Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

January 19, 2014


Filed under: At home,Childhood Memories — Janice @ 11:31 am

I got an email from the Old Farmer’s Almanac today (yes, I get emails from the Old Farmer’s Almanac). It was advertising cross-stitch kits and patterns. I couldn’t help but click on it. And I couldn’t help but think how “fun” it would be to order one and work some cross stitch again. Fun isn’t really the right word. Challenging, maybe? Satisfying? It is certainly an art form and I have felt artistic and creative (along with frustrated and destructive) when I’ve cross-stitched in the past. It set me to thinking…

No, I didn’t order anything and I really don’t want to do any sewing and I know it would be a waste. I might do cross stitch again if I were a.) single, b.) catless, and c.) had someone who could be the recipient because I really don’t want any cross-stitch samplers on my walls.

Cross stitch, though, is one of my many talents. One that I would think that few girls learn anymore and few women under 50 see as something interesting.

Does it show that I am from a whole different generation that I learned to cross stitch at my grandmother’s side when I was a very little girl? Maybe not only a different generation, but a different/unique part of the country. Both of my grandmothers cross-stitched, but Mamma Williams, the one I lived closest to, did a LOT more cross-stitching. She also sewed some clothes, knitted, crocheted, and quilted. She cooked and gardened and wrote letters and kept house, too, but when I think about her, I’m usually thinking of her in her living room chair with her “bad leg” propped up on a footstool, with “handwork” in her hands, watching Johnny Carson. Beside her chair was a sewing box with legs where all of her threads and scissors and work stayed when she wasn’t working on it.

I still have the first embroidery I ever did. It is a cup towel with a design of a anthropomorphic head of lettuce digging in the garden. It is probably all pretty simple stitches, but it is colorful and cute and I’m sure Mamma had to cut out stitches and knots a lot and have me redo things. I am quite sure I did it before I was 6 years old. I remember participating in a in-class school play in first grade where I played a bunny child and the bunny children were all doing various household chores. I took my embroidery hoop and a piece I was working on then and was quite pleased that I was not just acting, I knew how to embroidery. I also remember no one else caring one whit that I could do it. And I remember many many knots and tangles as I tried to be a bunny and sew at the same time.

Over the years, I embroidered a lot. Mother worked on a big bedspread/quilt with cross stitch (for years and years) and I think I helped on it some. There was also a large blue tablecloth that either she or I started and worked on for years and years and YEARS. It became such a millstone (you can’t throw away something that has so much work in it) that I eventually had Mamma finish it for me. We had to buy new thread because I’d somehow lost all the thread it came with (it was a kit) and the new thread didn’t quite match the old thread. So I now have that blue tablecloth with two distinct threads (and with her stiches being much better than mine) that sits in my china cabinet and possibly has never even been used.

I have several sets of embroidered pillow cases. They rarely get put into service. I am actually using one set right now, though, because during the bad pollen seasons in Austin (generally January through December), I try to change the pillow cases more often than the sheets so our faces aren’t pressed up to pillowcases full of pollen from our hair. I think the ones I’m using were embroidered by Mamma, but I have others that were either Mom or my other grandmother. I’m not even sure.

I think somewhere in the house or the attic I have a counted cross-stitch sampler I made for Mamma with some quote about how wonderful grandchildren are and it has the names of her five grandkids around the sides. I inherited it because I did it and I like that family stuff… but what do you do with something like that? I had another kit just like it that I was going to make for the other grandmother with her 11 grandkids, but never even started it.

I sometimes have that thought “Why don’t I ____ anymore?” and you can fill the blank in with cross-stitching or quilting or the other things I used to do while watching TV. Then I remember that I have 3 cats that LOVE ribbons and strings. And I remember that TV watching comes far behind working on the computer. And I remember that Mark absolutely hates watching TV with me when I’m sewing because of the frequent “OWWW!” that he hears when my fingers get stuck with the needle (that happens a lot in quilting). I also don’t paint, bake cakes, work crosswords, or play piano like I used to. If I had 10 more hours a day at my disposal, I know I STILL wouldn’t do any of those things. Knowing that, I need to divest myself of some of the tools of those hobbies, but that is very very hard. It is part of my identity. I am a person who owns a piano. I am a person who owns a sewing machine and knows how to use it. I am a person who has a big box of material because I like to quilt. I’m trying to change my self-identification to “I am a person that doesn’t cling to old hobbies” and “I am a _____” (whatever the opposite of hoarder is). Since I can’t even come up with the WORD, it is hard to live up to the image.

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