I would not be who I am today without the love and influence of many inspiring, strong, supportive grandmothers. They may not be in my life any more, but they are always in my heart and often in my thoughts.
When, as a young teenager, I decided I wanted to learn to sew myself, I went to visit my dad’s mother. G’ma was a formidable seamstress, having sewn all of her own clothes most of her life. In fact, “formidable” was quite an apt description of my grandmother. She was a 6-foot tall woman with a personality to match. She excelled at all she did (including growing her fruit garden, knitting stunning sweaters, canning preserves, making stained glass windows) and she didn’t take gruff from anyone. Growing up in the 1940’s, purchasing clothing off the rack simply wasn’t an option given her height, so she learned to sew. Together, we sewed a pair of navy blue linen sailor-style pants. She taught me how to fit the crotch curve and lengthen the inseam. She didn’t agree with my sartorial choice of red buttons, and she made sure to let me know, but she proudly taught me to sew the perfect buttonholes for those offensive red buttons.
My Nana (my mom’s dad’s mom) had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. She was constantly learning new things – from reading books about the pioneer days of the American west to talking to strangers so that she could learn about their lives. She shared with me her enthusiasm for learning and questioning. Nana also had a limitless capacity for offering love and support. At her funeral I was shocked to realize that I was one of almost 30 great-grandchildren – she was always there for me and any other family member or friend that might need her and I had never stopped to consider how many people she offered such support to. She had a fabric store in the 70’s that specialized in stretch-and-sew and, you guessed it, polyester. I was given several giant garbage bags full of the polyester that remained in my Aunt’s garage and I cut a bunch of my sewing chops on that fabric.
Grandma Smail (my mom’s mom’s mom) was the most stubborn woman that I have ever met and every single story shared at her memorial service was about how stubborn she was. And I am so very proud to recognize that she gave her stubbornness to my mom who gave it to me for stubbornness is a survival trait and it got my Grandma through many heartbreaks in her life. Grandma was quite the looker, quite the dresser, and quite the seamstress, knitter, and crocheter. She was very proud of her appearance and taught me to have pride in my own appearance – for it doesn’t matter what shape your body is as long as you carry that shape with pride. She made beautiful clothes for her whole family and I am so lucky to have inherited baby clothes (that were worn by me, my mom, and her mom), a suit that she crocheted, and an aran style sweater that she knit for her husband.
Nanna Joan (my stepdad’s mom) treated me like her own granddaughter from the moment that my mom married my stepdad and for that I am very grateful. Her immediate love and acceptance are inspiring. She was a knitter and my memories of past Christmases are of times when my stepsister, Nanna Joan, and I would sit on the couch, drink tea, and knit together (as my stepsister is a phenomenal knitter as well). And yes, there had to be cups of tea involved because Nanna Joan was British and required a good cuppa. She loved to tell us the British way of doing things as we chatted and I will always remember from her that yarn is “wool” regardless of its fiber content.
Nanny Sheila (Adam’s mom’s mom) told everyone that she knew I was the one for her darling Adam as soon as we met and part of that was because I was knitting. Nanny was an avid maker-of-things and made jewelry and crocheted accessories for every person in her life. She was a great source of inspiration for never being too old to learn new things as she started painting in her 80’s and started making jewelry in her 90’s! I inherited her sewing tin and shared some of her stories along with pictures of the tin and its contents.
Have you had grandmothers in your life? Did they influence you and your sewing?
Each week this year I’m going to reflect on an aspect of myself and how it affects me as a sewist, crafter, or blogger. It may get deep, it may get emotional, it may get totally silly. It may be something I’m proud of, it may be something I cringe at, it may be something I aspire to. I may say a lot, I may say a little, I may ask questions, I may not answer them. I don’t quite know where the project will take me, but I’m excited about the journey. I’d be honored to have you join me on this journey. Chime in any time this year in my blog comments, on Twitter, Instagram, or your own blog. Join me in my theme for the week or make up your own.