Berkshire Made | Mommy's Meltdown: Made by hand, with love
Cossin's blankets fulfill artistic passion, support families
PERU — On one side, white llamas are set against a violet background, their feet pink, green, orange, light blue. On the other, the hues reappear in helixlike combinations threading through a pale expanse, the color contrast reversed.
"This matching of colors is this really therapeutic thing for me," Jessica Cossin said of the blankets she makes in her Peru home.
To create them, Cossin spends hours picking through fabrics at Joann Fabric and Craft Store in Pittsfield and scrolling through online offerings, usually opting for flannels. She measures, cuts and sews her one-yard-by-one-yard creations at the South Road abode she shares with her husband, Joe, and their three children: 10-year-old Chase, 6-year-old Aria and 11-month-old Scarlett. It was their youngest's impending birth that prompted Cossin to approach her long-neglected sewing machine and start making blankets, a fixture in the assortment of baby products and jewelry she sells on her Mommy's Meltdown Facebook page and at crafts fairs. Scarlett, who has Down syndrome, also inspired another aspect of the business. For every blanket Cossin sells, she donates one to a neonatal intensive care unit or an area family enduring a difficult medical situation.
"If I can make somebody smile for one day, it makes me feel so good," Cossin said.
Word-of-mouth has helped the Hinsdale-raised Cossin find new customers for her $25 blankets that display pineapples, sloths, butterflies, doughnuts and other child-appropriate fare.
"I try to ask, 'Do you like this color? Do you like this animal? What do you like?' for the kid, and then I go and pick it out," Cossin said.
That applies to her own children, too. Aria's affinity for llamas motivated some choices. Chase's interest in London guided another.
"I made him one with the double-decker buses, and he loves it. It's one of his favorite quilts," Cossin said.
Chase, Aria and Scarlett keep Cossin plenty busy, but their mother is somebody who can get bored easily.
"I need something to do, a creative outlet," Cossin said.
Growing up in Hinsdale, she was very interested in art, especially during her time at Wahconah Regional High School.
"I started out wanting to go to art school for college, but it just never happened. I got into all the art schools I applied for, but financial things just weren't there," Cossin said.
She took classes at Springfield College before moving to Worcester, where she met her husband. She subsequently worked at Crane & Co. in multiple roles before settling into a life that has remained artistic.
"I always do creative things with my kids," Cossin said. "I just try to do something every day that's creative. It's never left me."
Her products represent "everything I kind of see on Etsy, and I go, 'Damn, that's way too expensive to buy. I can do that for way less,'" Cossin said.
Initially, she focused on beading before taking up sewing again.
"I had gotten a machine for my birthday one year, and even though I knew how to sew before that, it just terrified me," Cossin said.
Cutting particularly scared her; she was worried about ruining a great piece of fabric.
"Finally, one day, I went into Joann's and bought some flannel or something I saw," Cossin recalled, "and I'm like, 'OK, if I just do a square, it can't be that difficult.' And it turned into a really great blanket."
Now, fabric is piled high in the area between the Cossins' kitchen and living room. Though she primarily works with flannels, she'll use the lighter gauze pieces for the summer months. Her blankets also demonstrate fabrics' multiple uses. One of her favorites features a red heart-filled towel she found on clearance and later cut in half.
"I measure like six times and then cut," Cossin said of her process.
She prefers to work in the morning, but Scarlett's sleeping schedule is now the ultimate determinant.
"Whenever she's napping, I've really got to take advantage of it," Cossin said.
Scarlett's late October birth served as inspiration for perhaps Cossin's most surprising work, an elaborate skull-filled blanket.
"I became a little bit obsessed with the Day of the Dead," Cossin explained.
Burp cloths resemble the blankets in their intricacy. More importantly, they're long.
"They'll fit all the way over [your shoulder], and they're super absorbant," Cossin said, noting her expertise as "a mom that's been vomited on."
Many of Cossin's customers have expressed their gratitude for her creations, but that doesn't mean everybody has supported Cossin in her Mommy's Meltdown endeavor.
"I feel like you have to believe in yourself or no one else will," she said. "There's a lot of times when I've been told, 'Why do you even bother?' Or, 'Oh, you're doing that again?' I've had a lot of craft fairs where I haven't sold anything."
Still, she has continued to seek and fulfill orders during "a hard couple years."
"[You] just have to keep doing whatever creative thing you're doing because if you don't, then you're just going to go nuts," she said. "It's therapy."
For more information about what Jessica Cossin sells and makes, visit her Facebook page www.facebook.com/MommysMeltdown.
Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.
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