Ahh, good question. This may take a while, so get a nice hot cup of tea and sit back and relax.
I grew up in the western foothills of Maine, raised by two amazing parents who put a lot of energy into what would now be considered a ‘green’ or ‘sustainable,’ natural, hippie (you get what I mean) way of life. When I was a kid, I think a lot of it was economically driven – it was just economical to grow your own food, dry your laundry outside, make your own bread. And my folks chose that lifestyle. It’s not like they couldn’t have had careers that made them more money and status, but they chose a lifestyle where they could raise their kids, be part of that process and enjoy it! So, with that said, I was surrounded by pretty creative/hands-on and outdoorsy endeavors. We didn’t really have a TV that counted (12″ with 3 channels just doesn’t present enough watching opportunities to pass the time, plus GI Joe was off-limits). So, we spent the majority of the time playing on the mostly wooded 2 1/2 acres we owned, and the 100’s of acres that backed up to our land. It was all about being creative in the outdoors – games, magic – all just part of the fun. And the family fun was outdoor adventure. Hiking up to Berry’s Ledge in the backyard, and having a fire so we could make hot chocolate, that was a regular occurrence. Summertime was filled with outdoor experiences, wilderness camping for weeks on end, camping, hiking. So the outdoors was a huge element of my upbringing.
And closer to home, my parents were always (I mean always) tearing down walls – and not just interior walls! – painting, repairing – you name it. It’s part of owning an old house. You start with one room, and by the time you finish the last room, it’s time to start the first one all over again! We had a ‘temporary’ kitchen for about 10 years of my life. But regardless, my mom still made bread every day in that ‘temporary’ kitchen. She made it a home, no matter the state of construction. My mother also sewed us clothes, crocheted us sweaters and blankets. I was surrounded by hands-on/ handmade – so much so that I took it for granted. I never really realized how unique this lifestyle really was, until recently – when the trend really IS exactly how I was raised.
So, growing up – the outdoors and the handmade home were two incredibly important aspects of my upbringing.
But regardless of this nurturing upbringing, the area where I grew up didn’t have a lot going on, and I did not miss out on the often misguided misery of adolescence. It was like I forgot all that made me happy as a kid. The outdoors, creativity, simplicity. I forgot about those critical pieces of the puzzle. And I made it to my 20’s before I realized they were lost.
While working on my master’s thesis, I took on a part-time job at Eastern Mountain Sports. Suddenly I was surrounded by outdoorsy people. And suddenly the outdoorsy piece of the puzzle was rediscovered. I starting mountain biking, and it was like a drug. I was convinced that was it – the missing piece to my happiness. And for nearly a decade, I was content. But really not content. There was something else that I didn’t know about.
So fast forward to 2008, the year I turn 30 years old. I decide I am going to take on a major fitness endeavor, something challenging – a 1/2 marathon in May, followed by a 1/2 ironman in September. A half ironman consists of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run. All in a row. That was going to be a big challenge for me. Not that I hadn’t achieved other significant athletic challenges – champion downhill & x-c mountain bike racer, adventure racer, Reach the Beach running relay, the list goes on. But this was different. These were disciplines that were not my strengths. Swimming, road riding and running. I would have to work, and work hard to reach this goal. So, my training partner and I got off to a great start, finishing our 1/2 marathon 10 minutes under our goal time, and our 1/2 iron training was going smoothly – until the end of June. 5 minutes in on a regular mountain bike ride, I endo (pretty typical) and land on my pelvic bone directly on a rock (not typical). Screaming follows, and to make a very long story very short – I find myself out of commission with an avulsion fracture to my my pelvis. So that threw my 1/2 ironman goal out the window. Depression sunk in as I spent weeks banished to the couch, or the lounge chair in the sunshine outside. So much for my 30th birthday being rung in with ultra fitness… But I healed quickly, and my birthday was fabulous regardless of my fitness goals being shot. And it was one of my presents that reminded me of the other missing piece to the puzzle.
(I said it was going to take a while, didn’t I???)
My parents wanted to get me something for my birthday, and they generously offered to get me a sewing machine. I was thrilled, but definitely not as thrilled then as I am now. A couple months passed before we were actually able to pick one out – we wanted to make sure we got it from a local place so I would have a shop to bring it to if I had any problems. So, just before Thanksgiving, we picked out my new machine. And I was off. The first couple projects my mom helped me with – a baby quilt, and the first bag of 5 I wanted to make for Christmas presents. I took over our bigger (and mostly unoccupied) living room with my sewing projects. It was non-stop, I was hooked. But I wasn’t exactly good enough to sew everything I wanted. And, I didn’t have the inspiration I needed, yet. Sewing is kind of like cooking – at first you need a recipe to cook and to be inspired, but as you get better, you don’t need to use a recipe, but you continue to browse recipes for even more inspiration and ideas.
So time passed, and Alex was on another one of his winter China trips. I found myself playing Bananagrams by myself, and realized – wow, I better either socialize more, or get a new hobby. I decided on both. My dear friend (and a recipient of one of my first bags I sewed) invited me to what she lovingly calls a ‘knit night’ at the local yarn store. I was kind of skeptical – I didn’t know how to knit!! But, knowing my social life was stooping to a new low, I went. I got some yarn, some needles, and they taught me to cast on an how to knit. Little did they know … And that very first knit night, the wonderful ladies at Yarns in Farms made note of the bag I had sewn, and generously offered that I bring in a couple different designs, and that they would LOVE to sell my very own bags at their shop! Talk about being in the right place at the right time. This motivation led me to my inspiration, my search for the perfect bag and ultimately to the creation of sKEW Designs. (didn’t think I’d ever get there, did you?)
My first round of sewn bags to the yarn store needed to appear professional (even though my sewing in my mind was far from professional). Didn’t anyone else notice my crooked seams??? So, this led me down the path of designing a logo. My best friend and life partner Alex just happens to be a designer, so he offered to help, especially after he took one look at my first attempt. I wanted something unique, and not cheesy. My full intials are KEW, kinda like COOL, but without the L. Yeah, you can go there if you really try… and I thought that may be kind of cool to integrate. And Alex (the genius) put together the SEW part – i thought SEW KEW (sew cool) but no. So, we ended up with sKEW Designs! This is the outlet for my creativity. Most everything I’ve made has been gifts thus far, except for the bags I’ve sold at Yarns. But, I’m thinking big … someday.
So, sKEW Designs is my little world of creativity, outdoor adventure, and homemade/handmade. For now, I’m trying my hand at blogging. Which is a new, awkward thing for me. Not sure my writing is good enough for the world, but hopefully I will improve with time. So I think I finished my essay for now. Funny that the actual sKEW Designs part is really short … maybe I am just running out of steam. But, I think that it’s just that what led up to it’s creation is really the bulk of the reason it exists now!
And just a plug, I will make you anything you want (with a price, and within reason), custom – under the sKEW Designs label. Knitting, sewing (and some crocheting). Just let me know.