The new year always brings with it a time of reflection, and this year was no different. I spent some time considering my love of sewing and the accompanying needle arts, and the rich heritage that I am fortunate to be a part of.
I’ll start with my Grandma Reim who had the most direct influence on me, though it was from a distance. She lived in Nebraska, and I was either in Minnesota or Colorado, so we only had the occasional week of time visiting that growing up on a dairy farm allowed. However, my Grandma made her presence and love known on a daily basis with her gifts. I have the first apron that she made for me, in red, because it was my favorite color, and my orange hair did not allow for a red dress! There was also a blue corduroy jumper with ducks on it that was my “best” as a toddler that my Emily wore too. When I got my first Barbie doll in kindergarten, it was accompanied by a full wardrode constructed by my Grandma Reim. I had a raspberry corduroy coat, short dresses (one was green gingham) and a pink strapless ballgown with netting over and under the skirt. My dolly was dressed to the nines. Who cares that she had no shoes!
Grandma also knit a cape for me and crocheted a vest. About the time I reached upper elementary school, the annual gifts stopped because she was working on her legacy project, hand quilting our high school graduation quilts. She made one for each of the seven grand children, and also managed to pull off a Grand Champion quilting prize at the Nebraska State Fair in her 80’s. She also made me a chicken scratch patterned pillow for my college room, which actually wore out. My legacy quilt arrived just after my graduation, and it is well used, gathering some stains and holes in it, just like our lives do. Grandma wanted these quilts to be used, not put away, and though the holes make me a little sad, I’m glad that I followed her advice.
Grandma Reim did everything that a young lady of the teens and 20’s was supposed to in the way of needle arts. She had a hope chest made of wicker (sitting in my spare bedroom) and I’m certain it was filled with linens for her future home. She married my Grandpa in 1922 at the age of 26, a spinster in those days! No doubt, pillow cases similar to these were included in her hope chest. The embroidered pillowcase was done by my grandma, but the quilt and pillowcase with knitted (!) trim were made by my Great Grandma Hennig, who was born in 1876 and lived to be 90 years old. There’s an old picture in a family album of her doing some type of needlework the winter before she passed!
Great Grandma’s star quilt is in excellent condition. It is a twin size and every stitch was done by hand, even the peicing. It deserves one more close up. I feel so very fortunate to have it! I believe that she was in her 70’s or 80’s when she completed this one, using scraps left over from dresses and pajamas constructed over the years.
My final legacy from my Grandma Reim is her 1951 Necchi BF Nova sewing machine. It still runs, and I used it extensively for a few years when my Singer (high school graduation gift) died. Its motor needs to be cleaned, and it had some serious tension issues, but when it is happy, there is no lovelier straight stitch in the world I think! Several years ago I discovered the vintage Necchi group on Yahoo. They have many experts in tinkering with these machines, and it was there that I learned how to clean the tension screw area and get my machine working again. The motor still makes it hard to run the machine very long, but I am contemplating using it for at least some of my Marfy coat, because the straight stitch is so amazing. This is not my machine, but a picture of one exactly like it. Someday I will get very brave and follow the Yahoo instructions to clean and refurbish the motor….
I know that my love of fabric, fiber and the arts that go with them came from a legacy passed to me by my Reim and Jacobson foremothers. At another time I’ll introduce you to the Norwegian side of the family, and the legacy they infused into me!