Mother, daughters bond while sewing clothes for dolls

January 13, 2011|BY TIFFANY ARNOLD |
  • Tammy Giberson watches her daughters Emily and Jen Burker cut patterns for a doll outfit. Emily does knitting, crocheting and some sewing. Jen is the designer, while Giberson is the seamstress and assembler.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Emily and Jen Burker flipped through the pages from their fashion look book for dolls, pointing out one-of-a-kind designs and exclusive dresses made for family and friends.

 Every outfit has a name and a back story. They paused and giggled at the picture of "The Shepherdess," a baby shower gift they made for the pregnant wife of their church's pastor. Here, the story was that "The Shepherdess" was wearing a brown, green and yellow shepherd's frock and the guest of honor was expecting a girl.

"All the gifts were pink!" said Jen, a 16-year-old junior at Clear Spring High School.

When work schedules get hectic and after-school commitments begin to pile up, this family turns to sewing to help them decompress.

And there's an added benefit with each stitch. "It brings us closer," Jen said.

Since they were young girls, Emily, 14, and Jen have been sewing doll clothes with their mother, Tammy Giberson, from the dining room of their home near Huyetts Crossroads. They registered as a business, Generations, in 2008 and have been selling what they've made at craft shows and farmers markets.

So far, they've made more than 300 outfits.

"This is our golf," said Giberson, who works full-time as a cook. "This is our relaxing time."

Sewing is a skill set Giberson learned from her mother, Cindy Brown.

Brown said she raised her kids with the mantra: "God gave us two hands, so we should use them."

And in the spirit of keeping her kids' hands busy, Cindy Brown taught her daughters to sew, giving them free reign of the sewing room. "As long as they didn't bust up my machine too bad," Brown said.

After becoming proficient in making pillows — lots and lots of pillows, Giberson recalled — they graduated to making clothes.

"What I'm most proud of is that it stuck," Brown said, then she looked across the room, to her granddaughters. "That these two can be in a room with only materials and a sewing machine and I don't have to worry about them being entertained."

It all began several years ago, Giberson said, when Jen needed a suit. "I couldn't find anything modest enough," she said. Giberson said she decided to dust off her sewing skills and make one. But then they were left with several fabric scraps. The most practical use at the time seemed to turn them into doll clothes.

Now, when they have free time in the evening, they're cranking out doll clothes.

Jen comes up with the designs, planning outfits from an array of patterns, fabrics and materials. Emily is the resident knitter, crocheter and bookkeeper. Giberson is the seamstress and assembler.

Sometimes Emily does some sewing on an older Kenmore machine. Jen doesn't sew.

"One time my mom sewed her thumb into the machine," Jen said. "It freaked me out."

Giberson has been told that this is a rough business to hand down to your kids. And for Giberson, it wasn't as clear where the doll clothes venture would go when her girls become young ladies and head away to college. While Emily said she'd "probably" keep making doll clothes, Jen said she probably wouldn't continue after she leaves the house.

"I'd probably buy stuff from my mom," Jen said.

Giberson accepts that family doll clothes making could be a short run.

And this doesn't bother her.

"This is what I want to do with them now," Giberson said. "We're in the moment. Right now, we're enjoying our time."

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