DHAA Artist Of The Month: Abigail Black for ThreadyMamma

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Hey friends, my name is Abigail Black and I am the owner, operator, designer, creator, and pretty much everything that is Thready Mamma (made with Abbitude). I run Thready Mamma from my home in the moderately sized suburban town of Lambertville, Michigan. Most items you will see in my shop are handmade clothing. Usually 100% handmade, but recently I’ve been working with more upcycles. Although every now and then I dabble in other crafts to stir the pot and keep things interesting. I started Thready Mamma after being a predominantly stay at home mom for 6 years. It is my way of contributing financially to the household and still be able to stay home with my 3 amazing children. I like to work with small charities and individual causes. The largest fundraiser I work with is the Relay for life but I am also hoping to get involved with the make a wish foundation. To understand who Thready Mamma is, you must get inside the head of a self proclaimed super woman, mother of 3, wife, former hitch hiker, and domestic hippie. Seamstress is just one of the many badges that I wear with pride. I don’t know that I can take you into the depths that tell all there is to know about me and my story, but I’ll take you to the edge and let you peek in.

Ancient history 101: I grew up living frugal. I would watch my mom as she would sew our clothes and backpacks. Whatever we needed at the time. She didn’t make all of our clothes, but what she did make, I loved. From this, was born a desire in me. A desire to create something amazing. As a child, I could often be found sitting in a pile of Lego’s. Some may have thought I would grow to become and architect or designer. I would make duplicate versions of our house, scaled down of course. But they always included even the smallest of details including all of the furniture, all the way down to toilet and sinks. I would also pass the time by sticking a piece of saran wrap on the T.V. and drawing on the faces of politicians as they would spew their rhetoric. Maybe I would become an artist. Who knows, the world is full of possibilities.

It was always about fulfilling a desire to create something tangible, something wonderful, something all my own. My dad worked a lot. He would take my sister and I out on side jobs to be his “helpers”. I don’t know what help I really was, but I do remember a lot of good times riding to and from the jobs listening to my dad sing Pink Floyd’s “Money” or whatever classic rock song was playing at the time. He always had a way of making even the most mundane of activities fun. I credit my parents for a lot of who I am. They were always so supportive of my creative endeavors as a child. I was in band from 5th grade through 11th. I played the oboe (a very costly instrument) in the school band and the flute in marching band. I even reupholstered my oboe case with a velvety leopard print fabric to make it more “me”.

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My creative process: The birth of many of my projects start with a flash of inspiration. Be it two toys strewn across the floor with complimenting colors, or a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye while driving. I wish I could say it was as easy as going to a special place to find my inspiration, but I just wait and it finds me. Lately I have been overtaken by inspiration and don’t have enough time to execute all the ideas stored away inside my head. After I have completed the internal conceptualization, I then put pencil to paper and doodle out everything that I have contemplated over the course of the thought process and tweak the idea as needed. I always draft out my pattern before solidifying my fabric choices.

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I have a habit of changing a pattern because I’m not in absolute love with the way the item will look finished (in my head). But when I start with the pattern, then I can choose my fabrics based on their location in the garment and where potential appliques or other embellishments may go. There is the special occasion however, where I see a fabric and automatically know what the future has in store for it. I love those moments of AHA! I always prewash my material, new or thrifted. It’s always nice to start fresh and prevents any shrinking. Plus I love palming around the soft and fuzzy strands that come off in the dryer. I sew everything on my Singer Brilliance sewing machine and finish all seams with my Singer Professional 5 serger. I make everything (except the fabric, unless I have an immediate need for a small amount of a specific print) included in my garments, drawstrings and straps included.
My day job: I actually do have a day job I have been working for 5 years. I know I said stay at home mom, but I only work 1 shift every other week to maintain an employment status and just in case we should ever need me to return to full time work. Also, I have grown quite fond of the 8 wonderful residents I provide care for. I am a direct support professional. I work with people with developmental disabilities helping them with daily care that most able bodied individuals take for granted. I have learned so much from them. They never seize to amaze me with their bright spirits and charisma. It’s really a constant reminder to never take life for granted.

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Appreciate everything, even the silly little things like being able to brush your own hair out of your face. When I started working here, I was a full time 3rd shift staff. At the time I only had 1 child, my son Stryker, but became pregnant again with my first daughter, Avalyn, and spent the whole pregnancy on 3rd shift. After I returned to work from maternity leave, I dropped down to resource staff and have only worked a few hours a week ever since. 9 months after  Avalyn was born we found out we were pregnant yet again. This time with our youngest, Willow. I was in full swing mommy mode. I had been on a sewing hiatus for 6 years. I would only sew when things needed mended, and could feel that desire burning once again. It was always my dream to be a stay at home mom and to have a sewing business. Although when I was 16, I was going to name my business Abbitude! It wasn’t until Willow was about a year old that I could no longer tame the fire that burned inside me to create. This was when I decided I was going to do it. I was going to fulfill the other half of my vision for my life. I had to settle on a name for it and Abbitude just seemed too juvenile for me anymore.

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When I first met my husband, our very first encounter, he referred to me as “one crafty mamma”. So as I lay in bed one night mulling around in my head for a name, I though of that moment, Crafty Mamma. It was good, but sounds a little too country for my style. While trying to define my style, I thought it’s heady, I’m dready, and my craft is downright thready. THAT WAS IT!!! Thready Mamma. I decided to add (Made with Abbitude) because it’s important to preserve our history and be reminded of who we are and where we come from. And that is how the name Thready Mamma (Made with Abbitude) was born.

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Favorite piece: I would have to say my favorite is the pixie utility belt. I put a lot of thought and time into the concept and execution of this particular item. It took about a week of figuring everything out for this one before I was comfortable enough with the concept to begin designing and drafting the pattern. It took me 2 or 3 days to fully complete. Of course, I often work intermittently because my children do not always want to go along with my plans. It has four deep pockets, a bungee for a water bottle or keys, and an elastic ruffle for wedging more immediately essential items. The waist band has a modest curve to accommodate the natural curves of a woman. Also it provides a more flattering fit as we are not cylindrical. I love earthy colors. Browns and greens are my favorite as far as my own personal style. I am constantly having to remind myself while fabric shopping that I don’t need any more greens or browns.

Inspiration: As I said earlier, my inspiration has no common source. It always seems to be something different. Sometimes it will be lyrics to a song, something I see in my yard, something my kids do, or something that is much needed by an individual who walks a very different life than I. I find a lot of inspiration from talking with other people, crafty or not. It often leads to a concept of something I never would have thought of. I love collaborating with my creative friends as well. Every Monday (and sometimes Friday) My friend Sarah from Madd Brush-art by Sarah, comes over and we consume my dining room with our creative juices. She usually brings a random project from painting to stencil making and she also acts as a model for me when I have an item for someone smaller than myself. I should also give a shout out to my very good friend Danielle from TreeHouseCreations. Without Danielle running her sewing business for most of our friendship, I may have never been inspired or confident enough to make Thready Mamma more than a dream. I love you ladies.

Another person in my life who has played a monumental roll as far as inspiration goes is my husband.

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We have been together for almost 9 years (friends for 13) and we have always been supportive of each others creative endeavors. Jason Black of The Happy Little Trees and The Blacklotus Experience. He helps me when I get in a rut by providing me a different perspective or just strumming a few notes on his acoustic to help enhance my mellow while I sew. He has played a pivotal roll in helping me get Thready Mamma up and running.

I lack some basic computer knowledge so he helps me a lot when I get stumped. But also as a huge emotional support. His continued confidence in my abilities throughout the years has helped to keep me driven and in the right direction. He is my rock, my inspiration, and my best friend. My children are such huge supporters of the family business. Willow doesn’t offer a lot of feedback yet (she’s turning 2 on the 14th) but loves it when I have a scrap piece of fabric that she can wear like a scarf or just wave around. Avalyn (3yrs) is always by my side while I work. Complimenting my fabrics and asking questions about the whole process. So much so, that I set her up her own little workstation next to mine.

 

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That is where she does her finest works in play doh and crayola. She also accompanies me to do a lot of my fabric shopping and has “special jobs” every time we have a package to ship. She carries it to the post office and puts it on the counter for me. It really makes her day to get to help me. I have seen it have a huge impact on my son who is 7, and his own ambitions in life. He is always talking about someday when he has his own store, he’ll name it Thready Stryker LOL!

For his birthday we got him a book that you can pop out the pre cut creatures and glue them together to make a 3d monster. He made a bunch of them and wanted to sell them at his party. I love that my children can grow and learn that a stay at home mommy can be more than just that. That you can be who or whatever you want in life, and that it just takes a little (or a lot) of motivation, ambition, and a dream.

What keeps it interesting: I think the most exciting part of running Thready Mamma is constantly learning new techniques, styles, tricks, or trades. Not that I think I am any where near knowing everything there is to know about sewing, as soon as I get comfortable thinking that I have a pretty good grip on most of what I need to know, something comes up with one of my new designs that I have to learn a new technique to execute the design properly and cleanly. Another factor that keeps it interesting is  all of the amazing people I have met since I opened my store. This is a huge one. I am a relatively quiet, keep to yourself type of person. It was a huge leap for me to start this up knowing that I was going to have to “put myself out there”. I’ll admit, when face to face, I am shy. I don’t often start a conversation, but wait to be invited into it. I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful network of artists and a community of friends and fans by my side. I never know who I’ll meet on any given day.

One more thing that keeps the fire alive is creating new designs. Every time I come up with a new pattern design I get excited. It is always my new favorite, it never fails. And whats even more exciting is when I create the first garment from a new pattern. Having no formal education outside of high school, I am completely self taught. I remember the first time I drafted a pattern for an apron top with darts. What a disaster. A waste of perfectly good fabric. After that I made sure to study up on the different techniques in pattern design and drafting. Learning about the different ways to accommodate the curves of a woman. That mistake was probably one of my best ones yet because it really forced me to think ahead in my projects. The saying goes “work smarter, not harder”. There is really a lot to be said about learning from your mistakes.

The music: The first concert I ever went to was Kottonmouth Kings when I was 15. It was fun to get stray from the normal path I traveled, but the music wasn’t really my style. That was the last KK concert I would attend but It played a huge roll in the journey I would take for the next few years. It wasn’t long after that first concert that I was introduced to Ekoostik hookah. I can’t put my finger on when or where the first concert I ever attended was, but from spring of “99” through spring “02” there weren’t a whole lot of Hookah shows in Ohio that I wasn’t at. My first Hookahville was spring 2001 at the Frontier Ranch in Kirkersville, OH. It was the most inviting environment I had ever experienced.

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The crowd, the people, my brothers and sisters. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by a community of people who didn’t care what I wore, or what I had. They were just happy to be. Happy to be there in the moment, to be alive, to be together 🙂  Connected by a love of music, this family inspired me to be who I wanted to be. To disregard all the societal expectations, and just live how I want to. A breath of fresh air to what I had thought my life would be. Also around the age of 16 I was introduced to the rainbow family. My husband and his friends were the ones to show me the light in this new way of life. We weren’t dating at the time, It would be another 4 years before a relationship flourished between us. I went to my first Rainbow gathering at 16, It was a small, intimate, regional gathering in the southwestern edge of Indiana.

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A very different experience from the Hookah crowd, I felt like this new family was more interested in one another as individuals and not as much the scene as a whole.  I had a great time at that gathering, making new friends, helping around the kitchen, and fixing peoples clothes. I took with me from that gathering, a whole new outlook on life. An understanding of how connected everyone and everything really is. From here on out, I was family. Welcomed into the loving arms of the rainbow community. I got my first sewing machine for Christmas when I was 16. My friend Sarah would come over and we would stay up all night sewing. When I was 18, my boyfriend and I packed up his VW bus and left town for Colorado. It was decorated with all kinds of things I had sewn. Seat covers, curtains, and even a vertical incense burner I had made in my ceramics class.  The trip was an adventure in itself. When we got to CO we lived out of our van for 2 or 3 months, but winter was quickly approaching so we hustled to find ourselves a home. We settled in Kremmling, CO for a few about 9 months until fate would lead us back to the road. From Kremmling, CO to Prescott, AZ we traveled living out of the van. It was about 2 weeks from my 19th birthday when an old friend from Rainbow had invited me and another girl to go on a trip to California. Of course I wanted to, I was finally living the life I wanted, free from the constraints of what people wanted for me and from me. I was free to just be me and do as I please.

To try and keep this as short as possible I will just say that I hitch hiked up the coast of Cali with a few friends stopping periodically to set up camp. We went on to Utah for my first ever National Rainbow Gathering, and then down to the Red Rocks where I had one of the most magical musical experiences yet. We were only there to make a few quick bucks before continuing on our journey. Playing the night of our arrival was The Dead. I knew there was no way I’d actually get in to see them, but was loving the scene on the lot. After we had secured enough money to go we started walking out, it was after dark, backpacks on and my new drum in hand (I traded my first sewing machine for an unfinished drum shell at the gathering because my sewing machine was too heavy to hitch hike with). An SUV pulled up beside us and stopped. I wasn’t sure what was happening. I wasn’t looking for anything spectacular, thought maybe the person was looking for directions. The kind man in the truck shared his story explaining why he didn’t need these 2 tickets and just gave them to us. We got a miracle. I was floored, astonished, never in a million years did I think I would get to see The Dead. Eternally grateful, I hugged the man through his window, wished him the best and gave him a small crystal I was holding onto as a token of my appreciation. We hightailed it back to the venue and went in. That night was for sure one to remember. The diversity in that crowd was like non I’d ever been in. It was very different as people from all walks of life were there to support one of the greatest bands of all time. From your standard tie dye to business tie, people both elderly and youthful. I was elated to see the crowd so diverse. It was a rainbow of culture, age, and style. After the show, I was lost in a euphoria. We hunted down our gear from it’s hiding place, and went about our travels. We hitchhiked clear across the Midwest to Joplin, MO where we stayed for a few weeks, and the back to my hometown. I held a job for a short while, just long enough to buy my own car and save up some money to go back out on the road.

 

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I traveled all over Michigan, by myself, living out of my car. About 3 months passed before I decided to move down to Columbus, OH to help some friends make rent. In C-bus I worked as a landscaper. This is where I lived when my old rainbow friend Black had sent me an e-mail with an interest in meeting up. He came to visit and it wasn’t long before we began dating. He lived in Angola, IN so every weekend we would take turns driving to each other. For several weeks we would alternate taking the 5.5 hour drive before we decided to just be together so I moved out to Angola. We lived in a small room off of a garage at an apple orchard. We were both working for his dads painting business. With no running water, and only a port o potty I can say that this was the easiest and most comfortable I had ever lived. Even today, I look back and say “those were the days”. Over the course of 6 months we saved our change and extra money for a road trip.  We had about $2,000 saved up before we found out our lives were about to change in a big way. We found out we were pregnant! We were very fortunate that we had been saving for that road trip because as it turns out, we had just enough money to pay a midwife to deliver our baby at home. Stryker was born February 3rd, 2006 at home, with no drugs, in water, and caught by his father.

It was pure magic, everything I ever wanted for my first delivery. I felt a love I had never felt before while holding my new baby. From this point on, I was in full swing mommy mode. I quit sewing as I didn’t have much time for it and just focused all of my attention on raising a bright, independent, little man. The years of my sewing hiatus were spent doing my mommy thing. I did what most domesticated house wives/moms do. Raised my babies and kept the house in shape. It was wonderful to have fulfilled one of my key goals in life, which was simply to be a mother to 2 or 3 beautiful little people. But there was always something missing. My only creative outlet was that which involved finger paints, play doh, and crayons. I loved to be doing these things with my children, but it just didn’t fill the void. After all 3 children were born and my youngest was almost 1, I decided it was time for me to pursue the other half of my “big plans” for myself. And so Thready Mamma was born.

In a pinch: Since I am only just into my 2nd year of running Thready Mamma, I am still figuring out the ebb and flow of the market. I didn’t fret too much as the festival season was winding down and sales were low. I just focused my energy on getting my name out there. Letting people know who I am and what I do. Well, that was met with greater success than I had ever dreamed. I have a great appreciation for my supporters. They help me when I need input on certain features they would like to see in a design I am developing, and offer me support through my personal journey and life experiences. They keep me grounded when my designs get a little too lofty. Without them, I would never have had such a wonderful first year. Thank you every one of you. I truly appreciate you and value your opinions. Just “keep on keepin on”. Sure it can be a little frustrating to not make a sale for a prolonged period of time, but “this too shall pass”.

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There is a road, no simple highway, between the dawn and the dark of night, and if you go, no one may follow, that path is for your steps alone”
Jerry Garcia

You can find me on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/threadymamma
Or check out my shop at: www.threadymamma.com

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3 responses »

  1. The Deadhead Art Alliance team Congratulates you on being our Feature Artist of the Month. Abigail…Nothing could be sweeter than your journey and this beautiful life you’ve made for yourself! What beauty inside and out., I am grateful to have you be part of the handmade craft movement and our team is proud to have you.!! I look forward to the Future of Creation with you by our side! Forever Family, Jen

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