Monday, September 7, 2009

remembering nama...

When September rolls around every year, my thoughts always seem to wander back to the days growing up with my grandmother. September is her birthday month and the time I seem to miss her the most. Christened "nama" by my oldest sister who couldn't quite pronounce the hard 'gr" in grandma, she was forever known in our family by that affectionate name.

We had such lovely times, she and I, during the summer weeks spent at her house. My oldest sister, being 10 years older, was 18 and going away to college when I started going and my older brothers had no interest. My younger sisters were 2 and 5; way too young for overnight visits meant to be anything other than babysitting. But I wasn't there to be watched...I was there because I wanted to be. It was something special that only she and I shared. Even when my sisters were older, they never had any interest.

(My grandparents and all six grand kids. I was about 8 in this picture and just started going for overnight visits at their house.)

I remember every detail like it was yesterday. Sitting close to each other on the porch gilder, separated only by a colander, snapping ends off just picked green beans from the garden and then snapping them into bite size pieces. Snap..snap..snap... ends going back into the bowl and beans in the colander to be washed for supper or canning the next day. Over and over, we'd snap with a tiny push of her toe on the porch floor to keep us gliding gently back and forth as we worked. I remember dinners of thick chicken and dumplings, iron skillets pulled from the oven with gooey glazed donuts for breakfast, and the bottom shelf of her fridge door always lined with cold coca-cola in slender green bottles. The best grapes vines around that produced sweet grape jelly always put away in used glasses topped with a thick seal of paraffin wax. The trips up the road to visit the Woolworths five and dime store for supplies. Funny how I can remember it all like it was yesterday. I explored every nook and cranny of that house and still remember every square inch.

Nama taught me everything I know about sewing and needlework. She's the reason I crochet left handed. I know I've told this story before, but some may not have read it so bear with me. After hours of trying every way she could think of to teach me, the righty, I grabbed the needle in my left hand and said enough, just show me what to do. It took about 5 minutes and I was crocheting. We moved along to Huck toweling later, making a visit to the very old downtown JCPenny's to buy new toweling. Together we sat at the kitchen table as I worked on a set of Christmas place mats for my mom. Later she taught me crewel embroidery on lovely pillows that were used in her living room. Big thick blossoms and leaves sewn with large needles and thick crewel thread. Sadly, the one thing I never shared with her was quilting. She had made quilts in her teens but never discussed it and I was not a quilter until long after she passed away. I think she would have loved my quilts. It would have been another thing we could have shared.

In June, I came across a give-away featuring several lovely embroidery transfers as the prize. Just seeing those flooded my memory with all the wonderful Days of the Week towels that were used in Nama's kitchen. I had forgotten all about them. She collected these and made them herself when she had the time. I don't remember a towel in her kitchen that didn't start with a bit of stitching. I didn't win the give-away, but I was now determined to find some of those patterns. Luckily I quickly found a great online site that also turned out to sell the heavy feed sack towels too. I quickly picked out a few patterns and ordered 15 towels. Once they arrived, I was all ready to start...then I got worried. Could I still do the work she taught me? I know I do loads of stitchery, but always with a thick piece of batting behind to hide my flaws. Now the back would right out there for all to see. I got intimidated and let them sit. I asked questions of experts and watched videos of stitching how-to's, but still waited. Then a few weeks ago I realized September was approaching..her birthday, and thoughts of her flooded back into my head...and I relaxed. Out came the towels for a good washing and the first pattern was chosen to start sewing. After a few cautious stitches, I was having fun. It took longer than normal since I was being so careful and re-learning, but I really do love to do stitch work.

I thought I'd show you the first one. Friday's little dancing sugar bowl. I think if you love your work, and do your best, the back isn't as important as having fun. I had to realize that it's going to show on the back, but you try to be as neat as possible. The videos and techniques at Mary Corbet's Needle and Thread really do come in handy. I didn't include a picture of the back, but I will if anyone asks for it.

I working on the next little guy right now and thinking of ideas for a Christmas DOTW design for another set. It's been a pleasure working on these with my grandmother, I feel her all around me guiding me as I work. She was a fabulous woman who taught me more than she will ever know.

13 comments:

Nancy said...

Such a lovely post.

Darlene said...

Sweet post, Judy! I have similar memories of my grandmother - she taught me all about sewing and embroidery. I remember sitting outside in the shade during the hottest time of the day working on pillowcases and dishtowels. I did dishtowels with the days of the week in English and Spanish. She those towels in her kitchen until the day she died. When I went looking to get them we found that someone else had already taken them and would not let me have them. :-( When I sit to stitch I think of my grandmother and all the knowledge she so willing taught me. :-)

Allie said...

This post made me cry. I miss my grandma so much - I was far closer to her than my own mother. She never did any handwork, she was blind for 20 years before getting one of the first corneal transplants, but I remember doing the green beans with her and hanging out the laundry.
I love your stitcheries. That's how I started getting interested in hand embroidery - remembering seeing that kind of thing in grandma's kitchen.

Carol said...

Judy what a wonderful post...those are just the best memories.

Scottish Nanna said...

What A lovely post grandmas are special people I loved my One dearly She bought me An undressed doll som knitting needles and some wool she taught me how to knit and I dressed that doll And I have been knitting Ever Since.I love your Stitcheries they are gorgeous.
Hugs Mary.

julieQ said...

What wonderful memories...thank you for sharing them, Judy!

Karen said...

I received stamped design dish towels, an embroidery hoop, scissors, and thread for Christmas when I was in 6th grade. A wonderful gift. I finished them lickety split. I don't even remember what design they were now but I always remember the gift of sewing that my mother gave me.

Screen Door said...

I seldom saw my Grandma withot needlework close by....Good memories. I can remember her making toweling just like that...

Wendy K said...

What lovely memories to share...Thankyou! I hope you really enjoy your stitcheries they look lovely!
W x

Shakerwood Primitives said...

No wonder it took you so long to write that post! It was wonderfully written. It is sometimes hard to put into words all the feelings that grandmas leave behind. I didn't write nearly all the feelings I could have on my Half-Pint. I would have been kicked off of blogger! Thanks for sharing such sweet memories.

Thimbleanna said...

What a lovely post Judy. And what treasured memories of your grandmother. I think about my grandmother all the time too, and it makes me so sad that we couldn't be adults together. And parafin! Oh my, I'd forgotten how they used to do jellies that way -- how funny. Your towel is adorable -- I love those DOW towels. A few years ago I found an old pattern I did as a little girl at the Turkey Feathers Pattern Bee site -- that's another old transfer resource.

Wendy said...

I enjoyed reading your story growing up with your Grandma...very sweet.
The towels will be well loved.

Red Geranium Cottage said...

Judy, what a great post about your gramma. I know exactly what you mean. My gramma's birthday is in August and I miss her more and more each year. I love the tea towels. Those stitchery patterns are wonderful. I've got several, I just need to sit and stitch.
Hugs