Tuesday, April 29, 2008


My grandmother, Eleanor, passed away last week on April 21st. It's very hard for me to accept that I lost both of my grandmothers in less than 6 months. I know that I wrote about Dorothy last year. Below is what I read at Grandma's funeral:

One of my earliest childhood memories involved making Jell-O with Grandma in the kitchen. We were stirring the electric colored sugar crystals in the water when the phone rang. Grandma went to answer the phone in the bedroom hallway and came back with the good news – I was a big sister. My mother had given birth to my baby brother Harper. I remember the excitement in her eyes and voice. We talked about it briefly and then went back to stirring the Jell-O, pouring it in the pan and waiting for it to set.

Most of my memories of grandma are like this. Simple yet significant. Not that she was a simple woman. She was a devoted sister, loving mother, doting grandmother, and compassionate friend. When you spent time with her, you always felt that she was present, listening, responding and laughing. She was an amazing storyteller, sharing experiences from her life as a child on the family farm in Southern Virginia, her time in the city as working girl in Richmond, and her travels with her husband and children through towns and states in post-war America. Along the way I can imagine that she easily made friends with neighbors and was loved by many.

Time spent with grandma was always very busy. Looking back I can see now that she was teaching us but it seemed so much fun that we never even noticed. On visits to neighbors, like Mrs. Beaman, we learned manners, patience and charity. Working in the garden, we learned to care for our surroundings and how to enjoy the smell of fresh air. In the kitchen while making biscuits, fried chicken and Jell-O we learned to measure, count, read and follow directions. While playing cards we learned analytical skills and the value of quiet, self-entertainment. And finally, when we knit, crocheted and sewed we found satisfaction in our ability to create something functional and beautiful out of scraps of string and thread.

All the while, we told stories, laughing until we cried. Or, in fact, I think we told stories and tried to act funny until we incited her laughter and her eyes lit up with delight. Her laugh was so full of joy and love that hearing it made us feel heard and appreciated. She would always talk about how bright, sweet and funny her children and grandchildren were even if their actions seemed a bit on the devilish side!

When I teach knitting and sewing classes, I am often asked how I learned needle arts. I tell of how on rainy days, grandma would hand us needles and yarn and with great patience she would teach us to make a bookmark or a cap for a baby doll. Of course, I know now that she was just trying to get us to sit still for a while so that she could rest! My very favorite story of creating with grandma is when she decided that we would sew her an outfit over the weekend. She took Harper and me to Hancock’s over on 23rd. There we picked out the patterns, fabric and notions needed to make her a skirt and shirt. We spent the weekend cutting, pinning and sewing. She sat patiently with us as we guided the fabric under the needle of her machine. Harper was the most diligent, being sure not to make a mistake. By the end of the weekend, grandma had a new skirt and shirt. And she wore them both with great pride to work the next day and told us how impressed all her co-workers were with our handiwork. That weekend was such a gift for me. I only hope that I will be able to have the level of creativity and patience with my own child and future grandchildren.

In so many ways, for me, Grandma was the quintessential grandmother. I tell her stories with great pride. My hope is that as a family we will continue to honor her spirit through creativity, laughter and love. In doing that, she will be missed but never forgotten.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sad News

My step-grandfather, Dorothy's husband, passed away yesterday - on their wedding anniversary. It has been just 5 months since Dorothy's passing. John has been in intense mourning since her death and so we believe that he died of a broken heart.

John was an incredibly kind and generous man. He was the only grandfather that I knew and although we were not blood-related, he treated me as his own and always made me feel loved. He adored Lucy and in turn, she showered him with adoration in the form of songs, dances, and hugs. I am so grateful that Lucy was able to know him and be loved by him.

Sadly, I don't think we will be able to make it to his funeral. Between the airline cancellations and my training schedule, I can't figure out how to get there by Tuesday. Lucy will want to visit the grave and so later this spring or summer we will make a trip out to Oklahoma.

I hope that John and Dorothy have reunited with their loved ones, wherever they are. Here on earth, we will miss them.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Fabric in Philly

The other day on my way out of Philly, I decided to stop by Loop on South Street mainly because I had heard a rumor that there was a new sewing store, Spool, next door. I was able to get a perfect parking spot right in front of both shops, put a few quarters in the meter and quietly browse both of these lovely, modern, and colorful stores. I made no purchases during this quick visit though I was quite tempted. I am focused on finishing a top-down sweater for Lucy and then getting to work on some summer outfits for her after I finish that circle quilt for the shop....

Anyway, back to the stores. Loop is a crisp store with shots of color and just the right amount of yarn. I love the lighting, seating, and yarn displays. I promised myself that I would go back next week after my paycheck to pick up a couple of pattern books - more on those in the future.

Spool is equally lovely. It is bright with fabric displayed at eye level. There are a few samples - mostly clothes made from Westminster/Free Sprit fabric (Amy Butler, Denyse Schmidt, Kaffe Fasset) and quilt tops - almost all Kaffe Fasset. The shop also has a sewing "studio" in the back with machines for rent at $5/hour. One of the best parts of my visit though was meeting the designer of Betsy Ross Patterns. I have been eyeing her patterns for a while now, particularly the Hip Tie Blouse. She had a sample made up in Kaffe's shot cotton - very very cute. Aimee has a great sense of style and is very aware of the needs of today's young sewers. I hope to make one of her patterns soon!

For now, sewing will have to wait. My new job is taking most of my energy and with that, I am off to sleep.