My mother--and her mother and aunts--made towels, aprons and the traditional "days of the week" dish towels. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

My mother–and her mother and aunts–made towels, aprons and the traditional “days of the week” dish towels. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

My 1975 hand-stitched "Trees and Daffodils)

My 1975 hand-stitched “Trees and Daffodils”

Dear Mom,

Last week I wrote about needles and thread and how you taught me to sew. I also shared photos of some of the “creations” you, Molly and I made.

Our blog friends enjoyed your sewing (and teaching) talents, and many of them shared their own experiences.  Today, I’m going to share a few of their stories, Mom, because they add another talent that you, Molly and I love: writing.

Listen as I read these seeds of wonderful stories to you, and imagine the characters, the settings and the lessons :

From Jenny Pellett: Those embroidered flowers reminded me of the little tray cloths stitched by my grandmother during the war. She taught my mother and together they would while away the hours in the air-raid shelter. Mum still has them, together with some lace-edged handkerchiefs, the colours of the threads still vibrant. Heirlooms in the making.

From Rod, our Angelican priest friend in Canada: Your post reminded me that my mother taught Mugwump (my brother) and me many practical skills. As boys we learned to cook full meals – including Sunday roast, to iron, do the washing, sew on buttons (mum hated sewing on buttons, so we were on our own once taught). She also taught us leadership and commitment – and of course, love. Later she taught me to drive. So much for which to be thankful.

From my good friend Helen Armstrong in Colorado: My mother gathered all 7 of “the club” girls on our street, gave them cigar boxes with material, needles, pins, etc., and showed us how to make clothes for our dolls.  We met every week and sat on the curb in front of our house, all lined up.  After a whole summer of making one outfit, we then put on a doll play in our basement w/ sheets hanging as curtains for the stage over clothes line. The steps to the basement was where the audience sat; we sold tickets for a nickel to our production.  All the siblings were made to come to our show.

From Andrew Hardacre: Well I never learned to sew but my mother did get me to try and knit once. She did however give a love of tennis. In the 1960s she still had the old wooden ‘spoon’ of a tennis racket that she had played with many years before. Still in a press. And I learned to play with that. Parents never stop teaching us and as I frequently say, over the years I think I have turned into my father. Not such a bad thing all things considered.

And from Diana Stevan: My mother was also talented with her hands, crocheting, cross stitching, knitting but those are skills she didn’t pass on. However, I was left with the image of woman, well rounded, one with humor, a love of life, and a generosity of spirit. She was always there for her family in too many ways to enumerate and I was blessed to have her as my mother. I’m now writing a story of her beginnings during World War I in Czarist Russia, her tough childhood, and the arduous and courageous journey she and her family took to Canada. It’s my way of keeping her flame alive.

Aren’t these great stories, Mom?  Can’t you picture each story unfolding?

Today I join Jenny, Rod, Helen, Andrew, Diana, and grateful sons and daughters everywhere whose mothers taught us so many wonderful, helpful and hopeful skills.  (And for Tracy Karner, who has been embroidering a tablecloth for 3 years, keep up the good work, and when it’s finished, share pictures.  And Robyn Graham, who’s asked for a sewing machine for Christmas to do some special creating, we want to see project photographs!)

Teaching children and grandchildren to sew, paint or write is a gift they'll remember. But wait until their little minds--and hands--are ready for the lessons!

Teaching children and grandchildren to sew, paint or write is a gift they’ll remember. But wait until their little minds–and hands–are ready for the lessons!

Pikes Peak, our westside view. Remember: on cold winter days and nights, it's a perfect time to sew, write...create!

Pikes Peak, our westside view. Remember: on cold winter days and nights, it’s a perfect time to sew, write…create!



Filed under art, art projects, CO, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, sewing, writing


  1. They are all beautiful! What a lovely gift to teach your children such skills. I am guessing my grandsons wouldn’t be interested 😦

  2. Maybe, but you might be surprised. Rosi Greer, former football player for the NY Giants and the LA Rams–and also a bodyguard for Robert Kennedy–really caught the gender-sewing issue off guard. He did amazing needlepoint and macrame.
    But my grandson–and probably yours, too–is probably interested in sports and things other than sewing…at least for now.

  3. Thanks for including my little comment. Susan taught our granddaughter to bake cookies when she was quite little. She was in Canada for a holiday with her sister and parents. They had a great time together. Today she is completing culinary arts and has plans to be a pastry chef!
    Your blog got me thinking this morning. I plan to write a single post about Things I wish I had Asked My Mother. This may be a project for Monday.

    • Once you start, Rod, more and more ideas will come to you. When I began “Things I Want To Tell My Mother” (even though she can’t remember them because of her dementia), I didn’t realize how one thought would nudge another awake, and then the next, and so on. It’s quite a journey you’re about to take!
      A pastry chef in the family? Yea! and Yum!

  4. Thanks for sharing these beautiful comments, Marylin. Last week, after I read your post, I lost a button off a jacket. As I struggled to thread the needle, I thought of you and your mom, and I smiled.

  5. What lovely memories you shared of both yourself and others. It was such a different world then and it is nice to remember the tea towels,aprons and such. Some still do it but not many. Oh, and thanks for the Pike’s Peak picture…

    • It was a different world, Claudia. I’m not sure we would want to trade away today for yesterday or even tomorrow, but the tradition of the hand-made, homemade gifts and food are coming back in popularity.
      Some of my favorite presents have very little actual value but are priceless in terms of memories, love and emotion.
      We’ll hope for many “heart memories” this coming Christmas!

  6. juliabarrett

    There is memory in art, whether it’s a book, a journal, a poem – all the obvious – or a painting, a quilt, a piece of embroidery or lace. All retain a memory of loving talented hands.

    • You’re so right, Julia. When I snuggled under a crocheted afghan or a hand-made quilt, I can sense the movements of the creative hands and almost hear the soft conversations and humming melodies of those who did the creating.

  7. I enjoyed seeing the pictures of the way your mother, grandmother and aunt sewed, cross-stitched and created the varied items, including days of the week towels. I remember seeing those at a friend of mine’s house! The brightly stitched memories are definitely a wonderful gift that your mother instilled in you. These memories and items are precious and to be treasured. I liked that thought, on cold, winter days, the time to stay inside and do these crafts is now upon us!

    • Absolutely. I’ve had four projects going since late summer. It’s only now, when the days are shorter, colder, quieter, that I’m excited to get back to them.
      And posts like yours today–and the story of your grandfather taking a family’s order and filling it in McDonald’s when segregation wouldn’t serve them–that still touches and amazes me. Thank you.

  8. Wonderful stories. Ishbel and I were Christmas shopping today and we were in one of these sell everything stores and they had a great craft section we ended up buying lots of ‘sew and make’ items as pressies for the girls for Christmas

    • What fun that will be, Tom! You and Ishbel will have the memories of shopping for the presents, and then as the granddaughters open the presents and create the projects, you’ll have more memories heaped up in happiness. Talk about pre- and present-holiday spirit, with memories for a long time afterward, too.

  9. Lovely post and photos. My mother and her sisters were all great needlewomen, and taught their daughters – including me – how to sew and embroider. The love of needlework and sewing skills seem to be in our genes, as my daughter and her daughters are also all keen – we have some treasured pieces with lots of memories.

  10. There’s nothing better to pass on in our genes than this! Embroidered, knitted, crocheted, hand-sewn creations carry our energy, creativity and best wishes in every stitch. To pass it on to the next generation is such a great gift!

  11. These were all beautiful stories. Thanks for sharing them Marylin.
    My mother was my teacher in many ways than one. She taught me in school and at home and what a great teacher she was. I miss her

  12. Such a lovely collection of stories. Almost seem like little stories that you could slip in to a needle book or the side of a sewing basket as a reminder of our sewing heritage.

  13. I feel so honoured to be mentioned in despatches, Marylin – I hope your Mom can make something of what we have all shared here. A wonderful post (as usual!) 🙂

    • I hope so, too, Jenny. When I read her the stories about herself, she’ll often smile and say, “Do we know them?” So I’ll try again with these stories and when she asks, I’ll tell her about each of you and then read your stories again. We’ll hope that helps.

  14. Hi Marylin,
    I always enjoy reading the beautiful memories you share with your readers. Your posts make me think of my own mother and all that she taught me.
    Have a great week!

  15. My Mom died less than a month before my first grandchild was born. Mom made a beautiful crocheted sweater, booties and hat for her. These handmade treasures are something my daughter, granddaughter and I cherish. Wonderful memories made with love.

    • Oh, Judy, I hope those crocheted gifts have been worn by all of her great-grandchildren since that time, and they could ‘feel’ the tangible love created made by your mother.
      I believe there is something that remains of us in everything we create, and through that, a bit of us wraps those who follow us in love.

  16. Dear Marylin.

    This was both delightful and uplifting. Having the ability to bestow a skill to others, specially children, can be so fulfilling. And I am sure both the Giver and the Receivers would carry wonderful memories of bonding.


  17. Molly

    Wow….who is the filthy, dirty little baby? Oh, wait that is Miss Grace at 4 years old after the Tornado in Chapman. Although the kids always looked that dirty while we were cleaning up after the tornado, we still loved them and hugged them all the time. After the tornado, we didn’t do sewing projects, but we did do a lot of replanting of grasss, cleaning up glass, pulling up glass filled carpet, and building of fenes….and we did it together as a family! Now when we are at our house it is not just the house that was built in 1881, but also the house that we re-built as a family, even with little dirty, sticky hands!

    • When I think of all that you, the kids and Trevor went through during the tornado and then the long process of rebuilding, I feel the Divine protection that surrounded you all. And now, with your house wonderfully restored–and the memories your family has of doing much of it together, yourselves–makes it all the more wonderful.
      Pictures like this one of dirty, sweaty, sunburned, precious little Grace–and also the one of Gannon adorably “planting” seeds in the dirt–these are some of my favorite, most-proud Mor-Mor pictures!

  18. Oh Marylin, how lovely to share these wonderful stories with your mom, what a lovely idea! I enjoyed reading them so much. Reading Jenny’s certainly reminded me of my own grandmother and my mum sewing together in the bomb shelter that my grandfather had built at the bottom of their garden!

    As I said before, I am so grateful to my own mum for all that she taught me but although I did a lot of cross stich and sewing (and knitting!) when my children were younger (I made all my daughter’s dresses, got in there quickly before she got to the age of refusing to wear them!) I haven’t made much or sewn much (other than buttons on or the occasional pair of curtains) for many years.

    I hope that when I am a granny that I will be inspired again, as I know full well the importance of handing down these hand-crafted-with-love keepsakes and heirlooms 🙂

    As I read some of the stories here, I am reminded of one I thought you and your mom might like to hear. I shared in a post about my love of Kingfishers and the story of how my Granny embroidered a picture of one and framed it. She had it on her wall for years. I commented on it once, how much I liked it and the next time she saw me she gave it to me. Years later, when she was visiting me she noticed the Kingfisher on my wall and this time she commented how much she liked it and she asked me where I had got it from. When I told her that she had made it and then given it to me, she said, ‘Did I? I must be mad!’ She had completely forgotten that she had made it and that she had given it to me, but we had such a laugh about it and to this day whenever I look at her framed creation I think of her! I must take a photo of it and send it to you! Here is the link if you would like to read it:

    I love the photos too, and what a view, wow! Beautiful post as always Marylin 🙂

    • Sherri, thank you for sending the link to “a birthday and kingfisher”–I hadn’t read that one, and it is another example of your strong story-teller voice. I’m going to print out your story about your mother forgetting giving you the embroidered Kingfisher picture and read it to my mother. She may not understand all the details, but as a mother she will smile and nod and enjoy it. Thanks for sharing this.

      • Ahh, that’s so lovey, thank you Marylin. As I said before, I just felt so strongly to share this story about my grandmother with you and your mom.

        You have made my heart smile with your beautiful post, it stays with me…

  19. I’m struck by how even children understand the heart of a handmade gift. My grandfather (yes, grandFATHER) sewed quilts for my sons when they were 5-ish, and after that, they never wanted the super-hero comforters their friends all lusted after. They had their grandfather’s quilt to sleep under.

    And thanks for encouraging me about the table cloth. I’m getting a bit winded (especially since I’m also trying to knit up a few last hats for Christmas gifts). But I’ll keep going. And I’ll post pictures. (Shows you, how helpful to motivation it can be, to share your goals with an encourager).

    • I love it that your sons chose the quilts made by your grandfather instead of the super-hero comforters! I do believe that children, especially, sense the love that goes into things made for them.
      I’ll be glad to be one of your encouragers (without nagging or hounding you) re: your table cloth embroidering project. I know the work involved, but also the satisfaction you’ll have when it’s finished. And I can’t wait to see the pictures! Keep up the good work.

    • Molly

      Tracy, my mom, Marylin, made quilts for each of my kiddos too!!!She used t-shirts that they had gotten in different sports/school activities/etc. The kids love these “blankies”, and prefer them over any store bought comforter, also!

      • What a wonderful mom you have, Molly! (And what a great idea!–I love the notion of recycling and memorializing useful items instead of junking up the landfill with them).

      • Thank you, Tracy. You’re so sweet…I love having a friend remind my daughter what a great mom she has!

      • My sons are Mike and Brian, they live in MN–if you bump into them (they don’t have blogs or I’ll tell you where to find them on WordPress)– remind them what a great mom they have! 😉

      • Since I probably won’t be in Minnesota soon, I’ll do a shout out now!
        Hey, Mike and Brian, you have a wonderful and talented mom, and you’re so very lucky! (You might offer to help her finish the table cloth.)

      • What Molly didn’t tell you, Tracy, is how adorable and happy Grace and Gannon were to wrap up in the ‘memory t-shirt’ quilts…and how exhausted I was! Piecing together t-shirts in layers and attaching them to the cotton and flannel sheets underneath sounds simple enough, but the t-shirts keep slipping and stretching. But in the end, it was worth it. Oh, the things we do for our grandchildren!

  20. Marylin,
    It’s so nice to see you sharing the wonderful comments with us and your mother. I know she would be thrilled. The handiwork is beautiful as is your view. 🙂

  21. Wonderful stories. My goodness. So, so sweet. This brought back memories of my mother who sewed well. She made many of our school dresses, and she taught us all how to sew by hand for repairs, hemming, buttons, etc.

    • And what’s most interesting to me about my mother’s developing interest and talent in dress making is this fact: her freshman year in college she borrowed a nice formal to wear, but it was 3″ too long. The friend told her to just baste the hem up and press it, but Darla, my mother didn’t even know how to baste! She ended up pressing it after putting in safety pins around the inside edge. But she ran out of safety pins and had to do the rest with masking tape provided by a friend who worked in the library.
      Oh, how far she came…and then she taught me.

  22. Hi Marylin. We were away with my family (a total of 19 people) in Disney last week so I am just now getting to read blogs. I love this post. So awesome to read stories of motherly love and guidance from so many people. It brings back memories for me too of how my mother taught me how to macrome (I don’t know how to spell it), sew, and crochet. She too is great with her hands and has always been gifted with a paint brush or what ever she picks up – creative and talented. Love to you and Mary! Robyn

    • Thank you so much, Robyn. I’ll deliver your message to my mom with a hug, and remind her of your photographs she loves. It sounds like your mother was also a talented creator with both paint brushes and needles!

      I hope Disneyland with your family was a rip-roaring good time, and of course you probably took some wonderful pictures.

  23. Such a lovely post. My mom at least taught me how to sew a button and a hem by hand. My grandmother taught me to crochet. I’m so grateful I know how to do both.

  24. L. Marie, if your mother taught you to sew on a button and hem by hand, you were miles ahead of others. You just gave me an idea for the next post, so thank you very much.
    P.S. Knowing how to crochet is great, too, and I love it. I bet your grandmother had a great time teaching you. It’s one of those special grandmother/granddaughter lessons.

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