I’m often amazed by the ingenuity and life skills of my ancestors. This Mother’s Day, I’m honoring the creativity and sewing skills of three mothers in my family tree, and showing you a little of their work.
I don’t remember a lot about my great-grandmother Alvina Thoss, who died in 1980, but I do have mementos of her creativity in things she made. Like this patchwork jacket—my sisters and I each have a monochromatic version she sewed when we were little. Mine is green.
My son loves to sleep under a blue and yellow blanket she sewed, which was our “sick blanket” when I was young. She also crocheted stuffies, including a duck that’s now in my daughter’s possession.
Alvina’s daughter, my grandma Evelyn, could create just about anything with fabric, ribbon or yarn. She sewed her own wedding dress in 1946.
Here, she’s walking down the aisle with her dad, my great-grandfather. I have another dress she sewed from the same pattern.
Grandma made Christmas ornaments for her grandchildren every year, using a range of crafting techniques: needlepoint, sewing, beading, plastic canvas, cross-stitch and painting. She also needlepointed Christmas stockings for each of us, and embroidered cross-stitch designs to commemorate births and weddings. Like her mom, she sewed her own clothes. Her home was filled with her paintings and decorative touches. She once added wallpaper trim to her bedroom and used the scraps to embellish the lamps to match.
My mom, when my sisters and I were young, used to sew swimsuits and clothes for us. I still have this outfit:
(This was before pink and sparkly became a requirement for girls’ clothes.) We’re close in age, and she’d sew us matching outfits three at a time. That was probably the most efficient way to do it for a busy mom. But it did mean that, with the hand-me-downs, I’d wear the same things for three or four years running.
I’m the lucky heir to some of my grandma’s sewing supplies, and with practice, maybe I’ll be able to do justice to the creative spirit of these three mothers in my family tree.