Monday, November 22, 2010

The Story Behind the Little Free Radical

I remember sitting in 10th grade chemistry class, being introduced to the periodic table of elements, and staring at it thinking, “There’s NO way I’m going to remember all of this!”

As a 15 year old, spending an hour a day learning about atoms, molecules, and electrons was the last thing I wanted to be worrying about. All those carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules looked boring,carbohydrates were ‘bad’ anyways according to my mother’s newest diet book, Sugar Busters. And why should I care so much about free radicals roaming around? I was more interested in Life Sciences and Home Economics, and sat through the classes I deemed ‘boring’ scheming up things I would create back at home after school, and plotting out my next trip to the fabric store.

I finally loved to learn chemistry in college, when I found myself in a molecular biology class at Harvard. It was fascinating to sit through Professor Alain Viel’s classes, learning about life on a molecular level. Finally, the Periodic Table of Elements from high school started to make sense and I could better understand these mysterious structures mentioned in other classes like cell biology & genetics. He told me about a video he had helped to complete, Inner Life of the Cell,   where he described the molecular processes to a team of visual artists.

I’ve always had a NEED to know how everything works. So a 3D animation like this just makes me need to learn more and so the following semester I took Biochemistry. The professor would bring molecule sets to class so we could build basic molecular structures of things like Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and various amino acids. I loved the hands-on experience of learning to assemble them myself and trying to ‘see’ how it all worked.

Now that I have a better understanding of chemistry, I’m completely fascinated with it! I know now, that had I been paying attention better back in high school, I would have realized that hidden in between the covers of my basic chemistry were formula’s or instructions for how to build some of the coolest things in life. Who knew that that a repeating structure with 6-Carbons, 10-Hydrogens and 5-Oxygens (C6H10O5)n could build cellulose - which is what one of the things I love to play with the most is primarily composed of - COTTON Fabric!!! Really, how cool is the repeating fiber structure for cellulose?!? The design of the molecullar structure that compose  cellulose to make cotton is awesome enough, let alone what these molecules have potential make!

Just as molecules can be structured into amazing things, fabric can be re-structured into amazing things also!!! I remember trips with my mother to Joann Fabrics as a child, looking at the rows and rows of fabric. As a very young child, I’d be v-e-r-y b-o-r-e-d, wandering around looking at the various colors and patterns, and exploring the textures. As I would (impatiently) wait for her to make up her mind  - and it always seemed like forever - I’d start poking through pattern books. Every now and then, my mother would let me choose a new pattern and I’d watch back at home as she would cut the pieces and assemble  a new dress for me. I was fascinated at how clothes were made, as I opened up pattern envelopes to see all sorts of weird shapes that could be transformed into a dress, much the same way I would sit and look at the periodic table and molecules in my science books not understanding what they could create.

By the age of 10, I very much wanted to try out her sewing machine. After much begging, I chose a dress pattern and sent my mother all over town, trying to choose the perfect fabric and went home and made my very first dress which I proudly wore to school. From then on, I was full of ideas of everything I wanted to make!

In 9th grade I taught myself how to quilt and started competing in textile competitions and county fairs. I loved picking out various fabrics that coordinated with each other. I had also started sewing for others. I often had mothers buying fabric for me to make their daughters school clothes. And at the holidays I was busy sewing doll clothes for American Girl Dolls to sell at craft fairs, and making home-made presents for my family.

Now, a decade later, I’m a mother to a 4.5 month old girl. At some point in my pregnancy, my partner nicknamed me “the free radical” since I’d spend my days roaming around Boston “like a free radical” bouncing between doctors appointments (I had a high risk pregnancy) and wandering store to store planning for the baby’s arrival. Naturally, when Sophie was born, she became the Little Free Radical. :)

It wasn’t until after Sophie's arrival that I finally got my very own sewing machine. For the past 10 years I’d been borrowing sewing machines from others when I had a project to do. After constantly looking at Etsy seeing things I knew I could easily make if I only had a sewing machine, my partner bought one so I could make Sophie things like my mom did for me.

Sophie is already very interested in sewing. I take her through the fabric store and we wander around looking at all the colors. She also loves to sit at the computer with me as I shop online for fabric. And she watches intently as I cut the fabric to make her dresses and toys (while being on the lookout for fabric scraps she can grab!), and smiles in delight as she watches while I assemble the various pieces into a structure just for her!

So for now, we work as a team: Sophie helps me choose fabrics that appeal to her interests, while I cut the pieces and assemble sheets of fabric into clothes, toys, and other fun things! Of course when my role as the assembler is done, it gets passed off to Sophie to test it out and approve:

Knotty tutu

Her latest favorite is tulle. If I make her a tutu, she’s sitting there grabbing at it before I’m done. She LOVES to wear ‘em and pouts when  it’s time to come off.

I keep ending up with scraps after cutting out small dresses and such, so I figured why NOT make an Etsy shop to use up my scraps, and bring delight to other small humans! Then I’ll have extra $$$ to keep buying new fabric and Sophie can watch as I put it together. :)

So, coming soon will be a variety of baby toys, baby & children’s clothes and of course Sophie’s favorite: Tutus!

note: this post was moved here from my original blog. :)

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