Back in the 1970’s, I found myself stranded in Salt Lake City with only a little bit of money and no place to stay. Up until then, I had been keeping myself afloat by embroidering shirts for people. I didn’t know anyone in Salt Lake City except my friend Sandy. I crashed at her apartment, until an opening came available in the building next door. It was a furnished basement apartment, which was good, since I had only a few boxes of belongings, a treadle sewing machine, my clothes, and a bicycle. I loved that bicycle. It was old with fat tires and a big basket up front. It was also my only mode of transportation.
Fortunately, It was springtime and a small Saturday craft/farmer’s market opened up 10 to 12 blocks from me. I signed up to be a vendor. I can’t remember if there was a cost, but it wasn’t much if there was. The market was outside and at one end of Trolley Square. Trolley Square in Salt Lake City is a big mall with wonderfully eclectic shops. It was still new in the seventies, renovated from the old trolley barns.
My skills at that time centered around fibers only. I sewed, embroidered, did macramé and crocheted. The hippie movement was still a pretty big deal, but it was hard to find clothing that reflected that time, especially in Utah. So clothing is what I made. I started by using the supplies I had. I remember making macraméd halter tops, skirts from old curtains, jean skirts, and embroidered men’s and women’s shirts all using recycled fabrics and yarns.
That was a glorious summer. I took Sunday’s off to plan and design new ideas. On Mondays, I jumped on my bicycle and made the rounds to the local thrift shops looking for men’s dress shirts to redo, men’s ties, afghans to take apart, curtains to use as fabric and old jeans. That night I would plan out the items I was going to make for the week and cut everything out. Tuesday through Friday, I’d sew, embroider, crochet and macramé. Friday night I would pack everything up for Saturday’s Market.
Early on Saturday, I’d pack by bicycle basket with nesting cardboard boxes and fabric to drape on them. I’d wear a backpack full of my clothing for the week and pedal over to Trolley Square. Once there, I’d arrange my boxes on the ground and drape them with Indian prints. Then I’d arrange that week’s clothing, sit on the ground next to my display and wait for customers. I didn’t sell a lot. I didn’t have a lot to sell. But it was always enough. In retrospect, I was probably an anomaly in conservative Utah and as such sold most of what I could make each week. That night I set aside what I needed for rent and food and calculated what I could spend on Monday when I made my weekly trip to the thrift shops.
I loved that summer. I was free. I was independent. I was earning my own way through my own labors. I dreamed of someday making it big as a clothing designer. As the fall weather turned cold and the market moved indoors, my summer came to an end. It was time to look for a job and work for ‘the man’. I held onto the glories of that summer over the years of jobs, college, and raising a family until I was again free to recreate that time as the person I’ve become throughout the years. Today, some forty odd years later, I am back to being a vendor, although with more creature comforts and security. I love it just as much today as I did then.