After the passing of Great-Uncle Ben Hayes earlier this year, his sister Ruth was tasked with going through his personal effects. Ben lived in Tennessess and Ruth lives in Arizona. Shortly after she received his possessions and started going through them, I received a call from her.
Ruth informed me that she would be sending me a quantity of scarves and doilies that belonged to my great-grandmother because I would be able to clean, starch, iron and sort them. She asked me to then split them with my sister.
She mentioned in passing that Ben also had a lot of family photographs that needed sorting, but that she intended to send them to one of my aunts to handle that instead. It was all I could do to keep myself from asking for the photos too. I didn’t want to be greedy.
Well, a couple of weeks later, a large box was waiting for me at the post office. When I got it home and started going through the contents, I realized I had a treasure chest indeed. Many of the items are quite stained and since my great-uncle smoked, they all need to be cleaned thoroughly. But the package Ruth sent had much more than doilies and scarves in need of a washing:
My Great-Grandmother's Sewing Basket
Note From Great-Aunt Ruth
The basket held several crocheted doilies, in addition to scarves, hankerchiefs and other items.
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.
Remember when Band-Aids came in metal boxes?
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.
Palm Tree Dress Buttons
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.
Disney Sewing Kit
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.