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Scrapbook: Mentors


Mentors is a topic I’ve been thinking and writing about lately. Each subject I have interviewed for the Portrait of a Seamstress series has characteristics and quirks that are unique to her, but one thing that is true for all of them is that in the lifespan of their hobby, someone has entered and imparted a profound impact on them. Nilah had numerous mentors who were capable of sewing a black suit with white thread and not have the white stitching visible on the exterior. Stella’s mentor was Johanna, the owner of Cloth & Bobbin, who taught her everything she knew about the craft of sewing. I had a mentor too – her name is Mishka. I walked into her tailor shop with a heavy hunk of metal, my mom’s ancient Brother sewing machine, at the age of 18 and asked her to teach me how to sew. She looked at me funny as if she had heard that line many times before. Her doubt was high, but I showed her I wasn’t like her previous pupils. No, I wouldn’t bail when she ripped open a sleeve that took me six times to set and no, I wouldn’t abandon her when she said my gathers were uneven. I worked, more like played, in her tailor shop for a little over two years, learning everything about sewing and tailoring while also forming an indelible friendship with someone who had a headful of construction knowledge. Mishka was born in Japan and during the course of her life, she has lived in Hawaii, New York, and Asia, soaking up knowledge from famous designers that she worked for in each spot. Somehow, she settled in Fort Lauderdale, where she owns and operates a small shop off of a quaint street called Las Olas Blvd. She rides her bike to and from work every day and until recently, her dog Lucy sat in a basket in the back. She yells and cracks jokes at her customers, and they love it and keep coming back. She lives in a small apartment that is hidden behind a Presbyterian church and when I took care of Lucy while Mishka was at work, TCM movies played around the clock – all day, every day. We still talk, in fact, I sent her a book she loaned me on Madeline Vionnet last week. To this day, it’s Maddie and Mishka – mentor and mentee.

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