Perplexed

I just read something on a blog I find curious, A woman was described as a 5th generation needleworker. Since most women of a certain age like me, would have learned from a mother or grandmother, how the hell do you know how many generations you go back? Especially since not too many generations back mothers made all their kid’s clothes.

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My Brighid puppet complete with embroidered flames and Brighid’s cross

My mom did needlepoint and she made all my and my sister’s clothes until I was a teenager because I rarely fit anything from the store. She even made my tshirts and pants. She smocked all my dresses from when I was born until I was 7 or 8. (That picture of me and my brother I posted earlier in the week was her handiwork.) Mom also hooked rugs and made a huge floor rug she designed in needlepoint of the Queen’s beasts after she saw them in Kew Gardens.

My grandmother taught me to embroider and to design my own patterns as part of our family traditions and to chant things while I did it. At the end of my bed is one of the handmade quilts my great grandmother created. We still have several including one covered in butterflies that was on my bed as a kid and now dwells up in the cupboard next to a Hudson Bay blanket because I really prefer a comforter.

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Lady Olivia Robertson, FOI puppet

I assume she was taught by her grandmother and mother. My grandmother had one of those foot pedal black Singer machines. I loved that machine and when I learned on my mom’s Singer she gave me a speeding ticket. I made a lot of my clothes for years because it was fun and I liked picking fabrics that were stealth pagan and had things like moons and stars. I lost my sewing machine when we had to let the storage go and we really don’t have room for it. I did when I lived alone but not now since I live with my sister and can’t leave things with pins and stuff out because of her cat, my cat had been trained not to go near my stuff.

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Mom and Dad in our living room in front of three of her creations

I had a Great-great Aunt Annie, who was the family scandal and black sheep, not because she refused to get married but because she became a nun in a Scots Presbyterian family and she’d joined sometime in the late 1800s. I have a photo of her somewhere that I need to scan of her playing the guitar before she converted and her convent used to send boxes of handmade lace to try to raise money from the family. So she had to have been a needleworker too. The last box arrived when I was really little after all her brothers and sisters had died and I remember my grandmother and mom going off about it. I think that was the last time they heard anything from her and she had to be in her late 90s because her brother had died at 92 in 1945 and she was a little younger, I think, we can’t find her in ancestry.com and we don’t know her nun name.

So how can you say you’re a 5th generation needleworker? Now a days it’s more rare for women to be embroiders or sewers but 50 years ago almost everyone did. I can remember being at meetings and gatherings as a kid with mom’s friends and someone would be knitting, someone crocheting, my mom doing needlepoint she designed from photos, maybe someone tatting or making lace. All kinds of things were created because they considered it lazy not to be doing something with their hands.

I have to say I come from a long line of needleworkers that go back in history with no end.

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14 thoughts on “Perplexed

  1. You do beautiful work. As for the how do you know? There are families who kept track of that. Not so much over the last few generations since it was considered by some as beneath them to actually pick up a needle and thread, unless that was you business/skill/trade. It is hard but actually can be tracked.

    • Actually, needlework was considered an accomplishment all young women had to master. If you were rich you embroidered hangings and cushions not necessary items like clothes. Women had to show they were worth marrying by their “accomplishments” like embroidery, watercolour painting and musical talents

      • True, I am just thinking about the last 30 or so years when that went by the wayside while women were giving up those as being too feminine. Not everywhere, but as the millennial started coming into the work place while their children were being babysat by TV and computers. Sad to see that talented art skill being lost, but one can always hope that it will rear up and take it’s place in the world once more.

          • You are a sweet person whom I am happy to have become acquainted with. I dabble in embroidery but haven’t since my first try at college some thirty odd years ago. I am currently a Jacklin of all trades and a mistress of none. I am hoping that my art studio will be up and running soon (an 11X11 interior where I can have my own space) but probably won’t be using it until after I get through college and then it may end up as an office. Currently I am being told by those who are suppose to encourage seniors (or close to that age bracket) that I should go take courses in our local community center because I am too old for college. BTW our town’s community center hosts the occasional wedding reception, High School Sr party, the farm & home show and the occasional arts and crafts fair. They allow people to walk in it and that it all. The Sr. center has cards, BINGO, meals and the infrequent dance. No classes of any kind. So I will shut up on my rant (again ~ sorry) and wish you a wonderful evening or day … depending on where you reside. it is 1058pm as I type this. 😀

            • You’re never too old to go to college if that is your passion. I’m in Los Angeles so it’s pst time. Go for it. When I retire in a few years I may go back

              • I use to live in S. Calif. I know LA very well. I miss the beaches but not the hot weather. It’s the idiots who are suppose to work with us out here who don’t understand this. How is the weather there today? The sun is finally out and 80% of the snow has finally melted. It is currently 50 degrees @ 205 Mt. time. 😀 Have a wonderful day!

                • For the first time in months, it’s not either cold or rainy or both. It’s a beautiful spring day and in the high 70s. Just like it should be around now. I’m hoping to go to Descanso Gardens this weekend or out to Sepulveda now that the water has retreated. Have a great day!

  2. I wonder if the speaker wasn’t trying to make a connection many of us have lost with earlier generations and is doing so through the skills she can trace through a female lineage. I do needlework and learned some of it from my mother and paternal grandmother but can’t go beyond that linking particular skills with particular ancestors. The farthest back I can go is a picture of my mother’s grandparents with her mother as a very young girl but I can’t trace any skills to them. In our world of atomized individuals we have lost a lot of connections.

    • Since less than a hundred years ago most people made their families clothes unless they were very rich and even then it as I said before was an “accomplishment” to be able to sew even it you never needed to do it. People darned their socks. The majority of women could wield a needle

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