Monday, March 29, 2010

Embroidery and Life

I’ve been doing homey sorts of things lately. Actually, I’m a homey sort of gal. Although I like to see new things I like coming home and although housework is not my favorite sport it feels good to be doing Spring Cleaning. I’ve even been participating in the lost art of ironing.

Ironing is a four letter word as far as I’m concerned. Had I a place to leave the ironing board up I might be more inclined to do it oftener, but half the time I don’t even know where the board is because there’s nowhere convenient to keep it. But starting Saturday I hauled out my old wooden ironing board and have been ironing the curtains and dresser scarves we have washed as we clean up for Spring. Ironing gives me a chance to ruminate.

Another thing I like is hand embroidered linens. I inherited pillowcases that my mother had done for her Hope Chest—do girls still have such a thing? No, they just register a Bed, Bath and Beyond and instead of things made by their mothers, aunties or their own hands, they have things sewn in China (and don’t attempt to get things properly monogrammed—I did and Latin letters and the order they should be in are beyond their understanding over there). The linens my mother decorated seventy years ago have been worn out for some time. When I was a stay at home mom in the 1970s I embroidered myself, but never as well as my mother. Now I rely on others, scavenging thrift stores, bazaars’, crafters’ malls and senior centers. I love embroidered pillowcases, tea towels, and dresser scarves even though I didn’t do the work myself and don’t know who did.

I don’t mean to stereotype, but I do believe that in general women seem to be better equipped to make a pleasant home. I would not go back to the bad old days when women could not vote or work and I know that they still are not paid on a parity with men, but I think we’ve lost something having so many women out of the home and I eagerly await the time when I can afford to do more around the house on a daily basis instead of throwing all of my energy into tasks on the weekends only.

As I’ve been ironing linens that someone used their talent and time to decorate with flowers and birds and crochet edging for I wonder about the life of each woman who did the work—her likes and dislikes, her hopes and dreams. As they worked they embroidered their lives and that of their families. It is sad that their work was cared for so little by those around her that it was relegated to a thrift store, but good for me. I am in the process of paring down my pile of books because I know very well that my children will not care two straws about them regardless of how much I do, but the linens I intend to wash and iron and love until like me, they wear out.

9 comments:

Stephanie Frieze said...

I tried to upload an image and the platform is being disagreeable. Must be trolls.

Grandma L said...

Wow, your blog sure brought back memories for me. I have embroidered some in my early days, but I'm far too jittery to do that needle work now. I remember when everybody had scarves or doilies on all the furniture, even crocheted things to put on the back and arms of chairs. They were very pretty. Most women work now and don't have the time for it, but we had time on our hands and had to fill it with something. I am quite happy that ironing is becoming a lost art. I always hated it.

Stephanie Frieze said...

I think technology has a lot to do with people not practicing the more homey crafts. I never did learn to crochet properly. My grandmother and her mother did. I have a table cloth my greatgreandmother crochetted, but I can't use it because it's falling apart and can't be stretched on a quilt frame to dry anymore. I also have some tatting that my grandmother's cousin did. Real pretty pieces.

Jo said...

I love hand embroidered linen items. Tablecloths are a favorite of mine. When I married the first time, my mother gave me a handkerchief with 2 or 3 inches of lace crocheted all around it. When she married her mother and her mother-in-law both made her a handkerchief. She carried both down the isle. When we married, she gave one to my sister and one to me. Mine was made by her mother-in-law. It is one of my treasurers.

Jo said...

I love hand embroidered linen items. Tablecloths are a favorite of mine. When I married the first time, my mother gave me a handkerchief with 2 or 3 inches of lace crocheted all around it. When she married her mother and her mother-in-law both made her a handkerchief. She carried both down the isle. When we married, she gave one to my sister and one to me. Mine was made by her mother-in-law. It is one of my treasurers.

Irene said...

Interesting thoughts, Stephanie. I also inherited some hand-stitches items, most of which have worn out. I also have other home crafted items that are very precious to me. Isn't it ironic that despite all our modern "conveniences," we seem to have less time than ever?? Maybe the whole world should just sit down for a while and do some needlepoint!

Stephanie Frieze said...

Isn't that the irony, Irene, that the more conveniences we get the more we think we need to accomplish during the day until we run ourselves ragged. Moreover we start them out young. My granddaughter takes tap and ballet BOTH every Monday. Yikes.

Kim Thompson said...

I must share this story with you Stephanie. Right after my grandma died back in January, my mom was going through one her closets and this bag fell down from the very top shelf. It had my name on it. In it, was a patchwork quilt my grandma had sewn for me. The special part? She used the scraps from ALL the blouses, skirts, dresses, doll clothes, and pj's that she made for me when I was a girl! I had no idea this existed! She did one for my brother too. What a treasure!

Stephanie Frieze said...

What a precious gift, Kim! My grandmothers and great-grandmothers were all quilters and I have a few done by them. Of course back in the old days on the farms they used scraps from sewing projects and worn out clothing. My grandmother could tell me where each sort of fabric had come from. The quilts are treasurers for sure. They tell the story of our families.