Monday, June 19, 2006

Sewing Grandmas, Part 1

Actually, the roots of these ramblings are in The Sewing Divas call for thoughts on Ritual Cloth. I fully intended...deeply write about a crazy patchwork shirt that is in my possession that was made by my paternal grandmother in the mid 1970's...but, while said shirt fit me when she made it and for a goodly number of years thereafter, it has been quite some time since it buttoned decently and it has been relegated to sentimental storage. We've moved twice since I last knew exactly where it was, and though I hunted last week through the boxes I thought likely to contain it I failed to find it. So, no picture and no Ritual Cloth post.

But I did spend a lot of time thinking about my grandmothers and sewing. My Paternal Grandma, Grandma R. (1905 - 1986), was primarily a gardener. Sewing was something she did in the winter months when she couldn't be outside. She was a creative lady, but I'm not sure she really enjoyed was something her frugal nature required. I remember four garments that she made for me as I grew up.... The first I remember was a winter coat (red coating trimmed with brown velvet) and matching brown velvet drawstring purse. I was six; I didn't really note the origins of it but my mother told me years later that Grandma had cut that coat out of an adult coat that had worn or was no longer in style...I don't even know if the coat came from her closet, one of my aunt's closets or if it was something she found at a garage sale. The second thing I remember her making would've been a Sunday dress when I was about 12. The fabric was teal taffeta w/black flocking...again, recut from an adult's dress. The dress had a gathered skirt, short puffed sleeves, a Peter Pan collar and white lace trim. It also had a black velvet pull over vest that zipped up the side with two rhinestone hearts sewn on the upper left of the front. I wore it, my younger sister wore it...after that, I don't know what happened to it. When I was a teenager, Grandma began to enter her 'pieced fabric' phase and she made long gathered skirts for all her granddaughters. These skirts were simple in style; 'Maxi' length, cut straight and gathered to a waistband. It was the fabric that was unique...cotton print feed sacks. Honest. I don't know how long Grandma had saved them or where they originally came from, but she cut the fabric into 4 or 5 inch squares, pieced them all together and then sewed the skirts from the resulting yardage. During that same time frame she made the shirt that I can't find; again, she cut up scraps of cloth into squares or rectangles and sewed them onto backing fabric (which was likely old sheets), then cut the shirts from them. She made a number of these shirts for her grandkids; I think the one I have was actually intended for my sister and I to share, but since it fit me better I got it.

While she was still in piecing mode she discovered carpet remnants, and began to use her creativity to make rugs from the remnants. I don't know if she ever sewed garments after she started playing with rugs. She'd buy remnants cheap, chop them up and hot glue them together in her's a photo from the fall of 1977, my dorm room at the University of Evansville, actually, with the rug she gave me:
She won ribbons at the Indiana State Fair with her rugs in the late '70's, and I kept that one until the glue deteriorated and cracked and the rug came apart.

Perhaps Grandma R.'s influence is what makes me so determined to salvage wadders today... ;).
Tomorrow, Grandma H. and the curtain material...


  1. Lovely to see your Ritual Cloth musings here, Lisa. Thanks!

  2. Well, the topic did start the ol' memory lane wheels in my head turning, for which I thank the Sewing Divas. If/when I find the 'shirt in the box somewhere', I'll post a picture.