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I Am A Granddaughter

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.

Me and Grandma Currie

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.

Sierra Exif JPEG

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

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

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.

kissing Nanny She

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.

Comments 11

  1. I LOVED this post. So inspirational and touching. You have been blessed for certain. As a “grand” myself this gives me a goal. How I would love to have this type of impact on my many little ones. Thanks for sharing and including their pictures (makes them so real).

  2. How lucky you are to have had these wonderful women in your life. Sadly, my grandparents departed far too soon. I so enjoy your blog and upbeat tone even though I only sew sporadically — I am a “standard issue human” who can wear almost anyone’s clothes, but undertake projects occasionally just to maintain my very modest skill set.

  3. Lovely post Erin :)

    Both my grandmothers sewed, it is one of the reasons i love sewing to this day. Dad’s mom is 103 (!), but mom’s mom, my grandma Gigi, died when i was only three.

    Apparently i favor Gigi, not so much in looks but in the way i move, gestures, and sense of personal style. Many times over the years my mother has commented on how i wear something or the way i made some clothing myself reminds her so much of her mom. This is especially poignant since my mom was only 25 when grandma Gigi died. It’s a privilege to be able to participate in weaving the generations together…

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      Isn’t it fascinating that you have characteristics of your grandmother with barely having known her? How lovely for you and your mom that you can be a living reminder of an important person. And how amazing that your other grandmother is 103! I thought that my Nana, Grandma Smail, and Nanny She were all doing pretty good for having reached their 90’s!

  4. Great stories, you are lucky to have learned so much from these women. I regret that I only started garment sewing after my grandmother had passed away. I am pretty sure she knew her stuff and that I could have learned a thing or two from her. She did teach me cross stitching though and although that’s not something I do very often (ok, hardly ever) it is something that I think back on with fond memories. I own some of her old cross stitching books that used to belong to her mother and I cherish those. Recently I inherited her vintage hand-operated Pfaff and I am now mustering courage to try it out.

  5. You have a wonderful heritage! THANKS for sharing! Grandmothers are precious people! My maternal grandmother taught my Mom how to embroider and sew, and my Mom taught me! My paternal grandmother taught me the importance of daily habits of prayer & Bible reading; she paid for my piano lessons for years, and even gave me lessons for a couple of years! My paternal grandparents were wonderful Bible teachers and my pastors all my growing up years, and I knew that they were my biggest supporters & encouragers! They taught into their late eighties! I still have books that my grandmother gave me, some gifts (like my snow skis & water skis!) they gave me when I was teenager! I’m now a Grandmother of 2 precious boys: 10 & 7–they’re so much fun! When my youngest grandson was 5, he was watching me sew and asked if he could do that–sure! So I put him up on my lap, showed him how to guide the fabric under the needle, and along the seam guide–we sewed a long seam, and when it was finished, he hopped down, looked at me, and said, “I really wanted to drive!” (use the foot pedal!)

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  6. Fabulous stories Erin, you were so lucky to have known your great-grandmothers.

    I knew my Dad’s mother the best out of my grandmothers, because she lived near us and even when she retired she would still visit for 4-6 weeks once a year.

    Only this year I discovered something rather special about her. She had three boys and then a girl (Judy), who sadly died of leukemia when she was 17. I was named after my Aunt Judy and my grandmother referred to me always as “Little Judy” until she died (when I was 13). Even though I was born 13 years after my aunt died. I knew all the stories of “Big Judy”, things she did, what she was like as a child/young woman etc etc. As a kid hearing these stories I just assumed everyone in the family heard them. Not so. Going through some family memorabilia earlier this year, my mother remarked on how my grandmother (her MIL) had never spoken about Big Judy after she died. I was gobsmacked, I knew all the stories, my memory is of Grandma telling me lots and lots about Big Judy. On speaking to my uncle (one of her sons, my father died 23 years ago) and aunt, it would seem that I was the only one she shared all this with. They were surprised that my grandmother had spoken in such depth, as surprised as me finding out that no-one else heard these stories! Of course I now wish I had paid more attention…….

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  7. How lucky are you that you had so many wonderful grandmothers?! I only had two and my mothers mother was a giant influence on me. She sewed, crocheted and tried every other kind of needle craft as well. I miss her all the time!

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