Embracing Memories

In my recent quest to educate myself in the domestic arts and the skills necessary for homesteading, I often find myself frustrated because the desire to do so came after those who could have taught me many things - my grandparents - have passed away. Instead of being able to turn to them, I have to turn to my immediate community and my extended community via the Internet. There is really nothing wrong with this, I think, but I just get so jealous of those who have sweet memories of learning to knit and sew at the elbow of their grandmothers. But, I think it's important to embrace the memories that I do have, rather than to long for something that's not there.

This is my sewing box. My maternal grandmother gave it to me when I was in elementary school and it's still where I keep all the basics. Her basement, less creepy than my parent's but concrete and cold nonetheless, was where she kept all of her crafting supplies. I remember an old dresser full of fabric (what I wouldn't give to have that now!) and boxes of dried flowers. She had me over to help her sort and weed out down there and offered this box to me. Even then, it was showing wear, but I gratefully accepted. It was empty, but I filled it with scavenged things that a 9 year-old thought she "might need" when sewing. I was exceptionally good at scanning the contents of garbage cans for possibly useful things and, for me, the answer to "do you want this?" was always "yes."

When I cleaned it out decades later, there was such a random assortment. A single blouse pattern from the 80s that I'm pretty sure I picked up out of a garage sale free box. Several little plastic sewing kits that were given away for free at the county fair. A block of bee's wax that I bought on a school trip to Fort Snelling that I only knew in some abstract way was necessary for sewing. Cut-up scraps of one of my dad's old t-shirts that I used to make my one and only childhood sewing project: a maid doll to serve the occupants of my dollhouse, who were very Victorian. It's as if part of me believed that if only I could fill this box, the skills would magically come. In retrospect, I feel I should have worried less about gathering and more about listening and asking for guidance.

I may not have memories of my grandmothers sitting down with me to show my how to put needle through fabric, but their spirit is with me regardless. Whether it's in the physical objects that were theirs and that are now mine or in my wishes that they were still here, their presence is felt. And welcomed.


  1. Ah...nice reminder that I can do that for my own kids. I remember my Mom's long hours at her sewing machine as a kid and the even longer hours in the garden...the apple never falls too far from the tree!


  2. what a special box! i've learned a bit of sewing and crochet from my mom, which i'm so happy about, but i've also learned a good deal from the internet. it's definitely not the same as learning at someone's side, but it's better than nothing.

    i know what you mean about feeling connected to your grandmothers through crafting even though they didn't teach you. it's a good feeling to be able to carry on and to know how they must have felt all those years ago, keeping their hands busy with crafts.

  3. Hi Courtney. This is such a lovely post - the details and thoughtfulness. I have learned crafting skills in so many ways - family as well as school, books, and workshops. I also believe that if your own mother/grandmother/aunt is not around to teach you - borrow one! There are many talented older women out there who would be thrilled to teach you.