Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Grandmother's Needlebook/Resolutions

My grandmother was born in 1899, in a different century and a different world; Germany still had a Kaiser.

She started working as a child, had her first real job at age 14, and did not have much in the way of wordly goods. But she had five daughters and a treadle sewing machine. When my mom sees me sewing before a holiday she remarks how her mother would try to make all her girls new (or re-made) dresses and used to sew into the night before Christmas and Easter.

My grandmother was 71 when I was born; I never saw her sew, but she always had to do something, be productive with her hands, and she showed her love with one handknit sweater... and socks... and mittens after the other. I still have the last sweater she knit me; she died in 1986.

My mom who hoards everything found and gave me this needlebook. She thinks it must have been made by one of my older cousins as a school project-cum-present for my grandmother. A special little thing.

I've been thinking about resolutions for the coming year. While I'm impressed by other sewers' technique and ambition, my reasons for sewing are a bit different, so this year I'll try to resolve accordingly.

This is why I sew:
  • I'm a very intellectual person; I could spend days immersed in books, and my job aside from the kids is purely brain work. I need to balance myself with a craft I do with my hands, and a tangible outcome.

  • I enjoy the creative process, choosing fabric and pattern, and making something beautiful.

  • I choose to busy my hands and occupy my mind with tasks that are doable instead of worrying about things I can't influence.

So my resolutions for 2011 are:

  • Balance. I have many people, interests and obligations in my life. Sewing isn't no.1, but I'd like for it not to take a back seat either.

  • Spending my sewing time wisely for the maximum of enjoyment (whether that is practival or not).

  • Keeping at about the same level of output and wearability; I'd say the kids and I like and wear about 80 % of what I make a lot, so I'd like to keep it there (and in the process wear more and more made-by-me stuff!).


Here's a little recap of last year's resolutions:

1. Keep at about the same level of productivity. Done.

2. Limit sewing children's stuff, ideally to one outfit per kid per season, or special occasion wear. I sewed comparatively less for them, more for me, so I consider this done as well.

3. 30 minutes of sewing a day, on most days. Not really. I hope this improves when I get my own sewing room.

4. Sew more mix-and-match garments, either by sewing neutral colors, and/or simpler patterns, and/or several garments planned as a wardrobe. Hm. Not sure about that, but I'll keep it for 2011!


I hope your sewing year is off to a good start. Happy sewing!


  1. I think we are very similar people. I like the way sewing takes me away from my intellectual/business life. I sew at least 30 minutes on most days - it is my creative time. I hardly ever sew for anyone else. Teenage girls don't appreciate home-sewn garments.

  2. happy new year!
    so cool that your mom found the needlebook! my grandma sewed as well, but she didn't make too many clothes. i had her old sewing machine for a while, until it died of old age, and it was so fun to sew on.

  3. What a great memory to have of your grandmother. You must post a picture of the sweater she made you!

  4. I think your resolution about balance really speaks to me most. Sadly, sewing does take a backseat all too often for me. It is hard to complain this week about that since I have been hard at work painting one room in the house!

  5. Your grandmother must have lead a fascinating life. And I think your resolutions are great.

  6. Oh, such a sweet story! I remember playing at my grandmother's treadle machine and digging around in her fabric stash.

    Good goals, too. Happy new Year!

  7. What lovely resolutions. They sound perfect.

  8. I like your resolutions! Practical and sensible.
    That little needlebook is a real treasure, not many of us go to that sort of effort anymore!



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