7.15.2010

Name Tags

The other day I came across a maroon sweater that one of my best friends in high school, Jill Wallen, made for me. This was probably in 1969 or 1970. I haven't seen her in many years, but I still wear the sweater. And I always think of her when I pull it over my head. Every once in a while I find a strand of her long blond hair woven into it. I wore this sweater ceaselessly, in those days. The sweater has my name tag sewn in, because I took it to Interlochen when I attended summer music camp there. And I wore it when I returned as a counselor to the camp I had attended as a child. (It is hard to believe that I used to teach people how to waterski, but I can still remember the feel of pulling up out of the water, and, as it was a French camp--only my mother would find such a place--in Vermont--I always say "Vas-y!" when I want to get going.)

Anyway, the name tag really gave my heart a tug. I examined the rough stitching that I used to sew it in (my mother sewed my tags when I was younger, but I'm sure that by high school that was my job. Her stitching is impeccable--I still find name tags sewn into old towels and sheets.) Then I noticed the rather gnarly job I did of sewing up a seam at the wrist that must have come unraveled...I used whatever wool was at hand, clearly. I was a bit mortified at my awkward handiwork, but gave myself a pass for having made the attempt at all.

And then I pondered the whole idea of name tags. This is mine, that is yours. Our clothes will commingle, or be misplaced, or left behind, but you will always be able to return them to their rightful owners. There is such a thing as a rightful owner. Should I carelessly leave my sweater behind, on a log, at the dock, draped over a boulder, I want that sweater back. And, by extension, our clothes are not disposable. We want to keep them for years. Mend them when they come undone. Even, perhaps, pass them on. That name tag says, this belongs to someone, someone who cherishes it enough to stake a claim. It also says, someone cared enough for me to make me something special, and I hope to have it always.

41 comments:

pve design said...

playing a good game of tag always holds meaning.
pve

Marjory said...

Just finished your book and enjoyed it very much. The best line- "The pleasure is in the doing." I will carry that one with me..

The Historical Society is open Thurs. - Sunday from 1 to 5 if you would like to see the new exhibit and/or tour the house.

If those hours don't work for you I'd be happy to open it up anytime that I am there - normally Tues - Friday 9 to 3.

Marjory O'Toole

willow said...

Oh, it's always so much fun to find someone who knows of lovely Interlochen! My daughter spent the summer of 1999 there. She's now an opera singer.

I had a set of fabric name tags I sewed into each of my children's special clothes. I still enjoy seeing the leftover tags whenever I get my sewing box out to mend a button.

Lovely post.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Besides having a friend dear enough to knit you a sweater, the mended sleeve is the most charming part.

nan said...

Fabric name tags hold a certain charm that the scrawling of a name in permanent marker lacks. I have just sent my child to camp for the first time and your post has inspired me to stitch her some good old fashioned name tags. thank you.

Madgew said...

I can't believe you still have the sweater and that it is not moth eaten. My sister has three daughters and all their tags were dots. One dot for the oldest, 2 dots for the middle and 3 dots for the youngest so at least when they "borrowed"clothes they knew you it really belonged to. Most people used tags for camp around here or when it was handmade. Another walk through memory lane. I had boys and some of their clothes I wish they had lost-no tags for them.

Cristina said...

pleasantly nostalgic and sooo sweet.

Toad said...

I woke up this morning wondering where a special jacket was. I hadn't seen it in a while.

After reading today's missive, I have redoubled me efforts. The jacket does have a rightful owner, one who is missing it.

Darci said...

I've got leftover nametags (for camp, too!) in my sewing stash. Maybe I'll start putting them on the clothes I sew for myself. I like that little bit of nostalgia.

And I love your sweetly unmatched thread in the sleeve of your sweater. It's a moment, captured in each stitch.

SPLENDEROSA said...

Ohhhh, what lovely memories, Dominique. This has made me think about my highschool friends & how we still (to this day) think we are all exactly like we were then. Friendships that simply never end.
What a wonderful memory. It resonates to everyone who reads your post.

Väva! Veve! said...

Isn't your sweater just the absolute representation of Slow Love?! A good friend of yours spent hours knitting a gift for you! Your friend didn't just go out and buy you a sweater, she spent time and energy knitting each stitch, thinking of you with each row! How very special those kinds of gifts are! It is something I have tried to do all of my life, starting in high school, giving small and simple handmade gifts. I feel the gift has more meaning, more feeling, more value, if handmade, even if it doesn't have a fancy name-brand name tag!

Nancy A said...

I shared this with Jill. I'm sure she'll be delighted to read it. Knowing you both back in the day, it made me smile.
Enjoyed your book tremendously, and also enjoyed catching up with you briefly at one of your readings.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about your favorite wool sweater with charming photos on a 90 degree + day!! How bold you are, Dominque.. humorous and touching.

sandrajonas.com said...

How wonderful that you have kept this sweater all these years. You are certainly a worthy recipient of such a labor intensive gift.

Lindsay T said...

Oh, I love nametags and monograms and anything that says "this is mine." You can get great custom nametags on Etsy for pennies these days, fortunately. I put in my unique labels in anything I sew, whether it's just for me or for others.

Jill said...

Ohhhhh--You have touched my heart! I'm still knitting, and giving as much as possible away to whoever I think might appreciate it. Would you like me to fix that sleeve?
Jilly Bean

c said...

What a beautiful post!

I am especially touched by your closing sentence.

And to read Jill's comment? You have both made my week ... Thank you.

Richard Childs said...

Dominique in reading theory, meaning occurs at the interaction of the printed medium - the words, sentences, images, formatting, space... and the reader - her capabilities, knowledge, experiences, beliefs, values, feelings, state of mind...

Your tag speaks evocative volumes. The sweater medium, your tag and relationship with its creator continue to embrace your heart over your lifetime.

And through your sharing, mine in this moment in time.

Tamra said...

What a great name tag. Well worn and ragged around the edges shows it was well loved.

Sweet.

CK said...

I still have the dozen or so white bath towels my mother marked for me to take to college (she didn't believe in re-using towels, and so we had lots of smaller ones, instead of one big fluffy one). They have shrunk & dwindled over the 30+ years but I still use them in the kitchen.

virginia said...

and jill found you, i see!

Dominique said...

Jilly Bean! Hurrah! Thank you thank you again, for my wonderful sweater, and no, I think the mending should stand as is! Is your hair still long? and where are you? d

Christina said...

I love thrift store shopping/flea market hunting. I know some people are not comfortable about wearing other's discards, but it doesn't bother me (I always wash well). The other day however I was flipping through a pile of blouses at the secondhand store, and there was a pretty blouse with someone's name-tag embroidered into the neck. It somehow made me feel sad and slightly squeamish at the same time, in a way that I usually never feel at a thrift store. I left empty handed.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Dominique,

As for lovingly stitched sweaters, as for treasured tomes: I am happy to let my books wander into the hands of friends as long as my little nameplate reminds them of its final home.

"That name tag says, this belongs to someone, someone who cherishes it enough to stake a claim..."

Hear, hear!

And...may I add it was so lovely to meet you at Nancy Goslee Powers. I am currently in the middle of your book and don't ever want it to end.... in fact, my blog post today is about you.

Wishing you a wonderful slow weekend,

xx/lisa

Jill said...

It's not as long as it was, but still an integral part of any fabric I make.
I've been in NJ for about half my life now. I did try to contact you when you were at H&G, but never got through. Since I subscribed, I assumed you had MY address. Only kidding--I'm not really that naive. Anyway, email me at jwberns@aol.com.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

My father's wool paisly shirt hangs in my closet, although he's been gone since 1991. For some reason, I cannot part with it along with a cashmere sports coat he loved. Many times, I've considered taking these garments apart and making something out of them for family members, but nothing seems quite right to create. I thought perhaps a pillow for the sofa, or a runner for the autumn table. Maybe someday into a rug I will hook. Fabric is so tactile and it seems to almost "absorb" something of the person who wore it. A plastic surgeon who practices in our city knitted a lovely, lacy shawl from the fur of her beloved pets she had spun into yarn as a remembrance. My "lovey" blanket as a child was a mint green wool blanket. Perhaps that is the origin of my penchant for textiles!

austere said...

That your friend made it for you-- that's beautiful.

Someday I intend to learn how to knit. Someday.

Blighty said...

have just discovered your blog via Bloomsbury Life, and I love it, thank you!Bx

davd terry said...

Oh.....

My mother (who was raised in an orphanage)read the pamphlet (mimeographed during those 70's days) from Camp Mondamin and, gathering that all of my clothing had to have attached labels, spent a good, two evenings sewing-on the labels (I think she got them from the Lillian Vernon Catalogue...which was the Martha Stewart "Living" of East Tennessee during the Carter adminstration).

She sewed them all on the OUTSIDE of every collar.

I spent the first day-at-camp ripping them all off.

Still?...what else would you expect of a woman who spent her first thirteen years being referred to (at least, in every public document) by a number?

My older brother and I (we were both about twelve at the time) tried to tell her the label went ON THE INSIDE. Her response was "That doesn't make any sense....how can they read it, then?"

As though they couldn't look at the name of my father's cancelled, big-ass checks for camp-fees?....but that wasn't the sort of bourgeoise-logic to which my mother was accustomed.

Bemusedly yours as ever,

David Terry
www.davidterryart.com

Claudia Juestel said...

Very sweet. It is wonderful that you still have the sweater. There is nothing better than a gift made by someone just for you.

Cheers,

Claudia

Ren- Lady Of The Arts said...

Ahhh! This is a great post- really spoke to my memories and my past-
I have so many clothes that I have had since I was
Young Young- even have a sweater of my moms and a sweater of my aunts- I love them- and nothing makes me feel quite as special as seeing THEIR names stitched in to say 'this is special'!
Lovely to 'meet' you!

Karena said...

Wonderful, I will always think of this and why it tugs at me to give something up.

The best of friends are those where you can pick up right where you left off!

Karena Art by Karena

helen tilston said...

A beautiful classic sweater and so original in every respect. Your holding onto the sweater and treasuring it speaks of your kindness
Helen Tilston

Pattyann said...

This post and your reconnection to a long lost friend touched me so much....I love to be touched to tears. Thank you!

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