Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Archive under the stairs

On Monday I posted about a trip back to my childhood. Today is a peek into my sons' childhoods via a box of saved items buried deep under the stairs.

We don't have a basement. Even after remodeling our home with an entire second story addition, storage space is still less than we would like. Of course, if it were more, we might never edit our possessions and then we would truly burst at the seams or have our kids curse us after our demise. The stairway to the upper story has a deep closet underneath, deep but with a declining ceiling that ends in a cubby hole under the landing. We're going to need access to that area soon for an upcoming project so I decided to weed through the closet this past weekend. I knew there was a box of baby items but didn't remember the exact contents.

My babies are 33 and 31. Yes, it is true but hard to believe. I received special dispensation to marry at 5 and adopted the first one at the age of 6. If they don't start lying about their ages soon, I am cutting them off their birthday gifts, but that is another story.

I should have laundered and pressed their christening outfit before photographing it, but I was in a bit of a hurry to get it repacked and there are no plans to use it soon. Colton was too big to wear this at his christening.
I made this sweater under the guise that it might be cold in church. They never wore it anywhere else because I thought it was a bit too feminine for little boys. The buttons are the wrong side for boys, but don't tell anybody.
The room we used as a nursery was painted yellow with yellow gingham curtains. I made my first quilt for that room. I didn't really know what I was doing, but it served them both well for many years and lots of laundering.
 This string of gingham elephants was tied from a corner post of their crib to the back rail. Why elephants? I don't know. I just thought they were cute.
 This crocheted afghan is basically a shell pattern with yellow shells on one side, white on the other. My sister-in-law had a daughter 11 days after Chuck was born. Her room was brown and white and I made her the same afghan in those colors.

While pregnant with Billy, I decided he needed his own blanket and made this one for his christening. It is much more yellow than it appears in the photo, but nowhere near as bright as the yellow in the crocheted afghan. It was my first time working a flat piece on circular needles and I was totally confused by the concept at first. I underestimated how long it would take me to complete this. It was done on small needles and I had a toddler running around me and was pregnant when I began this. It was finished on Friday of christening weekend. Nothing like a deadline, eh?

I didn't often make matching or coordinated items for the boys which might be why I saved these sweaters. I have no other explanation as they weren't my favorites. The blue one was made for Chuck. As Billy grew into that size, I made the brown one for Chuck but skipped the hat as that style never stayed on my sons' heads. The back of the blue one with Chuck's name on it says "Go Blue". I must have had that ski sweater pattern memorized as I also made one in green and white for my niece who is Chuck's age.
The boys were around 8 and 6 when I took an adult education class and learned to smock. I loved smocking, but the best part of that experience was becoming friends with the instructor. I never name just one best friend as there are a few women who will always have a piece of my heart, but Joyce is one of them. Once class on making a snowflake ornament led to a class on making a smocked nightgown for myself and soon I was a member of a smocking guild.

The guild wasn't the only temptation that Joyce led me into. She introduced me to heirloom sewing instructors, duplicate stitch teachers, silk ribbon embroiderers and so on. Bill joked that if the supplies were expensive and no one else in Michigan had knowledge of the technique, Joyce and I were doing it. Have you heard of Martha Pullen? She holds classes in Huntsville, AL in February and July. The school is now called the School of Art Fashion and I assume it is just as wonderful an experience now as the times I went in the late 80s and early 90s. I went three times and each was a wild adventure that I'll share at some point. One year, the course I took was baby themed. I was beyond baby making days and the boys were way too young to think of grandbabies. I took the classes for the techniques involved.

The work is beautiful but not always practical. While I hate to generalize a whole population, most northern men think heirloom sewing is way too frou-frou for their sons and many northern women are afraid of caring for the items. Many just plain don't like to iron and I can identify with that. We've become such a casual dress society, I can't think of the last time I saw the finery I learned to sew at Martha Pullen's, but I don't regret the classes at all.

Here is a heirloom baby quilt. Again, I should have pressed it for photos but we had company coming and I was rushed to put things back in boxes.

I made a few of these baby bonnets as gifts. I don't think I've seen a bonnet in use in over ten years now.
One of the sewing instructors I had along the way had taught elementary school for a number of years. She told us that human nature admires beauty and that while it may seem superficial to some adults, a child who is attractively dressed is going to be favorably noticed at school. She wasn't saying that any child was going to be overlooked, but human nature is going to notice the girl in the cute jumper and the boy whose hair is combed (at least at the beginning of the school day). The kindergartner who hears "what a cute dress/shirt you are wearing" doesn't notice that it is their clothing that is being noticed, they only realize that they are being noticed in a positive way. Isn't that what we would all like?

I know enough not to judge a book by its cover, but nostalgic enough to hope that someday people will take a little more pride in their appearance again. They don't have to wear heirloom clothing that needs gentle washing, starch and ironing. Just stop wearing pajama pants and slippers in public and if you really think offensive language and gestures on tee shirts is funny, save them for your friends who might appreciate them.

Guess I got a little off track from how I began this post. An interruption and watching scruffy adults and unkempt little ones in Kroger caused this. I'd like to beautify America, one person at a time. Guess I will start with myself by combing my hair.  Photobucket


Chatty Crone said...

Oh my goodness - you sure did a lot of beautiful work when the kids were little - it was nice seeing your blast from the past.
You were 5 - huh? sandie

SkippyMom said...

HI! I just spent the most enjoyable day [and night] reading your lovely blog, but now...I am sad. :( I read it all. heehee

Thank you so much for your lovely posts and inspiration. You are a lot of fun to be around.

[ps - you are sooo talented in so many things and I suspect you might be thinking of adding soap making to your rotation. I apologize if you came to my blog "I Make Soap" looking for tips - I don't make it anymore since I became ill a year ago, but I am up for any questions you might have. Take care!]

Janice said...

I love this post. I love ALL your posts. I'm so glad to have found this blog.