (and drinking a beer would be out of the question ..... perhaps a cocktail but never beer). My mom did all the things ordinary women did but with a passion for the extraordinary, an appreciation for tradition with the desire to seek out new flavors, styles and techniques. She is truly a “maker” to remember!

My mom and me in our home in Timmins. The crooked edges of the photo are a result of me (in my early "makerness") trying out my skill with scissors a few years later.


  1. Lynn - I love this post! What wonderful memories of your mum. It sounds like she was truly and extraordinary 'maker'!


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