Monday, February 22, 2010

More of Tee's Crewel

I've found more pieces of my grandmother's crewel. I think you can click on the image to zoom and see the stitching if you like.

FYI - Her nickname was Tee. Being of Lithuanian descent, her given name was Thais (sounds like Thai-eece). My brother and I were her only grandchildren and as kids we called her TeeTee. An image of her is above on my blogs title bar (removed since changing my blog theme in Oct. 2010). She is the one in the First Communion dress with her bible and rosary - love those shoes!

I wrote about a piece she made in another post: Threads of Time. This piece she also finished in 1973. I love how the one coral colored flower stands out. Also, it was probably her second favorite color next to aqua.

This next one was made in 1973, 2 years before the ones above. I love the colors in it and came to have a thing for owls in my adult life.

I don't know the provenance of any of the pieces I am presenting in this post. Unlike the prior post, nothing is written on the back of these. Unanswered questions are: Which one was her first? Did she use a pattern or design them herself? Though, I do remember her working on them sitting on her day-bed in her room and me going in to snuggle beside her or get a hug and she would say "wait a minute dear, let me put down my stitching", always obliging my request and always calling me "dear".

This next one is unlike the prior four which are more of a Jacobean style. I know it was also for me; I am the Leo in the family. It seems to be a 1970's design. I suppose it's even possible that she found this somewhere, maybe even a garage sale, and purchased it. It is not signed by her as the others are and because it is a different style than she did, it's highly probable.

I'm pretty sure that is all the crewel she kept. I have no way of knowing if she made some to give as gifts. My storage clean-up is a work in progress, so I'll soon find out if I've missed any.

I plan to address the fact that, to my knowledge, none are framed with archival quality materials. That will have to wait. I have too many other goals prioritized.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Threads of Time

You're not going to believe this.

First a little back-story...

One of my husbands passions is woodworking - making colonial Windsor chairs, to be specific, with hand tools the way they did back in colonial times. This lead us to setting up a booth, on occasion, at different venues which would attract buyers or people interested in taking a class on learning the craft. He displays his chairs and demonstrates the process of making them.

This, combined with his interest in American History, the Revolutionary War, the founding of our country and our interest in genealogy, led us to dressing in period appropriate clothing for these events. No small task, as everything must be authentically created. For me, that means hand sewing a lot of period clothing because the sewing machine was not invented until 1846.

Part of my ensemble for my 18th century wardrobe includes pockets. The pockets of the day were not sewn into the inside of clothes, but instead attached to a ribbon which ties around the waist underneath your skirt. These were oftentimes embroidered with wool thread which is called crewel.

Mannequin at the Dewitt-Wallace Museum in Colonial Williamsburg depicting 18th century undergarments.
Photo Copyright 2010 Joanne Schleier

Side view of the pocket.
Photo copyright 2010 Joanne Schleier

Close-up of hand-stitched surface embroidery on the pocket.
Photo Copyright 2010 Joanne Schleier

My maternal grandmother used to do crewel and I've had her work stored away since she passed away in 1994. I remember also storing her books about it and yarns for a time and then later purging a lot of my sewing related stored items in an attempt to rid myself of clutter (something that is a continuous process which gives me great pleasure). I try to stick to the rule that if I haven't used it for a year then I toss it. However, this was something I was emotionally attached to. I saved it all for many years before admitting to myself that I would probably never take up crewel work.

And the story goes on...

So, now I had a strong desire to learn crewel for my pockets. I thought of how enriching it would be to be able to use my grandmother's yarns, now belonging to someone else since I donated the whole lot to Goodwill. What a shame. I almost felt numb and found it difficult to begin the project. Every time I thought of starting, I would instead start a mental self-sabotage with remorse and regret. Strong thoughts of self ridicule. My grandmother would have been proud if she could have seen me pick up her hobby and use her supplies so carefully chosen by her.

I purchased the linen and decided to rebel divert from what was acceptable and use 21st century embroidery threads including ribbon and synthetic fibers for my pockets and make my own design. Who would see them anyway? I had an inspiration from a 21st c. book.

Today, I was in my sewing room in the basement and began to draft a pattern for the pockets overall shape and embroidery design. I was through with the shape when I stepped into the connecting storage room where the framed pieces my grandmother made are stored. I was looking for inspiration for my pattern...again.

I found a piece she made that I liked the most. It was professionally framed under glass.
Crewel piece done by my grandmother in 1971.
Photo Copyright 2010 Joanne Schleier

The stitching is 101/2" by 14"; the frame is larger. (It would not fit completely on my scanner so I scanned two images from it and merged them back into one. I looked at the piece with different eyes. I had read several books about stitches, patterns, techniques, and tools. This is good work. I turned over the back of the frame and look what I saw...

Back of the crewel piece:
Tee Rambeau
1971 Nashua
New Hampshire
for Joanne Beylouny
from Grandma TeeTee
Photo Copyright 2010 Joanne Schleier

This was made for me! She finished it when I was 3 years old. I couldn't believe my eyes. I felt like she was right there beside me! I spoke out loud to her and said "thank you Tee, I am so remorseful that I gave your supplies away at a time when I've really come to appreciate what you did for me".

Something told me to walk toward the shelves where boxes of my mother's and grandmother's belongings are. I looked at all the boxes, numbered and marked with an "A" for "antiques" to tell me the contents were theirs. But then, I noticed a blue plastic trash can on the shelf. It had been there so long, I never "saw" it. It was of those plastic containers with a lid in the shape of an old round trash can. We used to store my daughters lego's in it in her room when she was a child. I knew the lego's were long since donated - my daughter is 24.

Oh heaven! Could it be? I think I remember putting her crewel yarns in there about eight years ago... but then I swear I donated them. I grabbed the can with the framed crewel work in the other hand and ran back to my sewing table to see what was inside. I opened it harriedly with my heart beat increasing in my chest.

Inside were the cards of colorful wool. I was real. I started tearing up and said "oh thank you!" many times as I dug deeper and pulled them out a handful at a time. She had tied similar colors together which had similar numbers. I laid them all out and was filled with so much joy and pride.

There are 82 cards in all. Crewel yarns sorted by color/number laid out on a five foot table.
Photo Copyright 2010 Joanne Schleier

Tee raised me and my brother with our mother (her daughter) and became a second parent. She was there for us in every way. What a beautiful lady and such a wonderful gift. I am so glad I was wrong about donating them. It will mean so much to me to use her threads.

And so, I will start again with a renewed sense of appreciation for the time and attention to detail our ancestors paid to the slightest thing. Even concealed pockets. Or perhaps a treasure for a granddaughter who will perhaps place it prominently on the wall to look at everyday and be reminded that she was loved. And so, it hangs now where I will see it everyday and think of her. Thank you, Tee.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dont' Miss Faces of America - Starting Tonight!!!

Tonight on PBS is the first episode of a mini series that is genealogy based - Faces of America. You don't want to miss this! Between this and the upcoming Who Do You Think You Are? premiering in March on NBC, genealogy is going to get a lot of exposure. Do you remember when Roots hit the airwaves in the 1970's? It started a wave of inspiration for searching our own roots (I was too young then, but still, I'm aware of this). If you haven't begun your own quest into your past...get ready to become motivated!
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

Friday, February 5, 2010

What A Surprise!

I found a vintage photo behind another one inside a frame!

One of my ongoing projects is to take all of my original photos, digitize them, print copies, and create a photo collage on the wall.

I definitely want to preserve the originals for posterity, so those won't be hanging on the wall, but instead will be preserved in archival materials.

But the question arose as to what to do with a photo inside an original frame. Do I scan the photo within the frame and print that? Or do I remove the photo from the frame scan just the picture and then print it?

When in doubt, ask someone else who knows. So I did. I asked Denise over at The Family Curator blog. She was quick to reply with her lengthy and detailed advice. I followed what she said exactly.

The photo is of my mother when she was a little girl. I don't know exactly how old she was and can only assume it was taken somewhere in New York where she was raised. At some point in time, before she passed away, she did tell me that the frame was handmade by a first grader named Gerard Snowver. He had a terrible crush on her and gave it to her as a gift. We named our rabbit after him (Gerard lived at least eight years, the rabbit, that is).

First, I was to scan the photo in the frame. Here's the result:
Next, remove the photo from the frame and scan that. Here's the result:Surprisingly, on the backside of the photo in my grandmother's penmanship is this:And so my mother was five years old at the time the photo was taken and they were living at 30 5th Ave., New York City to be precise! At this point, it is premature to do the "genealogy happy dance" because underneath this photo, I found another photo of my mother:This one was folded to fit inside the frame. Nothing was written on the back. I do remember seeing this as a child and, therefore, I know it was my mother.

I've decided to make a print of the photograph within the frame, put it into another frame under glass to hang on the wall. The carving on the original wooden frame has so much character and interest that I would hate to leave it out.

Thank you so much Denise!

So, NOW I can do a genealogy happy dance!!!