Friday, January 24, 2014



I so love to look at the beautiful things created by other bloggers---I have not the slightest talent with needle or crafts.  I just didn't get any gift with handwork, though my mother and one grandmother turned out exquisite crocheted pieces and I still have beautiful sets of embroidered pillow-cases and dresser scarves. I loved the IDEA of sitting with needlework, and would thread up and sit with my hoop of Sunbonnet Sue, imagining myself an Austen character, feet together on the tiny footstool and my imagination supplying me with a dainty bit of cambric and a spill of silken skeins down my skirt.


Perching there in tatty shorts and shirt, trying to balance hoop and yarn and snarly floss, lost a lot in the translation from that genteel young woman in the long skirt and slipper chair, her perfect posture and immaculately white hands threading and stitching as she chatted by the fire.   That ingenious little goldish needle-threader and tiny swan scissors had a constant way of slipping through sweaty fingers and grubby knees into my chair or the floor, and:


“While you’re up, how about put on a pot of coffee?”


“Check on that roast real quick, would you?”


 “You want to get us a glass of tea while you’re in there?”  


  “You think those clothes on the line might be dry now?”

“You know, we haven’t had one of your pound cakes this week."

All perfectly understood and carried out, down to the folding and putting away, and the getting out of the big old Sunbeam and the sugar and flour.   But I was the Kitchen Person, all my days. It was just my PLACE---not in the realm of “I know my place,” but in the confidence and security of my way with a cake or a casserole, or the simple act of peeling fruit or strewing sugar on a crust.  It was comfortable in there, just me and all the shining copper, the measuring cups nested and the spoons cuddled in the drawer with their knack of making  things come out about the same every time. 

And in between cake and laundry and getting supper on, there were a few errands to run, as well.
Sure, I can run up to Mayo's for another skein of that floss---just let me take the wrapper to be sure.

I've ridden my bike up and over the railroad and down to the dry goods stores, with a tiny paper wrapper on three or five or all my fingers like little dressing-stalls as I rode, picking up yarn, bringing  back Pall Malls and a tiny silver can of Garrett, stopping to drop off a completed set of coasters or Coke-panties at Mrs. Carpenter's house for bridge that afternoon, the little folded tissue packet still giving off the crisp-ironed scent of Faultless in the sun.
But Mother and Mammaw J---they were hearty-raised Southern women, in fresh cotton housedresses, their hair neatly pinned, Mammaw’s stockings garter-rolled just below her knees, and a little wisp of Avon Cotillion in the air, barely noticed beneath the scent of a bubbling pot of peas or pintos from the kitchen.


Mammaw J crocheted every day that I knew her---she’d go up to Leon’s Drugstore now and then, get out a crochet magazine from the rack, and take a good look at the doilies and tablecloths pictured in black and white.  She never read the directions---she may not have known exactly what they meant, but she could take in every stitch in those pictures, from number to kind, and turn out perfect images of what she’d seen.   It was one of those magical things to me, like Rainman counting the toothpicks in a glance, but it was also the way I saw and captured words, or how I knew what time it was, so I just accepted her gift as a given.


And one of the things I remember most vividly from my Mother’s last days in the hospital was a golden/orange/tan aura around her bed, as her busy hands crocheted one of those big zig-zag afghans.  It grew day-by-day, slowly covering all her bed as the stitches flew, and I remember that later, at home, my clumsy hands managed to tie it off right-where-it-was when she last put it down. 




harleygirl said...

It's funny--I used to say I couldn't sew or knit or do anything at all crafty! And I couldn't cook, either! But somehow...I am doing it. ha, ha. I learned to cook when our first baby was born. And I took up sewing and knitting last year. I've always been a gardener, though, and will never give that up.

It is fun, though, to look at things from the past made by such crafty women. Neither of my grandmothers did much of anything like that, but my mom does. She's a great seamstress. I am the only one I know that knits, so I'm thankful for the internet when I get stuck! And you's never too late to learn! :)

Linda @ Friendship Tea said...

I just loved seeing the photo of your mother's afghan. I could show you several of the same pattern made by my Aunt Mary and my mother late in their lives. What a fabulous heirloom keepsake for you. Thank you for this post.

Chesapeake said...


Thank you.

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Rachel,

I adore crochets and quilts. They seem like a lost art to me. Sunbonnet Sue quilts, don't they remind you of characters from "Little House on the Prairie", (especially the antique ones that are made out of leftover flour sacks), I once saw at a craft fair a few years ago, are just beautiful. I collect quilts and crochet blankets because first of all, I live in a very cold place and secondly, they remind me of a gentler time when people put a lot of care, thought and time in their craft. People don't make like them anymore. I'm spellbound by the story you wrote about your mother and Mammaw J who remembered how to follow every crochet pattern without reading instructions in the book (genius woman indeed)!

Zig-zag crochet throw you have is just beautiful. It must be very warm and cosy for your cold winter days. They are very collectable (thanks to Missoni design label) if they are hand-made like the one you have. Imagine how much time and effort went into making this throw.

Thank you so much for your comment you left earlier. It's the most heartfelt. I really appreciate for taking time to read my post and leaving me thoughtful comments.

Best wishes, ASD

Kathy said...

I too have a family of knitters, crocheters, and quilters. My sister, like your grandmother, can look at any pattern and duplicate it. What a talent! I learned to crochet when I was 6 and knit when I was 7 from my great-grandmother. I have a tablecloth hand crocheted by my grandmother out of thread so fine it's almost like sewing thread. Although my mom could crochet, knit and tat, she chose quilting and was wonderful at it. I have four of her quilts and numerous other things she made.

It is a real talent and I'm glad I am able to do it.

The throw your mom made is so special. I'm so glad you have it. Things made by our parents are treasures.

Angela McRae said...

What beautiful, beautiful memories! I found you via my friend Linda at Friendship Tea, and I JUST got through creating a Valentine's vignette using a giant doily type of table topper my own grandmother crocheted. I love it when people truly treasure the handmade things passed down in a family. Thanks for the great post!

Kim S. said...

Oh, Rachel! You have described me exactly! I SO wanted to be a lady who stitched. And I was so NOT! I have a new friend who does EVERYTHING including tatting lace, for goodness sake! I live in fear that she will insist on trying to teach me!

Marilyn said...

I made this exact afghan for my mother a few years before she died. Oh memories are precious!