Tag Archives: grandmother

a sewing legacy

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notions

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A few weeks ago, my aunt was working to clean out my grandmother’s sewing closet.  She called me to see if I would like her to send me the things she was getting rid of.  All the sewing notions and stuff that my grandmother had accumulated over her many years of fine sewing.  I said to send it on with my mother when she came to visit next (thanks! Sandy).
And so, last week my mother arrived and brought in (small) box after box filled with sewing tools, notions, and “stuff”.  I put the boxes on the porch and started sorting.  There were boxes of buttons, boxes of zippers and ribbons, boxes of needles (hand sewing and machine), boxes of hem and bias tape, snaps, hook and eye closures.  There were several boxes of metal bobbins with thread still in them.  There were things that I did not even know existed (like “perfect waist maker”).  There were 3 measuring tapes!

I did trash a few things like worn our elastic and some of the many, many rolls of hem tape (since I rarely use it).  I felt that most everything might be useful.  I found some real treasures, too.  I’ve been wanting to get a wing needle (which basically makes bigger holes in the fabric) to try hem stitching, and there was one!  And, lots of cotton and linen bias tape which is hard to find now.   Also, all those pins and needles!

I was a little overwhelmed with the amount of things and how to organize it all.  But, sweet Evva swooped in and took over the piles of notions I had put on the porch.  She somehow understood where things should go (zippers together, other closures together, buttons together, ribbons together, hem tape and bias tape together) and how to do it neatly.  When she had a question about something she would ask, but she even encouraged me to go off and make supper and do other work while she put everything back together.  I ended up with 5 neat little boxes (unfortunately, 2 of which broke almost immediately – they are functional, but will be replaced soon).  While she was putting everything away, I mentioned that I would never need to shop for supplies for sewing camp anymore.  Evva got excited about sewing camp and has been asking about it (so have some mothers of friends of our girls).  I was reluctant to do it this year, but maybe I’ll try to squeeze it in somehow.  After all, I do have all these great supplies to share!

I feel blessed to have inherited this trove of sewing supplies.  They make me think of my grandmother.  To wonder what her plans were for some of the things she had.  What did she make with that purple thread left on that bobbin?  Where did that silvery tennis racket ribbon come from?  What were her thoughts about how to use it?  And, how would she use some of those notions?  I would love to have a lesson from her about what to do with some of it.  I am mostly a self-taught sewer, so my techniques may not always be correct.  I wish I could get a short lesson from her every once in a while.  But, I am satisfied to have her “stuff”.

bread: part 1

One of my new favorite magazines is a quarterly called Taproot.  It is homestead-y, literary, artsy, sweet, and ad-free.  Each issue has a theme, and this winter’s theme was Bread.  It got me thinking about all of the breads that have been important to me throughout my life (so far).  My grandmother’s sourdough, corn bread, biscuits (a Southern staple), my mother-in-law’s bread, tortillas, and my own manifestations of bread as I feed my husband and growing children.  Bread is important and it can tell as story.   It can be difficult and surprisingly easy – to make, to understand.  And, it can be delicious!

The first homemade bread I remember was my grandmother’s sourdough bread.  She made two loaves at least once a week, every week, when I was young — and she had done so for many years.  That bread had a slight sourness, and a good kick of sweetness (I found out later was from a fair bit of sugar in the recipe).  The bread was absolutely delicious warm from the oven – even without butter.  I loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with that bread.  I loved the smell of that bread, and I loved seeing Mom-mom make the bread.  Her house would fill with it’s aroma when she was baking and that smell always made me feel at home and happy. I think she got her starter from a cousin in Oregon, and she told me once that she made the best bread of her life when her mother was dying of cancer.  She said she put all her anger, frustration, and sadness into the kneading of the dough, and would knead for long periods of time, working it all out.  That bread would come out wonderfully light.

Mom-mom gave me some of her starter when I was in college and I tried to make bread as a way to link me to some semblance of family life – probably I wanted that feeling that her bread gave me of being at home, loved, and happy.  It was hard moving to a city of over 100,000 people (and a dorm of a few hundred), when I’d come from a town of 15,000.  I wanted some security, to belong.  But, Mom-mom’s starter did not last long.  I could not keep it going with the erratic schedule of classes, breaks, and dorm living.  I also could not get quite the right result.  The taste was right, but the texture and rise were not.

Mom-mom never did give me any formal bread baking lessons, as she did for making cakes and cookies.  I guess I learned from just watching her work dough through on the counter and shape her loaves to rise – gently laying a wet towel over the bread while they rose.  I still use her techniques, even if I don’t use her recipe.

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knit projects

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My maternal grandmother knit, but sewing was really her talent.  Her mother (known as Nana), though, was a knitter.  It seems she was always knitting, annually turning out sweaters for all children and grandchildren.  I still have clothes hangers she knit covers on, and they are the best because they are thick, sturdy, and clothes do not slip off of them.   I have a small bin filled with little sweaters she knit for my mother and aunts, which my children have worn, and their children will wear.

I learned to knit when I was in college – from a friend of mine.  She taught me how to make hats and I never stopped.  They are such easy, quick projects.  I remember knitting with my grandmother during my freshman year spring break.  My grandmother seemed amused, but happy, that I was knitting.  And, she critiqued by technique – apparently I was a very slow knitter and if I did it the way she did, I would be faster.  I could not get my fingers to work like hers, so I went back to what I could do.  Over the years, I changed my way of knitting, or really of holding the yarn, to try to be more like what she did.  I don’t think I am there yet!

I put the craft of knitting aside for a few years when my babies seemed to grow faster than the sweaters I attempted to make for them.  But, occasionally I have made my children (and myself) hats to ward off the winter chill.  And, nearly every time I make a hat for one of them, it disappears within a few months, never to be seen again.  This has been discouraging, but I decided recently, that my job may be to make hats every year with the expectation that they will not be around by the end of winter.  Just enjoy making the hats, enjoy seeing them worn, keeping small heads warm –  just for a while.

So, I am getting back into knitting.  I’ve started on my first hat of the winter for Evva.  I also have skeins of yarn bought at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair set aside for Hythe and Anne.  So far, I love this merino combo yarn by the The Verdant Gryphon.  It is soft, not at all itchy (a bit concern for Evva), and really beautiful.  But, dang!  Good yarn is really expensive!

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I also, recently, finished a shawl for myself.  I have never had a shawl, feeling that it was too old-lady-like.  But, I really liked this pattern, got a bunch of nice yarn for very cheap and decided to try it.  I like it and I’ve even worn it once already.

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My other knitting project is a lap blanket for our couch.  Made from 16 skeins of linen/cotton blend, 12 of which I dyed with natural dyes.  I am only only on color 2 right now (6 skeins in), so I’ve a ways to go.

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So, for you knitters out there:  I would like to make a sweater for myself.  What nice, natural fiber yarns (brands, etc.) can I use that won’t cost a fortune?

found treasures

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I am in my hometown with our children for a few days of visiting during spring break. Today, I went to see my grandmother. I really enjoy visiting with her and I think she enjoys having a little of the chaos (and the sweet giggles and silly antics) of my young children around her for a little while.

Nearly each time I visit I discover something of the family or of my grandmothers’ creative history — a picture, a book, sewing patterns, a piece of china. I don’t get the stories about these objects from my grandparents anymore, but I still enjoy finding them.

Today, right on the coffee table, was a thin plastic spiral bound cookbook called “Home Cooking Secrets of Elizabeth City” by the Senior Woman’s Club. The first sentence of this gem of a book states:

“It is the desire of Elizabeth City Women’s Club that this book will be of great value to young brides, as well as providing new ideas for experienced homemakers.”

The cookbook is from the time when a nice salad was either tomato aspic or contained jello. It contains old advertisements for local businesses as well as many homey recipes. Likely the most useful part of the book is the last bit which covers kitchen miscellany from oven temperatures and baking time charts to weights and measurements to ingredient substitutions. There is also a kitchen prayer at the end.

I plan to make a copy of the book this weekend and bring the original back to Mom-mom. I will share any particularly good parts when I come across them.

Cheers!

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Mom-mom and Dado: Mom-mom

Patricia Pierson Reid, or Mom-mom, is my maternal grandmother. She grew up in Portland, Oregon during the Depression and had a few good stories she shared over the years of those hard times. Her father often did not have work, but they scraped by. She learned to cook from her mother and grandmother (her father’s mother) and she learned to sew from her father. He taught her how to use a sewing machine and make good seams and hems. I think he sewed from necessity and thought it was an important skill to learn. She learned and excelled, making clothes for herself, her children, and grandchildren, and sometimes selling doll clothes at craft shows. She made her wedding dress and her three daughters’ wedding dresses, not to mention countless party and prom dresses, winter coats, cloaks, and capes. She also taught me how to sew. I sewed clothes for my dolls under her skilled eyes.

I always thought of Mom-mom as a great cook. She could turn out a lot of good food and was especially known for baked goods — cookies, cakes, and bread. But, she would spoil my brother and I with Little Debbie cakes, frozen pizza, and Chef Boyardee on occasion. She taught me how to cook when I was quite young, telling me I needed to help my mother by being able to cook supper.

When I think of Mom-mom – who she was as I knew her – I think of her in her house, in the kitchen, providing food, cleaning, making snacks. She did not put up with a lot of nonsense, but she was always sweet to her grandchildren, teaching us, comforting us, quietly encouraging us, smiling at our antics or our accomplishments.

My brother and I, and sometimes our cousin, stayed with Mom-mom (and Dado, when he was not working at the farm)after school for many years while our parents worked, and for weeks in the summer. She was another “mother” to us, and I am grateful for the discipline, love, comfort, and support she provided.