This is my post for Freckled Laundry’s Air Your Laundry Linky party.
Laurel’s Easter dress has had its final press and is on a hanger, ready for Sunday. After a 22 year wait for someone to wear it, I have finally stitched this beauty. Since finishing it, the dress has been in my thoughts quite a lot. While my hands were occupied with mindless tasks like piping and machine embroidery for the grandsons’ outfits, my mind wandered over details of the garment.
I couldn’t help but think about Judith Dobson, designer of this pattern. She seems to have dropped out of the sewing world, at least from my range of sight. Still, I have no doubt that she is out there, stitching fervently, beautifully and perfectly. As the mother of five children, including twin girls who modeled her creations for Belles and Beaus ads in Sew Beautiful and Creative Needle magazines, she likely became too busy to spend much time way from home since I last saw her. Now, with any luck, she has grandchildren to dress.
I’d like to share some recollections I have of this amazingly accomplished needleworker who has patterns, magazine articles, a book and more to her credit. Her background and experience is extensive.
I first met Judith when we were both teaching at Martha Pullen’s school in Huntsville. She taught a variety of hand embroidery classes, most notably shadow work and cutwork. Students lined up to get in her classes to learn how she stitched such stunningly beautiful designs.
Later, we roomed together in Jacksonville, Florida, where we were both teaching. I think it was a Classic Classes event, with Judith, Mildred Turner, Cindy Foose and Janet Hyde. Or it might have been the SAGA National Convention…whatever. There in Jacksonville we became much better acquainted and I very much enjoyed our time together.
I learned that she and her five children had lived in Saudi Arabia for several years where her husband worked as an executive with an oil company. She described a culture which prohibited women from driving. That shocked me. Returning home to the United States was a great joy to her.
For some time, Judith gave children’s etiquette classes, serving high tea and lessons on propriety and manners. She also offered small group handwork schools when she lived in Colorado.
In addition to her design work, her children, of course, kept her very busy all day. But she carefully scheduled her time so that every evening, from 7-11 p.m. she stitched.
Her children must have been very well behaved. And her husband must have been very helpful and supportive. With just two children, Bob and I could hardly get baths, stories and homework finished by 9:00! I should have asked her for a class in time management.
In Jacksonville, Judith graciously agreed to share our suite with my mother who arrived the second day of the school. When I called to extend the invitation, I chattered about a gracious lady Judith was. Mother looked forward to meeting her.
While Judith and I were in class, my mother arrived at the hotel, picked up the key from the front desk and went to the room to get settled in.
She walked in the door just as a naked, dripping wet man stepped out of the shower to see who had entered!
Scandalized, my mother stormed out of the room and waited in the lobby until time for lunch, when I joined her. She was seething as she pulled me aside to speak privately.
“That Judith is NO lady! ” she sputtered through clenched teeth. “She has a man up there! We are NOT staying there. I’m getting another room for the two of us!” Righteous indignation radiated from her black eyes.
Of course, Judith WAS a lady. The hotel had given my mother the wrong room key and we all had a good laugh about it. Actually, my mother only smiled politely. Since that incident, she has been unable even to say “Jacksonville” without a rise in her blood pressure
Older issues of Sew Beautiful feature many of Judith’s designs and articles. She purchased the Belles and Beaus pattern company from Betty Rast in Alabama and added to the extensive offerings of the company’s handwork collection. These patterns are spectacular and I am pleased that in my sewing room I have nearly every Belles and Beaus pattern published. Her lovely book, Roses and Delicate Embroidery, is like a work of art, with watercolor illustrations and careful stitch diagrams.
I haven’t seen or spoken to Judith in many years. In 2007, we were both scheduled to teach at Martha Pullen’s school in Huntsville and I looked forward to a little reunion. But there was some complication and she didn’t come. That was the last news I have about her.
I’m grateful to her for the beautiful Tea Dress pattern, first published in 1989. I am also grateful that is now available for thos who do not have a 22 year old Sew Beautiful packed away. And I hope Judith is happy and well, wherever she is.