Once upon a time women were taught beautiful arts. At bridal showers, the bride received a “Bless This House,” cross stitch/embroidery, or something along those lines to hang in their new house from a grandmother or an aunt. When babies came, quilts and afghans were made for the little one to snuggle up with as a gifts from older generations. Schools are cutting art and music programs and parents are enraged. So why are these same people not enraged that they were not taught these other precious gifts?
My aunts taught my mother how to crochet, and she in turn taught me. They started the tradition of making baby blankets when ever a little one is on the way. It is something that my mother and I have both continued to do for our friends over the years. It’s not huge, or fancy, but something most mothers and children treasure over the years. When I’m cold, I just make ear warmers and scarves. I’ve been blessed to grow up surrounded by women who were fortunate to know these arts, whether out of necessity or choice. I have grown up in a house full of pieces lovingly cross stitched and surrounded by crocheted afghans and heirloom quilts from aunts, my great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, mother, and myself. Throughout the year quilts and larger blankets grace our quilt hanger….the majority of which were made by these women. I recently set up one of my sewing machines. I learned how to sew on my great-grandmothers Singer. I am nowhere near the seamstress as the other ladies in my life, but I’m working on it! I needed a skirt for a costume. Working at JoAnn Fabrics, I bought myself some supplies and made my Minnie Mouse skirt, for a fraction of the price a skirt like this would cost in stores. It took me 30 minutes.
I was struggling with a bridal gift. I remembered that I had some embroidery floss from making friendship bracelets in high school. Again, working at JoAnn’s, I bought myself some hoops, fabric, needles, and more floss. I’ve now completed 3 pieces in the last month. I am not posting this to brag about my craft savvy. It’s a question and something for us all to think about- when did we get so busy that our mother’s and grandmothers and great grandmothers couldn’t teach us these gifts? For hundreds of years women spent their days using their hands, passed down from generation to generation. Many times, it was out of necessity. Wool was spun, clothes and blankets were made. Embroidery was for more than decorative tapestries, but to decorate what would have otherwise been a very plain dress or cloak. My pieces are a far cray from Renaissance pieces like this one.
Elizabethan Polychrome Nightcap c.1600.
How did our lives get so busy that basic skills like sewing a button or fixing a hole in a garment have been lost to the past? Why is there such little interest in these hobbies in the younger generations? When did these arts get lost? When did they begin to die?
As of right now, I have 3 weddings and a baby this year, not ME, but other people. Since handmade gifts like these don’t show up at showers too often, I have made it my mission to be that person. Everyone deserves to have something that can’t be bought, something made just for them, something that will last, something that is literally stitched with love. I am not saying our mothers, our aunts, or our grandmothers have done a disservice, but quite the opposite. I think we have let them down by not looking to them to teach us these arts that they so painstakingly learned. I for one am taking the stand. I want my children, my friends and my family, to grow up in houses full of love, full of stories, and full of art- just like mine.