Inspiration and motivation are two of the greatest assets a person can possess, but the peculiar thing about them is that the more you give, the more you get… something that Linda Blaker of VintiqueDesigns, has learned well over the years. Linda’s love of sewing began when she was 13-years-old and was inspired to make her own “Carnaby Street” style clothing. In the sixties, this was a big deal to a girl her age. To get her started, her mother bought her a sewing machine at the local pawn shop. The only problem was that the machine didn’t come with a manual and there was no Internet to turn to! (How did we ever manage without the web?) But with that “Carnaby Street” wardrobe as her motivation, manage she did, and in the process she developed a new skill and discovered a passion that would give her much more than the new wardrobe she had originally set her eyes on.
In 1971 Linda and her friend Caroline opened a small retail section in a local collaborative shop called “The Blue Swallow”. There they offered custom sewing, embroidery, recycled vintage items, and antique and vintage jewelry. When the shop closed, Linda and Caroline teamed up with Ruth Tickner as seamstresses for another shop where they made vintage style clothing. During this time, Holly Hobby had become popular and these vintage looking dolls appealed to Linda who soon fell in love with making their small bonnets and dresses. By 2002, Linda had expanded her business to the online community on Ebay where she sold handmade handbags, sachets, and “upcycled” vintage items. In the meantime, her longtime friend Ruth was recovering from cancer treatments and was struggling with depression as a result of the ordeal. Sewing had always been something that the two of them had enjoyed doing together because they found it a calming, inspiring, and creative outlet. Feeling that this was exactly what Ruth needed to do while her body healed from the trauma of the cancer treatments, Linda began to show her some of the sellers on Ebay who were making purses and bags with vintage fabrics. With their creative juices flowing, VintiqueDesigns was born. Linda and Ruth began collecting vintage fabrics and buttons and designing the patterns for their own line of handbags. Within a year they were selling them at local fairs and craft shows, and had expanded their product line to include Lavender sachets, aprons, pillows, and other home décor items made with vintage linens and other vintage fabrics such as chenille and barkcloth.
Sometime in 2008, Ruth showed Linda an American Girl doll that she had bought for her granddaughter. Linda, who had never had dolls growing up, thought they were wonderful. Ruth was the first to try her hand at making doll clothes with a doll and girl matching apron set. Although it sold immediately in their new Etsy shop, Ruth determined that sewing for dolls wasn’t the direction she wanted to go. Linda, on the other hand, was just gearing up to enjoy her second childhood and began collecting and repairing American Girl dolls for herself and for her granddaughters. Just as with the Holly Hobby dolls years earlier, Linda fell in love with making the small size clothing, and the historical outfits were a natural outlet for her love of all things vintage. At fairs, her doll clothes are always a natural draw for young girls who enjoy bringing their dolls to Linda so she can style their hair while talking with the girls about all things American Girl.
I first met Linda in 2011 shortly after I had opened up my own Etsy shop. She’d noticed a few of my original historic dress designs and suggested that I try my hand at making them into patterns. I had toyed with the idea before, but hadn’t really pursued it because I was unsure if anyone would be interested in my designs. Encouragement comes naturally to Linda, and just as she had taken the time to be there to help a close friend find her feet again, she was just as willing to step up and help a stranger find herself as well. For six months, Linda and I exchanged e-mails in which she offered me words of encouragement and friendly advice which kept me motivated and inspired as I put that very first pattern together. Over the months, I discovered a wonderful friend and mentor in her. VintiqueDesigns and Thimbles and Acorns exist today because Linda cared enough to take the time to inspire and motivate others through her encouragement.