A Needle in my Hand

Today my mom would have turned 94.  Sadly she passed away all the way back in 1990 when I was only 24…she was 61.

One of the best things my mom ever did for me was to put a needle in my hand.  She patiently taught me many of the crafts I still am enjoying.

Here’s a clip from my baby book… SewingfromBabyBook

I was 3 1/2 in when the photo was taken.  Mom writes, “This is the 1st time Joey (yep, they called me Joey) took a needle and threaded it and some material and tried to sew and she ended up sewing it on to her pants, she is showing it to Judy here.”  Judy is my sister.  She would have been 20 at the time.

Here’s a closer view… What a rag-a-muffin I was.  Dirty shirt, dirty pants, one sock on and one sock off…yep, I was a total rag-a-muffin.  Georgie, my granddaughter is often the same way.  So much so that we tease Kelli that she picked Grace as Georgia’s middle name because Georgie is very much a tomboy.

Anyway, back to me and my stitching.  I was 3 1/2.  My mom thought nothing of giving me a needle and thread.  I’m so glad she did.  That first day I had a needle in my hand was recorded here in this picture.

Mom either taught me or facilitated my learning of so many crafts.

We didn’t have a lot of money.  We never went hungry.  We never felt deprived, but my parents lived from milk check to milk check.  They were dairy farmers living on a small farm in southern Minnesota.  All of us in the family knew the milk check came on the 1st and the 15th of each month.

Somehow, Mom always found money for sewing and crafts.

If I wanted to learn how to crochet, we would go to the Ben Franklin or Woolworth’s store and get a crochet hook and a ball of yarn.  If I wanted to sew Barbie doll clothes, she would buy a pattern and give me free rein and a guiding hand to help me do it…sadly, crochet never stuck.

I tried everything…a latch hook rug, knitting, candle wick embroidery, embroidery, cross stitch, sewing doll clothes, sewing my own clothes, quilting..she truly valuable the enjoyment one gets from crafting, and she passed it onto me.  It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever been given.

She taught me to embroider shortly after this picture was taken.  Oh, I was terrible at it as a four-year-old.

She never criticized me.  She would gently encourage me to try this or that…but never mean words…never words that didn’t make me want to quit.  I thank her for that.

There are three things my mom did for me that I hope I did for my kids and now my grandkids.

1-She modeled crafting and sewing.  We always saw her sewing.  She didn’t have a sewing room and often sewed on the dining room table.

2- She didn’t criticize what I did or make me feel inferior. If I made a mistake she said we all do…and she’d rip it out for me.   She gently reminded me that the more I did it, the better I would be at it.

3-She never made me feel like I was too little.  I remember playing in the button box at the table while she sewed.   I remember her teaching me to iron handkerchiefs when I was only four or five.  I loved it and felt like such a big kid.  She always let me try.  I first used a sewing machine sitting on a kitchen stool with a box under the table and the foot pedal on the box.  I was never too little.

Mom was a real talent with a sewing machine.  She was short and short wasted with bigger hips.  She would buy clothes and then tailor them so they fit her the way she wanted.  She made my wedding dress and prom dresses.  My brother was in a band and she jazzed up his clothes with trims and fringe to make him look more hip.

My mom’s talent went beyond normal crafting.  She reupholstered furniture.  She could lay carpet and linoleum.  When they remodeled their farmhouse, it was my mom, not my dad that helped the carpenter.  She was a real talent.

Right here in the blog post is where I REALLY wish there was a picture of my mom and me.  Sadly, there isn’t one.  Back then selfies and cell phones weren’t a thing and Dad wouldn’t have taken a picture of her and me.  This is a gentle reminder to all of you who shy away from the camera:  Someday you’ll be gone and your daughter or son will really wish they had a picture of them with you.  They won’t care if your hair wasn’t perfect or you were wearing old clothes.  Please just take the picture because someday it might be your daughter sitting at a computer all teary-eyed because there is no picture to insert into their blog post.

I’ll close and say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM.  Thanks for putting a needle in my hand on October 19, 1969… and thanks for snapping the polaroid photo and writing down the memory.  You started my love of the needle and crafting.  It was the best long-lasting gift you could have even given to me.  Thank you so much.



32 thoughts on “A Needle in my Hand”

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your mom, Jo! I’m so sorry that she died so early in your life and you don’t have a single picture with her, but what a joy that you have such wonderful memories and the legacy of crafting from her!

  2. A nice tribute to your Mom, Jo. It sounds like she was a wonderful, patient and caring mother.

    Even though her life was over too soon, she passed along these great skills to you and allowed you to learn to be confident in your abilities.
    It must have been fulfilling to her as a mother to see what a fine daughter she raised.

  3. Susan the Farm Quilter

    She gave you a gift that has lasted a lifetime! What a blessing! I was blessed to be 57 when my mom died and 66 when my dad died. I hope your kids have you around as long as I had my parents…they were 89 and 98 when they passed, so you have to hang around for a good long while yet! I guess we all have to sew something to our clothing, right?

  4. This blog touched my heart. I cried all of the way through it. My Mama was the same way. I learned to sew young, because she gently taught me. Ssdly, I also lost her when I was 29 and she was 62. But the skills she taught me have lasted a lifetime. I think of her often.

  5. Lovely tribute to your Mom, Jo! Sadly, I too lost my Mom too soon (I was 26, she was 51). My mom was a crafter and a 4H leader. Every winter, we learned a new craft while snowed in – to sew, knit, crochet, embroider, etc. She (and my grandmother) fostered my continued journey in crafting. Great memories!

  6. Although your mom passed way too early, she provided you with so many lifelong gifts and cherished memories in her time here. Another great thing about that photo is having a memento of her handwriting. My dad kept a handwritten inventory of his music collection on index cards in a plastic box that I now have. I love seeing his handwriting and even the smell of stale cigarette smoke that lingers in those boxes to this day.

    1. Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute to your mother. My mother died in 1977 when I was 16. She too could sew anything and was very crafty. Gosh I miss her terribly but, one day we shall meet again in God’s house.
      Thank you again for sharing such a sweet memory.

  7. Judith Fairchild

    Jo, I cried for you not having a picture of your mom. She gave you such great gifts. You lost her so soon. I was blessed to keep my mom till she was 97. She was always interested in whatever crafts I took up. I could call her and ask for help if I got stuck sewing something. Our mothers are a blessing to us even now though they have gone ahead.

  8. Jo, just a few years earlier my.mom put a needle in my hand in Baltimore. Back in 1950, she worked 12 hour shifts at the pharmacy, for $1/hr, so she could buy a White sewing machine in a beautiful maple cabinet. She sewed many of my clothes on it, she taught me to sew, embroider, cross stitch and crochet. We were going to make a quilt together but she passed at 61, when I was 30. I miss her more every day. I think you touched a chord eith everyone. God bless you and Happy Birthday to your mom in heaven!!

  9. What a lovely tribute to your mother. It’s also touching to have the handwritten sidebar by your mother. Your children and grandchildren are so blessed to have your blog documenting your family times.

  10. What a wonderful tribute to your mom…. and a BIG thump to me to get those pictures of Nonna and grands separate etc. THIS Thanksgiving . Thanks Jo

  11. I was lucky enough to have my mom until she was 86. She, too, taught me her love and talent for sewing. I made her a wall hanging that read, “Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to sew” and now it hangs in my sewing room. That skill has brought me happiness and extra income in my retirement to allow me extras (like my recent purchase: a Grace quilting frame/Juki machine combo!)

  12. My grandma let me learn how to embroidery on a pillowcase! That was really sweet because I wasn’t very old….but older than 4. She made woolen braided rugs…beautiful. I’m sure they sere made out of old woolen clothing. She also crocheted baby booties and pincushions. I still have the one she made for me, my other grandma also was crafty. She sewed clothing by hand before she got a machine. She knitted, crocheted, embroidered, tatted. Oh my she did beautiful tatted handkerchiefs.
    So, I guess I inherited my crafty genes.

  13. Great memories. My grandparents all passed before I was born but I had a grand aunt who let me play in her button box. I ended with that box who holds so many memories. We would string buttons on a double length of thread to make “necklaces.” My Mom taught me a lot of what I know of crafting. Sweet memories.

  14. I just love this picture of you! So funny!

    My mom also encouraged me to sew and craft. When I started sewing my own clothes as a teenager I would have never stuck with it if she hadn’t quietly ripped out my mistakes and told me to try again. Fond memories of sewing, quilting and shopping for fabric together.

  15. Shirley from Calmar

    Your mom was very similar to my mom. So sorry you lost her so young. I am sure she would be very proud of the great and caring person you have become. I was blessed to have my mom until she was 95.

  16. Love and hugs to Jo and all you Ladies for remembering and loving ❤ your mothers and grandmothers. My mother was sick and couldn’t be much of a hands’ on mother, but we loved each other anyway. She lived with us for the last 5 years of her life, after her parents passed. It was her mother who taught me how to sew, stitch, knit, quilt, everything. I have pictures of my mother all around, but no one else, and I so love and miss them all. ❣you all!

  17. I love how your mom let you try all kinds of different crafts. I tried that with my girls…not a lot with my son except clay, Lego, etc. but it only stuck with one. She cross stitches – and one of my grand daughters loves to cross stitch and quilt.
    I’ll remember that with pictures – you’re right – I have so few of just me and my mom. :-(
    Thank you for sharing this with us. I love how you always post from the heart.
    Love and prayers

  18. Happy Birthday to your Mom in heaven. Thank you for sharing this story of your life with Mom. It was so great that she wrote on the side of the picture what the pic represented.

  19. Penelope Kraemer

    Happy memories, I first learnt to use the treadle sewing machine my parents brought back from Manitoba, my Mum was a war bride and had six children under six when my twin sister and I were born. She made all our dresses on that machine, and helped me learn to sew dolls clothes on it . She made me the quilter I am today , and knitter, my daughter is a Ravelry designer and my Mum would have been so proud. So many memories. Penny Kraemer

  20. Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute to your mother. My mother died in 1977 when I was 16. She too could sew anything and was very crafty. Gosh I miss her terribly but, one day we shall meet again in God’s house.
    Thank you again for sharing such a sweet memory.

  21. What beautiful memories of your mom. My grandmother taught me to crochet and opened the door to sewing/quilting. Nothing like todays methods but it laid the foundation. Mom had an Elma sewing machine that had cams to make decorative stitches. Mom would let me use it to put trims on my Barbie clothes or whatever. Gramma embroidered but that was one craft she didn’t teach me. I’d like to have learned.

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