When I was preparing last week’s Treasure Chest Thursday post, I came across a set of two tiny buttons in my mom’s sewing basket that I hadn’t found before — each bearing the face of Beatrix Potter’s Tom Kitten.
My mom was an antiquing aficianado (read: eBay addict) and I can only imagine what was going through her head when she spied these. All I know is that when I was three, my parents gave me a copy of The Tale of Tom Kitten, which I still have to this day. For all I know, Mom meant to give these to me and either she lost track of them herself in her sewing basket, or she didn’t get the chance to give them to me before she passed away in 2003.
Either way, I’m so glad I found them, all these years later. Finding them caused me to pull out the book, read my parents’ inscription to me and discover the Tom Kitten bookmark still embedded in its pages. The book lover/genealogist in me goes gaga over inscriptions and lost/strange bookmarks. Rediscovering them in my own books is a thrill.
My Mom’s Sewing Basket!
I have so many memories of my mom and this basket — its contents bring them all flooding back — the shoelaces, spools of thread, different types of needles and the dozens upon dozens of buttons.
I remember my mom pulling out this basket to hem my school uniforms and to sew labels inside my summer camp clothes. It still contains snaps from the baby doll clothes she sewed for me and my sister.
One of the relics inside is a metal Band-Aid box, used to store some of the many buttons my mom collected over the years.
One of the spare buttons she saved is labeled “Palm Tree Dress.” My mom was not a dress person, but she did own one that she wore to all the big occasions — an aunt’s wedding or a cousin’s christening. That was the Palm Tree Dress. I pictured it immediately as soon as I read the label on this package.
Still more memories were triggered when I found this Walt Disney World Resorts sewing kit — obtained during our stay there when I was nine. The kit appears untouched — click on the picture for a look at the contents. They were thoughtful enough to include a Band-Aid for pricked fingers!
My post this week is about a treasure of very personal sort — more than a decade in the making (and it’s still not finished!). Back in high school, I started saving scraps of denim whenever I turned a worn pair of jeans into a pair of cut-off shorts. I originally planned to make pillows out of them. In college I learned to quilt, and so the denim scraps that had been piling up for years found their purpose.
During winter break of my senior year of college, I started piecing together the first square. That was nearly 11 years ago. The quilt is a sampler (each block is a different pattern) and I accented the denim with pieces of other clothing. One block has pieces of the dress that I wore for high school graduation. Another includes flannel from my grunge days. Over the years, I obtained used pieces of clothing from friends that they planned to discard — some thought I planned to wear the dresses/shirts myself. Others knew I was really going to cut the material into strips for quilting.
Now, some of the quilt’s blocks contain pieces of a shirt from a college roommate. Other blocks have a floral pattern from a dress a former coworker and dear friend gave to me. I love the quilt all the more for the people and times that I recall as I work on it.
After I finished piecing the blocks I bought yards and yards of thin denim for the borders on the top of the quilt and to make the backing. The top, backing and a thin layer of batting are basted together and I’m in the quilting stage right now. The quilting is also sampler-style, with different patterns along the border and in each block. The layers are so thick, and the quilting needle I use is so long and sharp, that I must improvise a thimble using a metal spoon in order to protect my fingers.
The quilt is queen-size and completely covers me as I work on it. It is so heavy (mostly due to all that denim) that I can really only work on it during the winter. It’s actually been several years since I did so (like many things, it took a backseat to grad school). I’m determined to get back to work on it again now that the weather is turning colder. It will no doubt be several more years before I can finally finish the edges and call it done. Not unlike a scrapbook, it documents nearly half of my life thus far. Every stitch has been done by hand. It is my opus.
Customs officials, take note that this post is based on legend and not necessarily fact.
My maternal grandfather was an Army officer and was twice stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, with his young family. On one of these tours of duty, family lore has it that my grandmother, Grace, became besotted with a begonia of such beauty, she simply had to have one of her own. And when it came time to make the journey back to the United States, that begonia was coming with her, come hell or high water.
Her solution: to smuggle cuttings of that begonia in her suitcase — amidst her unmentionables — during the journey (by boat, no less) back across the Atlantic.
To this day, nearly every female member of my family has at least one descendant of that immigrant begonia potted on a windowsill or taking root in in a jar. One of my aunts is rumored to be coddling no less than 32 cuttings at any given time, to ensure the line doesn’t die off.
This particular begonia plant produces tiny, delicate pink flowers on a rather irregular basis (at least according to my own experience). Here is a picture of buds my plant boasted earlier this summer.
After my mom died, I found one tiny begonia bud preserved in a flower press among her possessions. I included it in a scrapbook I just completed about her (pictured here with what I think is a Gerber daisy flower — these were her favorite).
There is no doubt that my entrepreneurial spirit comes from my mom. She was a stay-at-home mom for most of the time that I was in school, but she created a workshop for herself in each of the houses we lived in. In fact, the house we lived in from 1985-1994 was chosen specifically because the basement level afforded her enough room for a workshop and showroom space for her fledgling business.
She sold a variety of crafts over the years, everything from room boxes done in miniature (she could recreate a dollhouse version of any room in your house based on a photograph), gift baskets, country-themed wooden pieces like the ones pictured here, Tole painting, tiny dioramas molded out of clay — the only art medium that I never saw my mom make money off of was photography.
I’m so glad that I have some of her handiwork — I’m including a couple of examples of wooden pieces she decorated for Halloween now that it’s October. I have similar pieces she did for Thanksgiving and a couple of Xmas ornaments as well.
Each of my aunts and many of my friends have pieces that my mom created. At one point, she would paint a person’s pet or house from a photograph to scale on a piece of wood cut into the correct shape using a jigsaw — when my best friend’s cat died in high school, my mom painted a wooden replica of Tabby from a photo I happened to have.
I’d like to think I may have inherited some of my mom’s talent, or at least the desire to work with my hands. I can’t paint as effortlessly as she could, but she always encouraged me whenever I expressed an interest.
I’ve thought about my mom an awful lot over the past couple of months as I have launched my own business. I marvel at the courage she had as a single mom to pursue her home-based business as a way to support our small family, stay at home with us and do what she loved.
I treasure the pieces pictured here not only because they remind me of my mom and how talented she was, but also because they inspire me to follow in her footsteps and make my own way doing what I enjoy most too.
One item that I was incredibly lucky to procure over the past few years is “A genealogy of Corleys beginning with Caniel Corley of Bedford County, Virginia,: Tracing all lineal descendants of his son, Jonathan Cheathem [sic] Corley” by Dewitt C. Corley (1927). This book is packed with anecdotal information that Dewitt gathered from interviews with kin, in addition to thorough historical research. It has proved invaluable in my search for more information about my ancestors.
I found out about this book after posting a question about one of my ancestors on genealogy.com and just happened to find an original copy after searching for it on Amazon. The book contains extra copies of photos published within its pages.
Not only was this book written by a Corley, my copy was previously owned by a Corley (Elmer “Pat” Corley). One of my favorite passages details the author’s interactions with my great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Joseph E. Corley and Ida Champ Ferris Corley:
“The compiler has repeatedly had the pleasure of entertaining him and his wife in his home, and always found them most gracious and entertaining guests. He [Joseph] married Miss Ida C. Ferris, an accomplished and educated woman, who survived him.”
The book provides information on when each passed away and where they were buried. It also details the lives of their sons, including my grandfather, Karl Coates Corley, Sr. There is a photo of Ida and Joseph and another of their five grown sons (and I have an original copy of that photo!).
One mysterious find within the pages of my copy was this hand-written poem:
The poem was folded and on the front says “To Mother.” Googling the first line of the poem turns up lots of results, one of which can be found here: http://bartleby.com/248/1205.html
I’m fascinated by who may have copied this poem down — it is possible it was written for Elmer’s wife. It’s also possible that this book belonged to a different owner since Elmer and it was written by or for that owner or one of their relatives. The poem apparently pre-dates the book.
Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!