One hundred years ago my grandmother Irene started embroidering linens and doilies for her home. She made tablecloths with matching napkins, pillowcases, dresser scarves, hand towels and handkerchiefs.
She also began collecting special pieces that were decorated by others she knew. Some of the linens were probably to be used in a quilt or bedspread and some were treasured gifts from treasured people in her life. All were spectacular and beautiful.
Sixty years ago my mother Peggy inherited the wonderful collection of embroidered linens from my grandmother. She used a few of them in the house we lived in.
Over the years, she added a few pieces to the group. I remember a tablecloth with napkins for a card table and a liner for a bread basket. I know she made more but that’s all I remember.
Both my grandmother and mother were great sewers and made most of their clothes. My mother made many of my clothes as well as my two children’s when they were little. What they didn’t do very much was embroider, so everything they did embellish is just that much more precious.
The embroidery has become more than just a pretty attraction. It has become a symbol. It represents continuity – a connection over the years, the decades. It is a thread that binds my grandmother to mother to me. All the hours they spent are there. All the starts, mistakes, restarts and finishes are there. All the plans blossoming into beautifully decorated linens are there. There for all to see, appreciate and learn from.
Forty-three years ago I became the recipient of the grand collection, which by then had become fairly extensive. After a few years of my own collecting, I began to try to plan a good use for the expanding treasure trove of embellished pieces of linen and cotton.
Last year I designed a quilt using as many of the antique and vintage pieces as I could. The center is the middle of a tablecloth surrounded by four hand towels and corners of two dresser scarves.
Around that are the borders of a tablecloth. The mosaic panels are made up of all sorts of linens and doilies overlapping all around the quilt.
The final border is made up of handkerchiefs of every color and design.
While sewing every seam, I thought about mother and grandmother, their love of sewing and their contribution to the quilt. Their enthusiasm and love of the art were with me every step of the way. What a lovely way to share with the generations.
One hundred years of hand work, collecting and loving special pieces of cloth, three generations of women and one quilt to show all the care. What a grand result!
I couldn’t have done it without you two!
It all started last Wednesday. The sweet couple, Mr. and Miss, from across the street started working on their yard. They trimmed the trees; shaped the bushes; fertilized, mowed and watered the lawn; swept the sidewalks; and finally pressure-sprayed the fence. The are both teachers and so have summer days available for yard work. But this was all day in the Texas heat!
Then on Thursday, everyone in the neighborhood received a lovely decorated, typed letter from Mr and Miss explaining that they were having a wedding at their house on Saturday. They hoped the music and noise would not disturb anyone and also hoped we were as happy for them as they were.
Friday brought more cleaning outside and inside the house across the street. Windows were washed, carpets steam cleaned, rugs aired. Mr and Miss were in and out numerous times with bags of goodies going in and bags of trash going out. All was aflutter with action and purpose.
Looking up and down the street, I saw several of the neighbors out sprucing up their yards and tidying things up. Was it for the wedding? I thought so. I’m sure we were all trying to make the neighborhood look as presentable as possible for the impending nuptials.
That evening we saw signs going up on the block. The one on the corner read, “Wedding This Way” with an arrow and the one at the house gladly announcing “Wedding Here!” All seemed ready.
Saturday morning, all was quiet at the house. I’m sure much was going on inside but from across the street, it looked very calm.
Next door however, a garage sale was occurring. Cars and trucks were busily driving up and down the street, dropping off the eager shoppers. Was this going to interfere with the wedding? Would there be enough room for all the guests to park? Was this going to be a major clash of events? Neighbors were worried.
But just as the garage sale closed down, guests began to arrive for the ceremony next door. All problems were averted. All manner of people happily entered the house – adults, elderly, children, even a couple of babies.
The block was filled with cars and trucks. Not one more vehicle could have been parked on the street. Something was definitely happening!
As the sun began to set, all the lights in and on the house were lit. Then the lights in the trees of the backyard were turned on. It was quite a spectacle. Everyone was indoors witnessing the exchanging of vows and rings. I imagined it to be a lovely ceremony with friends and family closely gathered around the bride and groom. Nothing but love and good wishes being expressed. Hugs all around.
As darkness set in, the Mariachi Band arrived and all the celebrating moved to the backyard. When Gramps and I took our regular evening walk, we were serenaded with music, laughter, singing and hoorahs around the entire block. It was a lovely summer evening with a slight breeze. We walked in silence and just listened to the happy, magical sounds coming from the backyard across the street.
The whole neighborhood experienced it with joy and gratitude. We’d never had a wedding on the block before. We somehow all felt a bit involved in the great joy, bonding, care and outcome of the event. We wanted it all to go well for Mr and Miss and ultimately be what they dreamed it would be.
The merriment of the backyard with the good food, good beverages, good people, good cause, good entertainment went on til about midnight. Nothing rude or rowdy. Just lots of laughter, music and singing. People having good clean fun with families in attendance.
When it was done, it stopped and everyone left very graciously and politely. No problems there. All behaved themselves very well. They did leave with smiles on their faces, humming in their throats and bit of a jig in their step.
Sunday morning with the bright light of day found the house across the street very quiet. The sign out front, reading “Wedding Here!” still in place. The only reminder of the previous days’ activities.
Monday morning the two, now Mr. and Mrs. were off to get ready for the opening of school. They seemed different but looked pretty much the same. Or did they seem the same but look different? I’m not sure, but something was definitely different.
I hope something in their life has changed now that they are Mr. and Mrs. living in the house across the street. They know what it is. They wanted it. Now they have it. Becoming Mr. and Mrs. will do that for you.
And the neighborhood rejoiced!!!