Tuesday, January 24, 2012


On a previous post, Leah commented about her mother’s attitude toward her handwork. Leah subsequently sent me pictures which I’ve posted here together with her original comments.

“I think my mother enjoyed telling others how long it took her to do a certain piece (by hand). She did an huge owl embroidery for the wall 30 years ago as my Christmas gift. This work took a very long time, she reminded me, and also bragged that the design was done with one thread thickness. It was excellent work and I know made with love.

“When I moved to L.A., 30 years ago this month in fact, I had a HUGE disagreement with the moving company. They raised their original prices and I couldn't pay the bill. All my worldly goods (furniture, family photos, china, etc) sat in their warehouse for many weeks. It looked like I might lose it all. Finally after contacting a consumer advocate with a national TV show, the bad moving co. settled with me for the original price. Nothing strikes fear into a big business more than nationwide publicity for fleecing poor defenseless women. What did my mother say? She was afraid I'd lose the owl embroidery that she's just spent months working on. Not the family photos, all my furniture, anything else. Just her owl embroidery.”

I can certainly relate because as my mother got older, she also became more possessive of her work and particular about how it was used. She made each one of her children and grandchildren an afghan – except for Hallie, the youngest. Mother failed before making Hallie’s afghan so she received one that Mother had made for herself. But when Mother visited in my home, she would make comments about how the afghan she made me was treated. She didn’t want it to be used.

I began to think about that even before Mother left us. Those things that we use, we risk using up. They wear out or get broken or perhaps are lost in other ways. If we don’t use them, they have no meaning to us and are lost to us through dis-use.  And those things that we do for others through our pass-times – well, aren’t we motivated by our love of the activity as much as by the love of the recipient?

When I worked at the museum, we talked about preserving photos and documents in archival quality boxes, sleeves, etc. So, when I asked a local artist to frame Hallie's embroidery and requested an acid-free mat, she said, "It will last your lifetime and your daughter's. What more did you want?" Food for thought.
At a Christmas gathering last month, I was amused when the man next to me began to talk about all the stuff in storage since he moved -- stuff he doesn't miss. He mentioned in particular a box of afghans. "Can we get rid of those?" he asked his wife, to which she replied in the negative, recounting how they were made for her by special people. He went on to say that they keep their house at 70 year-round and he doesn't anticipate ever having a need for those afghans.

Well, I love afghans and I will keep making them, but it brings me up short when I visit consignment and thrift stores and see all those handmade afghans for sale.  KW


Hallie said...

Grandma didn't make the Holly Hobby afghan for me? It probably wouldn't have gotten nearly as much use as it did if she hadn't withheld my main blankey in an effort to get me to stop sucking my finger. I am probably traumatized by the betrayal of my own grandmother, but I'm sure I'm a more resilient adult as a result.

Kathy said...

Yes, Grandma did make the Holly Hobbie afghan, but she meant for you to have an afghan for your adult life. All of my children were keyed to their special blankets, and Grandma had her opinions about that.

Chris said...

Hmm, interesting theme here. I agree that we tend to make things for others that we enjoy making. And I'll have to ponder that thought.

I have made quite a few quilts for family members and they've been fairly simple ones that have been well used, which was what I said to do when I gave them. I'm thankful they did. I have heard horrible stories of people making quilts, etc., and finding out the recipient used them for the dog, however. Now *that* would be insulting.

Kathy said...

Hi Chris! My comments were not meant to dissuade. We need to practice those arts that make our hearts sing. At the same time, I want to make some things that I'm not sure anyone wants.

I've made afghans for the grandkids, and I always tell them to use it. I can make more.

Chris said...

Cameron and Keaton love the afghans you made them. I always see them out. :-)

Kathy said...

Chris -- Thanks for telling me. I often make afghans for kids instead of for babies. A "kid" afghan works up faster, the colors are fun, and it's useful longer.

Joanne said...

Yes, Dorothy did very fine work and made me two hand embroidered items which I treasure. One was a sampler which read, " The most beautiful things in the world are not seen or touched. They are felt with the heart." The other item was a pillow with pink and white roses which is still on the bed in our guest bedroom. It helps preserve the memories and the connection we enjoyed through the years. I also treasure an afghan and pillow cases with hand crocheted edgings my grandmother made for me when I was newly married. We still use them. Chuck keeps the house fairly cool, and I like to wrap up when watching TV. We also enjoy several afghans made by loved ones who have passed on. Hand crafted handiwork is unique and very much appreciated in our home.