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Grandparents Sharing The Legacy of Sewing

By Paul Taylor

From as far back as I can remember sewing has been a part of my life. I was blessed with a great grandmother who was a marvelous seamstress. She sewed from her youth and spent many years working making overalls at the Burlington factory. She also made just about everything she wore and all of the blankets and quilts. She was alive until I was twelve and had such a great impact on my life. It was not just the sewing of course but it was a big part of who she was and what I remember about her. https://www.grandmagazine.com/2013/11/the-magic-of-grandmas-sewing-box/

My mom would take us over to her house a couple of times a week when we were growing up. Sometimes when I would have one of my dolls with me she would take me over to the old pump sewing machine and pull out some of the pretty scraps of material she always had. She would take one look at my doll and sit down and literally whip up a dress for her and it always fit perfectly. I would look on with awe and always wondered how she did it.

I remember being amazed by her quilting as well. It seemed like it was such a huge undertaking to me when I was small. I am sure to my great-grandma it was nothing but I was always very impressed by anything she had sewn. I am very sure she had no idea what an impression she was making on me as a small child. I am so blessed to have had a great-grandma like her.

Of course my great-grandma passed along the love of sewing to my grandma as well. She made quilts and sewed on the machine as well but what impressed me was her crocheting, knitting, and cross stitching. She would be sitting there talking to me and all the time her hands would be moving making an afghan or throw or something she was putting together as a gift for someone. When my daughter was born she cross stitched several blocks for a quilt she was putting together and had each member of the family do one (even if they were not real good at it) with an adorable little bear pattern. Then she put it all together and quilted it and did the same with a pillow case and sheet. What a marvelous gift for my little girl. She is twenty-eight today and cherishes her great- grandma’s bedding and is keeping it for her girl. What a wonderful gift to leave a grandchild.

This great talent was not totally passed on to my mother or myself but we gave it our best shot. My dad wanted to make sure I could sew and cook so I ended up taking four years of home economics in high school. I am not even sure they still have home economics in schools today and if they do I am sure it is called something else entirely. I was able to get my sewing projects done over the years but never to the extent that great-grandma and grandma could.

Mom was wonderful about mending all of our clothes and she made sure I could mend anything and take care of hems on my own. We did not sew our own clothes but we always made dresses for special occasions like dances, proms, etc. Sometimes I would find a pattern that I particularly liked and Mom and I would work on it together. I still have one of the dresses we made from when I was just starting high school. I have all the pictures of my dresses from the dances, beauty pageants, and my Senior Prom that Mom and I made together as well. What special memories these bring and what love was put into these dresses.

When I was around thirteen or fourteen there was an elderly woman that lived across the street from us by the name of Ms. Fink. She was lonely and she sewed a lot so she would call over and ask Mom if I could come over and thread her needles for her because she was not able to see as well as she used to. I actually liked going over there to visit but I would tell Mom on the way out, “If I am not back after two hours please call and tell me to come home!” Ms. Fink would teach me different stitches and always told me not to sew like a bachelor! She would say this when she would see me mending something with a doubled thread. I sometimes sewed on my buttons or mend that way because I thought it would hold better but she would have none of that! She also told me the best stories from her past and we would share hot tea and look at pictures through a stereoscope type of device from the early 1900’s. In the winter when I would come over my feet would be so cold and she would sit me down and have me put my feet on the floor heating vent to warm up. She also taught me how to make rice pudding, which she would make every time I came over and send some home with me. I will never forget the smell of rice pudding, the hot tea, the stories, and the warm vent. I will also never forget not to sew like a bachelor!

When I got out on my own, married, and had my first little girl I wanted to pass down a love for sewing to her as well. I started making her costumes every year for Halloween and sewing her up a little Santa suit for Christmas when she was around two years old. As she got older and was deciding on her costume each year it got to be more and more of a challenge! She had quite an imagination and put in some pretty tall orders sometimes. When she was small she loved Superman so we made a Superman costume, then it was Fievel Mousekewitz from an American Tail, of course there was a Cinderella princess in there somewhere too, but one year it was a bat and those wings were quite the challenge! I enjoyed every minute of it, even the year that she went as the biker chick.

I have tried my hand at knitting and cross stitching as well. The cross stitching is one of my favorites because for some reason I find it soothing. I do not quite have it down to the art form that grandma did but I give it my best shot. There are so many different ways to sew and create and it is such a blessing when it is passed down through the family tree as it was in my family. It seems like it gets harder with every generation to keep passing down the ability to make things by hand but it is a gift that your children will cherish as they grow older themselves. I have noticed this with cooking as well, the ability to bake from scratch and cook good wholesome meals at home is dwindling because of the hustle and bustle of our lives today. Technology has a big part in the dwindling of homemade items today since clothing can be churned out so quickly and reasonably compared to yesteryear. The quality of these products many times suffers and a tradition is lost because we are so often in a rush.

As you have read, I have so many blessed memories from my childhood that involve sewing. There was a deep bond that was formed in my life with my great-grandma, grandma, mother, and Ms. Fink (as well as several home economics teachers) that I will carry with me forever. The memories make me smile and they are something that are solid and that I can always depend on to make me feel strong and complete somehow. This is something that we need to pass on to our own children because this is something that will last.


Couple lying down with daughterPaul Taylor started www.babysittingjobs.com which offers an aggregated look at those sites to help families find sitters and to help sitters find families easier than ever. He loves writing, with the help of his wife. He has contributed quality articles for different blogs & websites.



Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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