Fern was born in Mt. Shasta, California, within a family with deep roots in Northern California. Despite spending most of her early life in places like Redding, Grass Valley and Chico, she also visited family members living in the Bay Area each summer, as there were always a few members within each generation who migrated there. Fern vividly remembers the summer she was seven and visiting an aunt living in San Francisco. She was so drawn to the city that she vowed she would someday come back there to live. So it wasn’t surprising that she only applied to two colleges, both in the Bay Area, ultimately choosing the University of California at Berkeley.
Considering her lifelong love of listening to family stories, it also was not surprising that her favorite class at UC Berkeley was a Folklore course taught by Alan Dundes. The final assignment included interviewing and recording folklore and oral history. Fern mined her own family’s stories, including an interview with her maternal grandfather and submitting a favorite folktale written out by her maternal grandmother before she died.
Besides growing up surrounded by stories, Fern has spent her life surrounded by sewing, textiles and quilts. She was fascinated with glimpses of her grandmother’s sewing room as a very young child- she was never allowed to enter – packed to the ceiling with boxes of fabric, patterns, lace and buttons. This same grandmother bought her and her sisters a treadle sewing machine for $12.50 (!) when she was ten and she has been sewing ever since. Besides the enjoyment of sewing, she also found it brought in extra money while in college, sewing wedding dresses and maternity clothes for friends. As a mother she started her own children’s costume company, Ferndawdle, as a way to earn money while still staying at home with her children. She sold her costumes at local fairs such as the Live Oak Park fair, KPFA and the Solano Stroll.
However, she did not begin quilting until 1995 when she was asked to make a quilt to raffle for her children’s preschool. That was the beginning of her quilting/community connection, interwoven with Catherine’s at John Muir Elementary School and as members of the Persian Pickles Quilt Group. Quilting has provided her with a community, a creative outlet and a profession that has allowed her the flexibility of continuing to be available for her family. Her love of history has worked its way into her quilting, especially after she inherited her great grandmother’s Bethlehem Star Quilt.
She finds herself drawn to old quilt blocks, tops and quilts. She finds it quite satisfying to complete vintage tops or blocks and often wonders about the women who made them and tries to imagine their lives or stories.