Passing It On

Have you ever stitched something with the intent of it becoming an heirloom? I have to confess that I never have! Most of the projects I choose are what strikes me at the time, and never with the thought “my great-great-great-grandchildren will appreciate this”.

chatelaine closed

I’ve seen many old stitcheries – antique schoolgirl samplers, tapestries, lace – and have marveled at the work. And because I’m built this way, I think about the person who stitched it. Did they imagine that generations later, people would be staring at their work behind glass in a museum? Could that thought have ever crossed their minds even once?

Probably the best examples I have of heirloom stitching are my grandmothers’ quilts. I have at least one quilt from each of my grandmothers. Both of them quilted, in very different styles – one with cotton, friendship-style quilts with appliques and signatures, the other with polyester 9-patch (!). One of my grandmothers tatted lace, made it by the yard, and crocheted as well, edging pillowcases and hankies. My mother has those things, and I assume will one day pass them along.

But with all the stitching I’ve done, I’ve never started a project thinking, “this will be an heirloom.” And you know, that’s probably the way with the stitcheries that are preserved now in museums. The schoolgirls learning their letters and stitching never gave a thought to future generations – they were performing the task set before them. Perhaps someone making their wedding gown or a christening dress hoped that future generations would use those things. But the busy hands decorating a pillowcase, or teaching a child how to stitch, probably never dreamed that one day we would cherish their stitching.

chatelaine open

Several years ago I treated myself to an antique chatelaine of tools, dreadfully expensive! But as I hold them, I imagine the stitcher who used them, maybe everyday. She had beautiful tools to use, and hopefully cherished them as I love my scissors and favorite tools. And perhaps,somewhere, her stitching is preserved.

Have you ever stitched an heirloom? Or do you have some heirloom stitching, maybe your grandmother’s or further back? And what value to you place on it?


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