Sorry for the silence this past week, but I had to take an extremely-last minute, emergency flight back to the States last week to attend my grandmother’s funeral (as in “book me a flight for tomorrow“). Her last gift to us all was to prompt a family reunion, and I really felt strongly that I had to be there, so it was good to have some family time despite the circumstances.
Granny has been in the background of my sewing for pretty much my entire life, but there were a few times when she featured heavily on this site, in particular when I refashioned her wedding gown into mine in 2010, but also earlier the same year when I made her a blouse from some vintage fabric in her stash (and which my mom said she was still wearing regularly right up until the end).
If you’re a new reader to this site and haven’t yet seen my wedding dress project, then really, I urge you to just stop for a minute, click through and take a look. Granny was so immensely proud that I looked so beautiful in “her dress” and she continued to show our wedding album to everyone she could. I had so many relatives come up to me at the funeral saying how much they loved that I turned her gown into mine.
Overall, this weekend really reinforced to me how much “making” is in my DNA – I knew Granny had been quite crafty, but I hadn’t realised that she was actually a seamstress in her early life before going back to school as a young mother and becoming an insurance underwriter. She continued to quilt and sew clothing throughout her life, but also knit and crochet, too. Happily, I was gifted a very modern-looking yoked cardigan that she’d knitted years ago (I actually wore it to work yesterday!) since I was the only one in the family it really fitted (ditto to a gorgeous pair of sage green leather gloves and an astonishingly beautiful vintage coat).
Over the course of the weekend, the family went through some of Granny’s most cherished items, and my granddad asked if I’d like to see her sewing machine. Of course I did, and before I knew it, I had it humming away fixing a tear on my sister-in-law’s trousers!
I was also able to measure up my tween niece to be an athlete-model for my next pattern (now delayed a bit), as well as measuring my aunt for her wedding dress!
But as I mentioned, my granddad is also crafty, too – but his medium has always been wood instead of fibres. For as long as I can remember, Pop has had a woodshop, and the contents of it were moved to the retirement village when they did, and merged with loads of other machines and housed in a special community workshop. Pop built all sorts of tables, chairs, chests, and other furniture years ago, but these days he mostly carves intricate figurines, rings, and bowls on the lathe when he can find the time.
We didn’t get many family photos over the weekend, as we’re more the sort to talk and laugh and cry and hug instead of pose, but we did get this nice shot of my mom and I after the funeral itself…
…and another of the four grandkids (my brother on the left, and my two cousins). If you can believe it, I’m probably the least funny one amoungst us, and my face is always hurting from laughter when we’re together.
It truly was the kind of atmosphere that Granny would have wanted – full of love and memories we had of her over her 87 years, but also filled with lots of laughter and introductions to the newest generation, too.
While I was staying at the retirement village, I also took the opportunity to get some of my grief out on the road. I’d brought along my mustard merino Surf to Summit top but didn’t expect to run in the fresh snow twice in under a week! Both times I ran along a very hilly country road, with my eyebrows and eyelashes freezing in the Juno snow on Monday morning! I’d kinda forgotten exactly how awful Pennsylvania winters are compared to mild London weather!
(I was on literally the last plane out of Philly airport on Monday night before it closed for the storm, too, so thank you for all your Twitter-based good luck!)
I’m back home now, feeling utterly exhausted for the unexpected trip, rather overwhelmed with the amount of work which piled up in my absence, and in desperate need of a rest, but I still don’t regret for a second that I dropped everything, charged a huge amount to my credit card, and just went. If you’re ever in the same position, I urge you to do the same.
Esther Kemmerer, my beloved grandmother, 1927-2015.