Monday, 1 October 2012

Giving thanks

The noise of scissors against the table as they cut through fabric, the noise of the sewing machine, the collecting of nice fabrics – all these things remind me of my mum.  Today is the fourth anniversary of her death so instead of my usual ‘This week I’m...’ I thought I’d make my Monday post a tribute to my mum.
You see Christine Mackenzie, my mum, was an artist who worked primarily in textiles.  Me and my brother were always so proud of her work and would go along to any exhibitions she had, I even used to go and sit in when she was teaching weekend sewing workshops.  She always encouraged me to be creative, and my first attempts at sewing were with my mum.  Well, I say ‘with my mum’ in the loosest sense as somehow they always ended up with her doing the sewing for me.  When I was a moody 17 year old into grunge she made me a plaid mini-skirt and some floral dresses without complaining (and without a pattern) even though I’d probably promised her, that ‘yes mum, this time I’ll do the sewing myself’!  

Fife fishing village ©Christine Mackenzie
She never thought it was weird when I was wee and would rather stay home and draw than go out and play and the walls of our house usually displayed at least one drawing by both me and my brother.  Her work room, where she created most of her art, was filled with all the art tools any child could dream of.  Any kind of paint we wanted, any colour of card, pens - we were sure to find it in that room. She had a huge double wardrobe filled with fabric that she used in her art works.  The fabric was all colour coded and was so much fun to look through as it ranged from huge pieces (such as the pink I used to make my first Sorbetto) to tiny wee scraps of fabric with a particularly unusual texture or colour.  There were drawers filled with embroidery threads, walls covered in sketches, poems, photographs and images from books and magazines.  I could always ask her advice on creations I was making, whether it was to do with the colour or perspective in a drawing,  how to do different knots on friendship bracelets, or what type of glue to use to stick paper to wood - if she didn’t have an answer then she’d tell me not to worry and just experiment, just go for it and see what the results were. 

Maighdeann-mhara, Coire Bhreacain (Mermaid, Corrie Vreckan) ©Christine Mackenzie
This time round I don’t have her on hand for advice but I still have the comfort of using her sewing machine, a pin cushion she made, even her pins.  It makes me very happy to think that I’m finally learning how to use it properly, although not in the same clever ways she did!  I think I also need to take a bit more of her spirit to heart - to stop being so afraid of messing it up, or not making it perfect, and just go for it and be happy with what I create. 

small embroidery, created to teach textile students ©Christine Mackenzie
So tonight, I’m going to do a wee bit of sewing and be thankful. Thankful for having had such a wonderful mum, for having known such a great artist, and thankful for all I’ve learnt from her.  As time passes I’m learning to concentrate more on what I have – in the sense of the family and friends I have around me – and also in the sense of who I am, as of course my mum was central to creating the me I am today.  It’s funny that Karen just wrote a post on her mum entitled 'Who Should You Thank?' asking readers who they were thankful for - synchronicity in the sewing blog world! So I pass the question on - who are you thankful for/to? Who taught you,or inspired you to start sewing, or knitting, or anything other creative endeavour you enjoy?


  1. I'm sorry I never met your mum. I know I would have enjoyed her company and also learned a lot from her too. Her work room sounds amazing - just the sort of place I could happy spend hours in. There's nothing like piles of colour coded fabric.

    I love the little embroidery of a farm in the snow.

    I am thankful for my mum too. Without her I wouldn't be running the business we've built up together over the last 5 years. It is a tribute to her calm and gentle nature that we've never had a cross word between us at work!

    1. I'm sure you and my mum would have got on really well too! I think it's amazing that you and your mum work together and have never had a cross word (well about work anyway!) It's so nice that you both get to share your love for art through working together and I'm sure that the family element is what draws a lot of people to your gallery - as well as the art of course.

      The farm embroidery is an earlier one, probably late 70s/early 80s. I don't have any of those early embroidery's left as she sold them all or gave them away - but I get to see some of them when I visit family or some of her friends and that's even better!

  2. wow, your Mum was and amazing lady, such creativity and inspiration. I admit most of my inspiration comes from driven women who acept who they are but strive their best, so Mum and many friends and yes the blog world too. x x x

    1. Thank you. It's interesting as when I was younger I guess I wouldn't have thought of her as driven but of course as I got older I realised she was - any women trying to sew/create with young children around all day would need to be. With four young boys of your own I can imagine you're the same way!

  3. Your Mum's work is incredible, what a talented woman. I wish that I could say I was inspired by someone like this, but the truth is that I didn't really grow up surrounded by anyone who was particularly passionate about any textile arts or crafts. My mum can sew and knit, but it's not something she did a lot of as we were growing up. I decided in my late teens that I wanted to sew to be able to make my own clothes, but it took me another 10 years to actually get around to learning to knit and sew. I started with knitting and the internet was my teacher. In a nice reversal of the norm, my mum has seen how much I love knitting and I seem to have inspired her to take it up again. I've introduced her to ravelry and online yarn shopping, leant her my addi clicks and for the first time ever, she seems to actually be really enjoying it, which I love to see.

    1. That's great that you've inspired your mum to go back to knitting, and that she's getting more enjoyment out of it! I don't knit at all but I just told my mother-in-law (who does knit) about Ravelry and she was really keen to explore it.
      It seems a lot of us learning to sew/knit have had the desire to do so for a long time - it's so satisfying to turn that into reality isn't it?!

  4. thanks Kathryn, I really enjoyed reading this, and seeing those familiar embroidery prices again.
    I miss mum constaptly, but like you, I also realise how much of her still exists in me.

    Love you loads,


    1. Thanks Duncan, I didn't realise you were reading my blog!
      I love that we still have her art work around us. One day we should get a website up of mum's work, or collect it in a book.
      Love you too, Kathryn xx