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I spent the day today with my mother at the nursing home. I worked on my crazy quilting embroidery while she worked on her jig saw puzzle. We get together on Sundays almost every week in this fashion. Although she does not share my interest in pushing needle through fabric she does seem to appreciate the work and beauty of it all. Mom is also good with color selections. Alzheimer's has not yet robbed her of the ability to remember when her own mother knit and crocheted for the family. But, she does not remember my grandmother teaching me to do embroidery. This saddens me because my mother had some beautiful linens in her home that my grandmother had embroidered. I would want to remember them and the love in every stitch.
I remember the time my grandmother taught me how to do chicken scratch on gingham checks so I could make an apron and a pillow for the 7th grade home economics display. Boy, did I ever enjoy that, just saying the name was funny to me! That was when she decided to teach me several of what she termed the "farmer's stitches" - turkey stitch, feather stitch (because of the chicken jokes I told) and fly stitch. She never missed an opportunity to expand my repetoire by telling me that certain stitches were connected to certain happenings in our lives. Blanket stitch was taught to me when my aunt was having a new baby and needed a receiving blanket. I learned satin stitch and padded satin stitch making the eyes and nose on a small stuffed animal for that same baby. Yes, I remember sitting on the foot stool, pulled up to the side of her rocker. I would be concentrating on the work in my hand, she would look over my shoulder and watch me struggle with the stitches. Then she would take the cloth from my hands, softly repeat what I SHOULD BE DOING, show me again, and hand it back to me. I did a lot of frog stitching (Rip IT - Rip It) but she never said it was awful, just that she knew I had it in me to do better next time. I hope she is watching me today and approves of the work I am doing.
I remember how she let the girls in my girl scout troop come over to her house and set up a room sized quilting frame in her living room. She then taught us to secure the multicolored quilt, made from alternating light and dark 3" squares of dress cottons, to the frame. Then she allowed us to crawl over and under the quilt while learning to tie the quilt in every 4th corner of the blocks. Afterwards we had sugar cookies decorated like thimbles and thread spools with large glasses of milk.
Grandma never made fancy quilts, hers were made to be used daily. She would spend the spring evenings cutting up old dresses, shirts, and linens given to her by my 6 aunts and friends. Then, in the late summer she would set the two bags of 3" squares of fabric (one dark and one light colored)by the side of her rocker and begin to hand piece them together. She would grab a light piece out of one bag, a dark piece out of the other and stitch them together, and so on. She told me once she timed it this way so that the quilts would warm her own lap in the late fall, when it was colder, while she pieced them. I remember her asking each aunt how many quilts were needed that winter. Somehow they each got just what they needed at Christmas. She didn't use quilt batting, just soft flannel sheets. Most of the times just 1 flannel sheet, but for my aunt and uncle in Nebraska she always put in 2 flannel sheets. Then she backed them with a soft but sturdy cotton that she had pieced from 2 long pieces of fabric. They were always tied, never quilted with a fancy feather or diamond pattern. She didn't have time for that. In between all this she crocheted or knit a baby quilt for each of her 27 greatgrandchildren, crocheted and/or tatted pillow case and doiley edgings for pieces she had embroidered. She taught me and any of my other 19 cousins who were interested how to sew, crochet, tat and embroider. It was during these lessons that she passed on her little "Gramomilies". One of my favorites is Do Your Best, Leave The Rest, Angels Do No More.