Monday, 9 April 2012

The Winner of the Crinoline Ladies Patterns

I think there were a few people who just couldn't work out how to use the blog. I am sorry for that. But Linda, kept trying and trying and managed to leave several comments and emails. So I shall declare her the winner. Here are her stitching memories:
Oh where to start about my Momaw (grandmother) who taught me the love the needlework. My prized possessions were the pillow case that she embroidered for us and then did these beautiful crochet edges. They were too wonderful to even describe. And now I am sorry that we used them every day till they were threadbare. And how wonderful that my granddaughter Leigha (who is now almost seven and who was born 3 years after my Momaw passed away) was a girl who loved to be swaddled. And my daughter had the baby blankets made of flannel and crocheted around the edge that our Momaw had made for her long before Leigha was born. It touched my heart that these precious blankets that my Momaw had made were now wrapping my beautiful granddaughter. I just knew her love and wisdom was still passing thru the fabric and the thread and swaddling another generation of our family. Needlework passed down is a precious and unique gift and is very treasured in our family.

Monday, 2 April 2012

My Granny's Crinoline Ladies and a Giveaway Draw

When I was small I spent most days in my Granny's care. She was about 60 at the time and had begun to have problems with rheumatoid arthritis in her hands. She had been a hardworking midwife all her life - most of my friends - in fact most of the children in our neighbourhood had drawn their first breath because of my Granny's handslap on their newly born buttocks.
There wasn't much in the way of effective anti-inflammatories back then and so a teaspoon of brandy in a cup of tea helped see her through some of the pain. For the rest she was encouraged to use her hands more and so those hands that were more accustomed to using surgical needles and gut, started to embroider, slowly and not always precisely, anti-macassars, tea-cloths, doilies, table-cloths, tea-towels and heaven knows what else with crinoline ladies. They were such a real presence to me that I never questioned why they were not to be seen walking down the avenue on a Tuesday afternoon. I probably just wasn't paying close enough attention - as usual!
So, to encourage you in jotting down your stitching memories, I am offering this lovely vintage pattern transfer set for crinoline ladies. Although the cover is worn, the patterns have never been used and are pristine. Simply hit the flying angel and you'll be linked up to write a memory here and at the same time will be entered in the draw. The winner will be announced next Monday, 9th April.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Apron

My earliest and fondest memories involve textiles. Whether it was the times, the family, natural inclinations, or a combination of all three, textiles dominated the landscape of the childhood.

The rag box, the linen closet, and the ironing basket all have their stories, but my favorite textile memory is my apron. It was 1957. Rosie the Riveter and her jumpsuit had been banished in favor of June Cleaver vacuuming in her pumps and pearls. Every woman wore an apron over her house dress, and it was possibly the most useful garment ever made. Constructed of fabric leftover from a variety of sources with a pocket trimmed with rickrack, aprons were used not only to protect the house dress from housekeeping splatters, but to dry hands, wipe children, and, if you held the bottom two corners up, serve as a basket. I was 5 years old and like most 5 year old girls, I wanted to be like Mom.

My apron was under the Christmas tree. It was yellow cotton and had a pocket trimmed with orange rickrack. Along the bottom hem were little pockets where a set of 48 crayons had been inserted. I liked the crayons. I loved the apron. Santa had ostensibly brought it for me along with a Dale Evans cowgirl outfit, but I knew Grandma had made the apron. Mom tied it around my waist and I was on my way to adulthood. The apron become part of my everyday attire, usually tied over the Dale Evans cowgirl skirt. After washing my doll clothes in the old starch basin, I hung them out of to dry, pinning them on my little clothesline with clothespins that I had clipped along the hem of my apron. I had a real handkerchief that I kept in the pocket of the apron that I used to wipe to my brother's nose. Tomatoes from the garden and toys from the sandbox were brought into the house using the apron as a basket. In an otherwise well-photographed childhood, I've only found one picture of me wearing the apron. It was Christmas and I'm sitting on the floor, hair in pigtails, wearing the apron over a red plaid jumper. My brother, 3 years old, is in front of the Christmas tree. I have a watchful eye on him in case he might need dried or wiped.

As as I loved the apron, I grew, and the apron became too small. It made its way into the dress up dress box, which too has its own story. It lived in the dress up box for years and years and I would see it from time to time. Eventually, I lost interest in the dress up box and I don't know whatever happened to the apron.

This last paragraph was going to be a nostalgic, misty-eyed lament to the demise of the apron. As I type, I am wearing jeans and a t-shirt. But over my jeans and t-shirt I am wearing an old oversized denim shirt. All my adult life I have worn a similar shirt around the house. It has a pocket and protects me from housekeeping splatters. My shirt has dried hands, wiped children, and if I hold up the shirt tails, can serve as a basket. Maybe I'll sew a little rickrack on it.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Don't I Wish?

...that I had memories like organizing a sewing basket, or even watching as my grandmother's needle flashed in and out of the fabric.  She did beautiful embroidery, but I only know that because I have a little piece of the embroidery - I never met her.  My mother (having grown up in the depression) had imprinted on her heart the fact that waste was a sin, and surely, any tentative steps a child would make toward learning to sew (or cook) would necessarily make some waste... so no lessons at my mother's knee.  (Interestingly, she didn't mind teaching me to vacuum!  Those lessons didn't take.)

My first textile lessons were in my home economics class, which was mandatory for girls (as shop was for boys).  I was to make a plain cotton apron by sewing a waist-band with long ties left loose to a square of fabric.  I tried and tried, but I could not make that sewing machine bend to my will.  I cried so hard, the finished project was "spot shrunk" and couldn't be ironed flat!  What a mess.  I don't want to even think about the shape of the "square" I knitted, and I do have one mitten around here somewhere - the second never seemed to get done.

I do have a vague memory of embroidering a tea-towel with lazy-daisies - I think it must have been a school project, but that memory was very pleasant.  In fact, if you skip ahead a long while, through my career years, a marriage, a divorce and a second marriage - you'd have found me looking at a kit in a stitchery catalogue, thinking "I think I know how to do that"!  And I did!  How, I'm not sure - it couldn't be osmosis.  But somehow the memory was in my fingers and I had such a lovely time embroidering that crewel piece, that I ordered another - now where was that magazine?  

My first embroidery

Naturally, I didn't really read carefully, and the second piece was a counted cross stitch kit - which came with a blank piece of cloth!!!!  What was I supposed to do with this?  Well, when all else fails, read the instructions, I thought, and lo and behold - it was easy!  And fun!  I haven't looked back.

I'm still envious of those who remember making doll's clothes with their mothers, or embroidering pillow-cases with their grandmothers, but I got there eventually, and I couldn't be happier about that!

Julie Buck

Sunday, 25 March 2012


Welcome to Gathering Threads. As you can see this is very much a blank canvas - but as we go along, we shall embroider it richly with our memories. This is where we can start to unravel and share our stitching histories, to tell the stitching stories we learned from our grannies, aunties, mums, teachers - whoever. Think about your earliest stitching memory. Was it playing with bobbins of thread? Being allowed to tidy a sewing basket? Learning to thread an needle? What did it feel like - what did it mean to you? All you have to do is to click on the angel below to say you have an experience to add and then you can post your memories. We'll start to decorate the blog with your idea as we go along.