Creative yearnings

January 16, 2013

To Brenda Lord, 60, of South Abington Twp., who recently won an award in the national Martha Pullen Sewing Awards competition, sewing is more than just a hobby.

It is a creative outlet and flow of inspiration.

Although her winning entry, an infant dress which earned first prize in the Sewing for Babies category, took about five months to complete, she said it was worth the time and effort—but not just for the prize.

I was thrilled to win first prize in the competition, she said, but the happiest part of sewing the dress was seeing my beautiful little granddaughter wearing it.

Her work, along with the winning entries in the other competition categories, will be featured in the September-October 2013 issue of the magazine Sew Beautiful.

A mother of six children, now grown, Lord studied and worked throughout her adult life to hone her abilities in clothing construction, initially to benefit her family and eventually as a costume designer for community, college and professional ballet, opera and theater programs. Now she is enjoying putting those skills to work for her first grandchild, Heidi Jo Lord of Salt Lake City, born last September.

She said one source from whom she draws inspiration and motivation is President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a 2008 conference of the Relief Society, the Church's women's organization, he referred to the desire to create as one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul, counseling that as you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.

It was with that aspiration Lord set upon the task that led to her award-winning creations.

Lord said her early interest in sewing was sparked by her mother, who sewed dresses for her and her three sisters, and stories of her early pioneer ancestors, who knew all there was to know about running a home.

I loved coming home from school seeing a new dress hanging up over the door where my mother was sewing, she said. I was eager to learn myself, and produced my first clumsily constructed dress in the eighth grade.

Although she described that first dress as a disaster, she said once she began taking lessons, her sewing dramatically improved.

She recalled a few more of President Uchtdorf's suggestions, which proved true in her experience: if you feel incapable of creating, start small and don't let the fear of failure discourage you.

While I truly did have to start small, part of my satisfaction in sewing comes from the fact that I have persisted through enough disasters to learn how to create beautiful clothing, she said. Sewing can look simple but it requires a lot of eye-hand coordination and the skills come only with good instruction and practice. The ones who persist in the face of early klutziness are those who eventually get to mastery.

Another source of satisfaction, she continued, is that sewing has connected me to many great women – a favorite aunt who helped me cut out my first dress, my mother's friend who started me quilting, great teachers at the Martha Pullen School of Fashion Art, and a dear friend in Atlanta who taught me a wide range of quilting skills. I can literally feel their hands on mine when I work and I am appreciative of their love, skills and willingness to teach me.

Lord's advice to those wishing to learn to sew is, Don't give up, and learn how to unpick your work…You have a desire, go take lessons, stick at it and don't be afraid to make mistakes.

Ken Lord contributed to this story.