Saturday, April 16, 2005

Today's Musings

While reading Lake Stitcher I thought I'd borrow her topic, My Stitching History. While I'm 100% sure I've touched on this subject in past on the blog I owe my love of all kinds of handwork to quite a few women.

Way back when, when Little House on the Prairie books were my daily entertainment, before the TV show, I wanted to learn to knit and crochet like Laura and Mary. One of my dad's cousins lived down the street and she always had a knitting or crochet project going, as I got older I was also the very happy recipient of her Harlequin romance novels that she faithfully purchased every month. Doris was always a mystery to me. She worked with my mom but she spent her time away from work crocheting and knitting and my mom spent her time cleaning or going on and on about how much housework she had to do and smoking lots of cigarettes. Doris smoked too and still had time to crochet or knit. So when I decide I want to channel Laura Ingalls, I walked down to Doris' house and asked her if she would teach me to crochet and knit. She very happily provides me and my bestfriend Linette with hooks, needles and yarn. We spend hours sitting on the steps leading up to Linette's apartment knitting very long endless rectangles. That was as far as we got with our knitting. Crochet, ah, the wonder of the granny square and the ripple stitch. We crocheted a mile high stack of multi colored granny squares and crocheted our way into ripple ecstasy using all of the yarn Doris would give us. Of course this phase of my needlework life lasted a summer and then school started and I got my Little House on the Prairie fix by watching TV but only after reading each book 10 times.

The next stage was my aunt's mother. My aunt married my dad's brother which is how she became my aunt. Her mother was amazing. She sewed, she knit, she crocheted and she reintroduced knitting and crocheting to me a few years after my cousin taught me. This was probably 6th or 7th grade. We crocheted several vests and funky hats. It was fun and creative.

My aunt begged me to let her teach me how to sew. She taught clothing and textile services at a local vo-tech school. I refused. I was going to be a Cosmo girl. Wear haute couture. There was not one good reason for me to learn to sew. But I embraced the crocheting. Knitting, well purling was and still is my albatross, but I loved to crochet.

At this time I was also cross stitching a lot. My grandmother used to keep me stocked up on latchhook rug kits, plenty of squares of fabric to handsew together to help her with her quilts-not tradtional 100% cotton quilts, scraps of polyester cut in 5 inch squares that we sewed in strips, then sewed together and viola, a quilt, and one day while in Woolworth's I found my first cross stitch kit. I'm not sure how old I was, probably 4th grade. My grandmother knew nothing about counted cross stitch but my neighbor did. She was a friend of my mom's and I took my little kit over to her house and she helped me get started. I finished the little rose in about a day. My grandmother always had some kind of handwork project going but it was embrodiery. The iron on designs that one then stitches over. Doralyn on the other hand stitched gorgeous cross stitch models for the LNS. She loved reproduction samplers and Paula Vaughn designs. This stitching connection made me fall in love with the history of the women creating these samplers. I couldn't believe 5 yr old and 6 yr old girls stitched these gorgeous samplers. At this time I was a one project at a time girl and would stitch something, finish it and then start something else. Like most girls at that age, school and a social life were the most important things and stitching got placed on the backburner for a while.

Then my best friend's mom started stitching. She got into crewel and counted cross stitch. She did the neatest stuff. Different than my neighbor. She also made things for my best friend. I thought that was so cool. So because of her I became addicted to cross stitch again and other than a three year break when I just couldn't make myself pick up a needle I've been addicted to cross stitching for the past 20 years. Of course I knew one could create art with cross stitch because my neighbor stitched Paula Vaughn designs but I didn't realize at the time how varied the designs were in cross stitch until my best friend's mom took me to the Needlework Shoppe. It was here that I discovered that there was more to cross stitch than what was in the aisle at Woolworth's. This was back in the 80s now the cross stitch market is overflowing with designs for every taste. I tried to get all my girlfriends cross stitching and while they stitched for a brief period it just never hooked them. They all think I'm nuts. After all these years I still find time to stitch. Stitching is like breathing. I have to have a project going. It will always be my first love. Crochet is a very close second. It's a different kind of creativity. It's also, for what it's worth, much more practical than cross stitch. My aunt that begged to teach me to sew never understood my love for cross stitch, it was too slow and while she never let her mother teach her to crochet or knit that made sense to her because it created something useful. Cross stitch just wasn't a practical skill in her mind. I think that's why I love cross stitch so much. It's art. It's not practical. It's luxury, it's for hanging on the wall and just looking damn good! Sure you can cross stitch table cloths, linens but hey is that really practical? Spill some wine or coffee or koolaid on those and well you have heartache.

My quilting adventure started when I was pregnant with DS#1 living near Amish country in Ohio and too poor to afford quilts made by someone else. What does one do in this position? One sucks it up and takes a quilting class. Calls the aunt that begged to teach her how to sew for tips and after hearing "I told you so" a hundred times starts trying to piece her class quilt. That quilt is still sitting unfinished in a rubbermaid bucket. I think I managed to finish 5 blocks then gave birth to DS#1, that act alone put quilting on the backburner. It was hard, time consuming, cross stitch was easy, ready to go, no cutting out a gazillion pieces of fabric, pinning them together, then sewing them all together. Cross stitch was always ready to go if only for a few stolen moments. Since quilting was a necessity, in my mind, I never enjoyed it too much. Sewing just isn't my thing. I want to learn to do it well. I do want to make quilts. I get so inspired by the magazines and quilters blogs, I'm just not organized. It's just I sought out quilt making not because of a love of sewing but a love of the finished project. Melissa over at the
Doodle-blog manages to organize her time so that she's able to stitch, quilt, crochet and knit. How does she do that? I'm hoping to eventually get to that point but I'm such a screaming crafter, I pull out whatever project screams the loudest, that while I manage to start a bunch of projects I only finish a few and those finishes are few and far between.

Yes, this has been a bit of rambling post, like my stitching history. I'm so thankful for the crafty women in my life who instilled in me a love for needlework of all kinds. In a drawer the other day I ran across the stainless steel hoop my grandmother gave me when I was about five, it was my greatgrandmother's. I cherish it. In her Bible she has a little piece of fabric that I stitched a "J" on for her first initial. It was a pathetic attempt at the satin stitch when I barely knew how to hold a needle, much less knew what a satin stitch was, I just wanted to make her initial on the fabric. The fabric I stitched it on was a piece of blue print fabric. I used this hoop. I think back to that, I remember sitting on the counter of the Salvage store where she worked, working on this little project while she waited on customers. It's one of my best memories.

I also want say how thankful I am for the great community of stitchers out there in the blogosphere. You all make me feel normal. All my life the people I came in contact with who stitched, knit, crocheted, quilted, they were an oddity. The older I got the more I realized that needleworkers of all kinds were rare. To be able to hook up with such a large community, to be inspired daily by all of you, what a great place to be and what lucky chick I am.

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