Anne here, racing in with a bit of a hasty post — sorry, but I'm staring down the barrel of a deadline and can think of nothing but the book. So I looked around me for inspiration and spotted a gift I recently received from a friend of mine's mother who makes the most beautiful quilts. That's it below — she knows I like bright colors, and asymmetrical designs and I love this quilt to bits.
So today I'm talking about home-made heirlooms, keepsakes and family treasures, not necessarily valuable to anyone except ourselves, and often with a story attached. I'll start with a few of my own, and I hope you'll come in and share your own stories.
I have an Italian silk bedspread that was my great grandmother's guilty secret. She was of hardy pioneer stock, and spent weeks, often months on her own with her kids on the family farm in what we in Australia call "the bush" which really means the middle of nowhere, miles from anyone else. I don't know what her husband was doing — droving cattle maybe, or shearing sheep, or doing some other kind of work to help make ends meet, because this was the depression.
In those days the people of the outback rarely got to see a shop, or even travel to a town very often, but traders travelled through regularly, bringing their goods by camel; all kinds of things, practical good, but also pretty and frivolous things to tempt the hearts of the deprived outback women.
The story goes that one day this trader came by and Nana fell instantly in love — not with the man, but with an Italian silk bedspread he was carrying. Of course, she couldn't afford it, so off he went, and she tried not to think of the bedspread again. Until he came back another time, and showed her the bedspread again. It was very expensive, but this time not quite as expensive — the price was lower, because times were hard and nobody could afford it. It took three visits, months apart before Nana finally succumbed and bought the bedspread, using every penny she'd put aside from her egg and honey money. The story also goes that it was months before she confessed the extravagant purchase to her husband. He, of course, forgave her.
That's it in the picture above, a little faded and worn, and I probably should have ironed it before taking the photo. It might not even be silk, or Italian for all we know — those traders were pretty nifty salesmen— but it's a family treasure, nevertheless, because of the story. From all accounts Nana was a tough, no-nonsense kind of woman, and I love it that she had a secret craving for a little luxury and beauty in the hard life she led — and succumbed to it. And then hid it from her husband.
My mother took up patchwork late in life — she was a full time teacher all my life, and had no time for crafts until she retired. Then it was knitted throw rugs and patchwork quilts in all directions — every bed in the house was spread with patchwork designs and half-finished pieces. She made some beauties, but my favorite is the one where I can identify so many of the patches as coming from clothes my sisters and I once wore. The small hexagons of color recall all kinds of small milestones in our lives.
She was a great recycler my mum — and I do recall my very mixed feelings when she presented me with this knitted throw rug. It was lovely — even the plain-looking squares are beautifully textured with knitted patterning — but see that pretty claret wool that is the foundation of the color scheme? It was once my favorite jumper (pullover /sweater) but one day it mysteriously disappeared. Thanks, Mum, mystery solved.
I have piles of beautiful things made by my female forebears — beautifully embroidered tablecloths, tray cloths and placemats, delicate hankies with dainty crocheted edges, but me? Nothing. I enjoy making things but I'm. . . slapdash. Too impatient to do the intricate or time-consuming stuff.
And I was never a knitter — it seemed to take forever, but I taught myself to crochet and made this rug when I was fifteen. We'd just moved to the city and I traveled by train and tram to school, so it was very easy to just pull out my wool and hook and work on one little square at a time. That's it, my sole crafty contribution to posterity.
So what about you — do you have any family pieces with a story attached? Do you make things that you hope your descendants will treasure, or are you not the crafty type? Have you ever lashed out and bought something you couldn't really afford, just because it was beautiful? I'd love you to share your stories.