My Grandmother Eula Dunn Watkins surrounded by her grandchildren. L-R: My cousin Sherry, cousin Debby in front, me peeking out from behind, my brother Mike, and another cousin Bobby.
When I decided to start this blog/journal, I mainly wanted to remember the days of my life in 2009, but I also wanted it to be a place where I could record the few needlework projects I do. There won't be many, but I have pictures of things I've done in the past few years to make it seem like I do a lot.
I can't remember when I first thought about sewing myself. My first memories are the sounds of the sewing machine and scissors snipping and people coming and going and trying on clothes. My grandmother Eula was a talented seamstress who sewed not only for our family but for the public. She sewed effortlessly and well on that shiny black Singer machine. Pieces of fabric just seemed to magically turn into clothes and quilts and curtains. I don't even think she used a pattern most of the time. Many times I would come home from school to find a new dress to wear the next day (more than likely plaid). I just took it for granted and never asked her to show me how or expressed the least interest in it. She kept my brother and me and most of my cousins, and she probably preferred that we leave her alone.
She did teach me to crochet on long winter evenings sitting by the fire. Again, she didn't use a pattern but just taught me by telling me how many times to wrap the thread around my needle and how many stitches to skip until I had turned out yards and yards of lace. It wasn't until much later that I learned that those stitch combinations had names, and that you could make different designs by reading patterns. I never used the lace that I recall but was content to just mindlessly turn out long trails of it. She also tatted, although I never actually saw her do it. She supposedly tatted lace for my baby socks, and I have some pretty intricate collars she did. By the time I became interested, her hands were shaky, and she couldn't really remember. I do have her shuttles and finally learned a few years ago. I can see why she couldn't teach me. It's not easy!
Another thing she taught me was embroidery, just simple stitches, like the running stitch, lazy daisy, French knots, and I turned out many dish towels with flowers and animals on them - the types of things people love so much now - vintage! We didn't spend much time inside in those days, and I would always have a little bit of grubby needlework with me. I also don't ever recall those being used to dry dishes. Wonder why. She once made a quilt with the state flower for each state embroidered on squares, and she let me do French knots to my heart's content. That turned out to be the quilt she gave me.
Once I dropped out of college and was living and working at home, I had some time on my hands and thought I would learn to sew. I was also going to get married in a year or so and was feeling a little domestic. I bought a Singer teach-yourself-to-sew book and kind of taught myself with a little guidance from Grandma. She had talent, and I didn't (that gift went to Sherry), so she didn't have that much patience with teaching me how to put in zippers: "Just use your imagination," she once said. I guess I don't have much, because zippers still give me fits.
I did make a few things but I think got a little bored with it. Mama was just deciding she wanted to learn to sew (and did, quite well), so she was always making things. In fact, she made just about everything I wore for my wedding showers and parties and I think a couple of the bridesmaid's dresses. So that was my first brief venture into the sewing world and I pronounced it a little boring. I would then get married and move away and have no access to a sewing machine for several years.