Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Stitch In Time

My interest in textiles, fiber art, quilting, needlecraft began a long time ago, sometime before the age of six. My mother, grandmother, "other" grandmother and great-grandmother all had a hand in nurturing this natural-born fascination I had with handwork. I think it must have come to me about the age of 5, all at one time, because each experience I had with some aspect of the needle arts/handwork transpired about that time.

The first thing I remember is wanting to embroidery. So, my mother went to the five and dime -- Winn's in San Antonio -- and bought me a pair of pre-stamped tea towels and the proper needle and embroidery thread and a wooden hoop. I remember working on them, getting tangled up and never finishing them. I kept them, with the intent to finish them, until I was grown and they somehow disappeared after a house fire.

About the same time, I was completely taken with my "other" grandmother's (Granny) crafting skills and would wart her to death about including me. I was especially fond of watching her weave potholders on those little red, metal looms with those awful nylon loops. Finally, one day, she told my mother to go to Winn's and get me a loom and she would teach me. My mother did and Granny did and to this day I still love those looms. She would also cut old sheets into strips and macrame them about coat hangers and make wonderful padded hangers. Some of these still exist -- I have two or three myself. I know how to do it and one day I will make more. Granny isn't my real grandmother, she was my aunt's mother-in-law, grandmother to JLSHall and they all lived across the street from us. I, however, claimed her as my own.

My own grandmother, the one Joy and I share, did gorgeous crochet and was an excellent seamstress. She made costumes for Joy and me and she even produced two hand-made baby dresses for my children. She decided she wanted to learn to knit so she and I went for knitting lessons and a place called "The Knitting Bowl" at the local mall. I can't knit or crochet and apparently can't learn. I got frustrated, she didn't, I gave her all my supplies and then I gave up.

My great-grandmother, Granny Giles, was a pioneer quilter. She made utility quilts for everybody in the family on a quilting frame hanging from the ceiling. Her sisters, Lura and Ella made beautiful appliqued quilts. This is where my love of quilting and fabric began.

One evening, while visiting my Granny Giles, she and my grandmother were piecing quilt squares by the dim light of a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling of an old, victorian house. I wanted to learn. They gave me some tiny patches, a needle and thread and let me go. When I was done and had received the appropriate praise for my accomplishment, I decided I wasn't done. Fishing through the drawer on the treadle sewing machine I found some rick rack and sewed it around the edges of my square with a tail hanging off. Well, it still wasn't done so, after more searching, I came up with a jingle bell -- the kind we used to sew into our petticoats at Christmas -- and I sewed it on to the tail of rick rack and pronounced it finished. I kept it for years, until the house fire and it, too, disappeared. But, my interest in quilting didn't. Over the years since age five or six, I have dabbled in all sorts of needlework and have loved all of it. I prefer hand quilting to machine but my hands aren't cooperating. I love cross stitch but am now working "in hand" because
the same contrary hands balk at trying to hold on to hoops. I have tried my hand at "art quilts" and have even produced an ACEO quilt. It doesn't matter to me, though, as long as I am doing something with needle/thread/fabric.