Grandma and the Beautiful Button Hatcomments (9) March 16th, 2009
As we celebrate Susan Beal’s beautiful, inventive book, Button It Up, I can’t help but think of my Grandma Worick. She was a farmwife and serious crafter, sewing clothes, braiding rag rugs, and making all sorts of dear items out of very little.
And she was a serious hoarder. I absolutely adored rifling through her closet, her giant trash bag of fabric scraps, and the little jewelry boxes stuffed into the third drawer of her bureau. But most of all, I loved poking around in the attic.
My grandpa’s World War I helmet was stuck up there, as were various pieces of old furniture and boxes. Perched on one box was a wide-brimmed black velvet hat.
On its own, it was simply resplendent. But Grandma used the chapeau as a way to store her best buttons. Sparkly rhinestones winked at me, regal jet buttons held court, and carved abalone rimmed the brim. I was just enchanted, both by the array of buttons sewn all over the hat as well as by Grandma’s clever showcase.
It was Grandma who taught me how to first thread a needle. I would accompany her to the fabric store, fascinated by the giant Butterick pattern books and vertical filing cabinets. While Grandma was busy rooting out bargain fabric and thread, I was looking at lame animal and doll patterns that were printed on fabric. All I had to do was cut out the patterns, sew the pieces together, and stuff them with batting. Even making such a simple stuffed animal/pillow was a bit beyond my skill set. I tried but I was more interested in my Betty & Veronica comics than I was in sewing and other traditional crafts.
Grandma had an ancient treadle sewing machine that sat in her bedroom. When my brother John was finally drawing a paycheck in the Navy, he bought my grandmother a newfangled sewing machine. When she passed away, we found the machine still in the box. While I’m sure she was touched by such a generous gift, she was of the mind that if it ain’t broke, don’t replace it.
When she tried to bust out the crochet needles with me during a particularly bad blizzard, I figured out how to do a simple chain—my yarn was a godawful tube of baby pink, baby blue, and white variegated yarn I thought was the bee’s knees—but I couldn’t quite get the hang of turning it around. So I turned to other crafts. I helped Mom with her decoupage and ceramics projects. I made a passel of friendship bracelets. I macraméd an Easter basket. It was the '80s and I had questionable taste.
I regret that I didn’t learn to knit, crochet, and sew from Grandma. She taught me so many things, but I waited until she was gone and I was well into adulthood to pick up these crafts. But that button hat, that I fawned over and loved at first sight.
What did you learn from your grandmother?
What notions, materials, or craft supplies were you drawn to as a child?