I used to visit the garment factory where my grandmother worked - walls of buttons, swathes of chemise, every color imaginable of cotton, poly, and tweed. I was just a kid then but can still recall the artful nature of the women at sew. The humming sound of a well-oiled Singer, heavy scissors through a textile, the sterile smell of starch and steam.
With four little mouths to feed and the economic strains of the sixties, my then 33-year-old grandmother Jeannine, was ordered by her WWII veteran husband in a surly southern voice, “Mama, yer goin’ to werk. You have to help us make a livin’.”
Jeannine pictured here. She's always had an incredible sense of style.
Jeannine served as a seamstress and later plant manager at the Bowie, Texas-based garment factory for over 34 years. While under the label Howard B. Wolf, she oversaw a collection designed of fine Italian fabrics for Neiman Marcus – presumably for the retailer’s first Italian Fortnight. Jeannine saw skirt hems shorten as many times as the factory changed hands, and went on to produce some of American Airlines’ most iconic uniforms.
I recently stumbled across a couple of vintage Wolf dress forms in a storefront in Dallas’ Highland Park Village. The batting-wrapped metal cage topped with a gold spindle, and a neckline stamped “WOLF MODEL FORM C.O. N.Y.” - transported me to my childhood in an instant.
The same dress form stands in my grandmother's private tailoring shop today where she tackles the occasional small order from locals in the know. She's 87, sews a mean hem, can make any garment you desire from scratch – no pattern necessary - and is a stickler when it comes to a needle and thread. Jeannine's tiny shop is a place I've been known to frequent. I lose myself in the draping of fabric, and pretend I'm on Project Runway fashioning an outfit made of remnants and tiny rainbow-colored pins like my work-in-progress below.
What I love most is how a textile can transform a person, change the scale of a wall, alter the feeling of a room. A silk scarf, furry throw, or patterned rug can completely make or break my day. I'm only kidding. Sort of. But such things do affect one’s mood. By the same token, is it one’s mood that is then poured into the making of a textile?
I did some investigating several years ago as a young writer building my portfolio. This is where I happened upon the delightful Samantha Baker, director of prints at Duralee Fabrics, which has since merged with Robert Allen, to form the Robert Allen Duralee Group.
The New Yorker told me how she could find inspiration "on a run to the deli and by the shapes made up in a sidewalk pattern." Or when she traveled, "even the way the light casts in other parts of the world provides inspiration," she shared. Her little discoveries are the very foundation of her team’s spectacular prints, some of which you may have on your sofa or armchair right now.
Like any good journalist, Sam and I became friendly on Facebook. One morning, as I was scrolling through the mind-numbing yet completely addictive food narratives, puppy videos, and political rants, a strange image popped up in my feed. An industrial ceiling, much like one you might find in a factory, then a greenhouse, a restaurant, maybe a church, no, a capitol building. Sam’s Instagram series followed her wherever she went. And wherever she went, I followed via Facebook and Instagram. From intricate to old world, industrial to modern, sleek to eclectic, I craved Sam's latest ceiling shot I couldn't take my eyes off of.
#samsceilingoftheday #nyc #60centrestreet #court #longlines #juryduty #ilovejuryduty
Samantha's inspiration from the ordinary to extraordinary has stuck with me over the years, and I catch myself finding magic in the subtleties of pattern and light. I look at a set of drapes in a luxury home I’m touring, or see a unique pattern on a dress in Vogue and wonder. In the meantime, I'll be stalking #samsceilingoftheday at sammyslick on Instagram, and keeping a close eye on Duralee.
Amy Puchaty is a luxury real estate writer and communications specialist whose marketing campaigns and copywriting work has appeared in numerous print and digital publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, Denver Post, and Dallas Business Journal. Why Amy Puchaty? Because it’s selling season. Follow Amy at www.amypuchaty.com #AtHomeWithAmy #AmyPuchaty #LuxuryRealEstateWriter
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