Thursday, May 6, 2010

handmaking tales for mother's day

by rob (a.k.a mr. rikrak)

i asked: please give us a description of the special item your motherly figure handmade for you.

" when I was a kid, my grandmother tended to cover her living room with her quilting frame, an ideal rooftop for chesterfield-cushion fort games. one product of that shelter was a christmas gift: a pale blue, hand-stitched quilt that featured a Roosevelt terrier pattern meant to capture the exact shape of my family's miniature schnauzer, complete with plaid winter coat and beard. I took this blanket to dreamland every night for years and years, and still have it, even though its maker has long since passed on. "

i asked: tell us a little bit about the item; why is it so meaningful to you?

"as a child, it was comfort. older: a reminder of being a kid. now, its stitches connect -directly - to those fingers that made them. I can now combine these tangible memories of her life - her name was Leota - with my own diffuse and scattered memories of my own childhood alongside her (she lived across the street; I slept there once a week). that an object can fuse these personal eras makes it pretty invaluable, to me at least.

i asked: have you ever handmade things with this special person? if yes, tell me more!

oh, yeah. all the time. she taught me to tie my shoes, how to pour pancake batter into a pan, how to build a bedtime story, how to crush a wasp with a thumb and not get stung. all these are handmade. and I helped to quilt, or at least meant to. she once bought a whole huge bucket of ink-based pens designed for fabric drawing and we made grand plans for a co-created quilt that we never finished, her stitching and me sketching. she was always generous with her praise and her time.

i asked: what did you learn about handmaking from this special person?

"I'm unsure I can boil this down to a single phrase or a specific memory. What's most resilient in my memories of her was her openness, her frankness. I suppose what was most valuable, maybe, was an extension of "hand-made" out of the realm of the art object into what we usually call real life, where our scars and soups and messy experiences also become hand-made, home-grown, particular and personal.


like many of you, my handmaking life has been directly inspired by my mom, my grandmas, and other motherly figures i've been lucky enough to have in my life.

so in honour of mother's day sunday, i asked you creative nicies to share with us the story of a precious-to-you handmade item that you cherish, that was handmade by a motherly figure.

your responses are so touching and loving, and it's a joy to read what an impact the motherly folks in our lives have made on our handmaking lives.

hope you'll enjoy 10 handmade tales, by handmakers,
for mother's day.

by Flaii

"My grandma is one of the women I admire the most in this world. She lived a harsh life, and she is a little rough around the edges, but she found in crochet a way to "escape" from what was going wrong in her life, so that is why everything she crochets englobes her warmth, bravery and love.

I thought grannies -and specially mine- only crocheted boring stuff, so when I told her to crochet something for me I've seen in a magazine, I honestly didn't thought she'd make it. But she did it so perfectly that I love to wear my wrap-cowl no matter how the weather is. The wrap/cowl is very important because I only get to see my grandma few times a year, and I always feel as if I was hearing her stories and hugging her when I wear it. It makes me feel funny inside if I'm close to it. :) Plus, she taught me how to crochet and it is something I will never forget, she gave me something to remember her by as long as I live, and she is proud of my crocheting now. :)

When I started crocheting, she would supervise my projects and if she didn't like them, she would just pull the yarn out and make me start all over again, she taught me to be a perfectionist and to not let mediocrity get into my DIY. Although I got desperate, I learned to make things the right way.

Inspired on her I even started a project to form an all-girls crochet group to knit for kids who practically live in hospitals due to cancer or other illnesses. Her mother love inspired me to give love through crochet projects to other people.

I love her for that.


Thanks for letting me share my story.

- Flaii

*editor's note: isn't that an amazing photo of Flaii's wonderful grandma?
Flaii took it herself! So beautiful!


by Brigitte
"I would like to introduce you to Monkey. Loving handmade for me by my Mum before I was even born Monkey was carefully made using turquoise blue and yellow terrycloth. His mug is carefully hand stitched on to his face and his features lovingly embroidered by my Mum.

Over the years Monkey has survived many surgeries including the loss of an ear, the loss of the majority of his stuffing and the near amputation of his left leg. He remains, however, one of my most price possessions because he was made by my Mum.

My Mum has always encouraged my artistic side. My birthday parties as a little kid always included a crafting component including making kleenex flowers (back in the day when tissues came in multi colours) and neon finger woven bracelets when they were all the rage.

These days she's still encouraging me to pursue my handmade side. She wears my button creations and handmade hats with pride just as I keep Monkey close to me.




by Pegg

"I am lucky enough to still have a pair of mittens my grandmother made for me
35 years ago! They are well worn and much loved, and I still use them, holes
and all for mitten liners every winter.

I lived with my grandparents for a year when I was seventeen, during my
first year of college. My grandma had severe arthritis in her hands but she
knit to keep them mobile. I went to the wool shop to buy the wool for her, I
think it was Kroy wool. She loved to knit with Kroy wool!

I didn't know how to knit, I am left handed, and no one had the patience to
teach me. She decided to teach me to knit, but she started me out with a
sock, four needles, I didn't finish knitting it, but I do knit a little.
Simple patterns.

My grandparents used to own a restaurant and my gram was a fabulous cook. I
like to think I inherited the cooking gene partly from her! Slow cooking is
a wonderful handmade skill!"



by Denny

Why it's special: My mother, Mary, made this quilt with pink poodle fabric. Several years ago (we won't go into how many "several" is!), my mother used this same fabric to make a dress for me. She made it for me about a year and a half ago. She's not a real big fan of making quilts, but she does it because I do it. She's made a few bed size quilts and has another one in progress. She's made a few table runners and I think she likes those better because they get done sooner! She likes to make clothing. She REALLY loves to collect fabric!

Have I handmade things with her: We've made a few quilts together in collaboration with friends of ours. We made quilts for the Wounded Warrior Project for injured Marines, for a friend who was diagnosed with cancer, and one for ourselves!

What did I learn about handmaking from her: She taught me to sew before I was 10 years old, I think. I know I was already sewing before I took home economics (which included sewing) in junior high school. I think I made simple shift dresses for starters. I remember that her sewing machine was in her bedroom and when we opened the sewing machine cabinet table, we blocked the door to the bathroom. We could spread out fabric and pattern instructions on her bed, but we cut out on the dining room table (covered with a vinyl cover, of course; let's see, is it the same cover that I use today?; I know it's the same table that I have in my house and I DO use it for my sewing and other projects!). I remember that we spent quite a bit of time in that room and at that machine making dresses, pants, tops, and fancy dresses for more formal school events and a friend's wedding (well, actually, that friend came over to my house to make sure I got the dress done because she knows my tendency to procrastinate!). My mother still uses that machine today, which she and my dad bought when they knew she was pregnant with their little darling daughter (that would be me!).


by alex

i asked: please give us a description of the special item your motherly figure handmade for you.
mom took a ceramics class when i was young. mom made loads of pieces but this one is really special because, well, she let me have it!

i asked: have you ever handmade things with this special person? if yes, tell me more!
we used to make beaded holiday ornaments every holiday until my fingers hurt. the kind with the styrofoam ball or shape, hundreds of seed beads, sequins and straight pins.
i also learned how to cross stitch from mom

i asked: what did you learn about handmaking from this special person?
be patient - making things takes time. and it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful



by RJ

Last fall my mom whipped up an absolutely stunning silk jacket for me to wear on my wedding day. She spent literally hours with me hunting down the right fabric, and then did most of the sewing without much access to me for fittings... in the end the jacket fit perfectly with me and my dress. And was commented on by virtually every {female} guest at the wedding!

Part of what makes this jacket so special to me is that back in the day my mom used to sew a lot. She made all sorts of clothes for my brother and I {and my dolls!} when we were little, and she sewed not only her own wedding dress, but the dresses for all her female attendants! It's been many years since mom has sewed clothing, so being able to wear something mom made especially for me on my wedding day was such a treat. It felt like I was continuing a tradition with her handmade wedding love!

I absolutely get my love of all things crafty from my mom! Over the years she's taught me so many skills, from sewing to knitting to cooking. She was definitely an inspiration when I decided to pursue a degree in Fine Art! And most recently she's been passing along her knowledge of home renos and fix-ups!

i asked: have you ever handmade things with this special person?
if yes, tell me more!

Too many things to count! I have many fond memories of crafting with mom throughout the years. Most recently we've been working on curtains for my new home. But my all time favorite was helping her build her wood fence and backyard shed a few years ago. Mom also rocks the power tools!

- RJ


by Maria
The story I have to tell does not exactly fit your guidelines for submission. My handmade item was made by me and given to my maternal grandmother on September 2, 1972. I was 8 years old, the same age as my son is now. My grandmother - who we called Nana - died not long after that, on April 13, 1973. She was sick with cancer for many months before she died and my brother and I were not allowed to see her. We waited in the car or the living room when my mother visited her in the hospital or at home. Since we were not allowed to see her I embroidered a daisy for her.

Hand embroidery is one of the first sewing skills that I learned. My mother also taught me needlepoint, knitting, sewing, rug hooking and crochet, however after sewing, hand embroidery was our favourite. Unfortunately neither of us take the time to practice this anymore and my mother has a fance embroidery machine that works in a fraction of the time. I still think that hand embroidery is the most beautiful of the sewing arts.

The daisy has been returned to me and now sits in my studio. Every time I look at it I remember trying to perfect my chain stitch and my satin stitch. I only have a handful of great memories of my Nana and the daisy is a nice reminder of them. She lived in a huge apartment in a now trendy area of Montreal, with many rooms and a small courtyard in the back. She also let me eat real Kraft cheese slices and had these great insulated glasses that showed a photograph of the Montreal skyline.

And that's my story!


by Penelope

Growing up, my mom made all of our clothes. She also made scores of one-of-a-kind shirts for our friends on their birthdays. In fact, I have no doubt my mom and her Singer were primarily responsible for my active, grade-school social life.

But my sister and I didn't really appreciate her skills until we were older and had to buy our own clothes. Clothes that didn't fit just right. Or have special details made for us. I still remember my favorite pair of Made by Mom jeans: Straight-legs with cut-out hearts on the back pockets and woven denim inlays.

Years later when I was planning my wedding, I wanted her to make my dress but didn't ask because she was insanely busy with her lingerie business. (Yes, she went from jeans to thongs.) Then, as I was lamenting the lack of dresses for short, petite women that didn't make us look shorter or wider...she said those magic words: I'll do it.

I knew I wanted something fitted and off-white with sleeves or straps to avoid a wardrobe malfunction on the dance floor. Otherwise, I left everything else to her.

The result was a two-piece, silk dress with oodles of details. The fitted bodice included hand-cut lace; hand beading; handmade, powder blue roses with pearl centers and two-dozen pearl buttons on the back. The skirt was straight and simple save the beading, hand-cut lace and handmade powder blue roses around the split at the back.

My veil was also lovely and different. Mom made it from the same shimmery, power blue fabric as the roses. Yards and yards of it whispered behind me as I walked down the aisle. It was as if my beautiful inner and outer selves finally met on the same day, at the same time - and all remained well.

Only a mom who "gets" you, really gets you, can illuminate you so lovingly. It's a habit with my mom, one of the most generous people I know.

She's also brutally honest, especially when it comes to handmade items. She taught me to sew and no matter the project - change purses or teddy bears - it had to be right. Crooked stitches were a part of the learning process, but they had to be redone until they were straight. She eventually showed me tricks to cover mistakes, however, she was all about doing things right the first time.

Her encouragement and lessons are why I stick with difficult tasks. I know if I practice and work hard, I'll improve. She also taught me patience because sometimes you have to put a project down, or even let one version go, in order to make it work.

All of these lessons have saved me at some point in my career.

In closing, I'd like to thank my mom, Patricia Adams, for teaching me life lessons along with straight stitches.

All the best,


i know how very proud your moms and grandmas would be of all of you wonderful artists & creative crafters, nicies.

thanks ever so much for sharing your special stories with us.
what beautiful tributes to the handmaking legacies of women!
happy handmade mother's day!


by rikrak (that's me)

i have my own story to share, too!

the first is of a handmade music album my mom (with the wonderful help of my sweet brother), made for our son.

my mom, among other brilliant qualities, is the most beautiful piano player: filling our homes with the sound of handmade music, teaching each of us the wonderful ways that expressing ourselves, creatively, can bring joy to a home.

so it's with much happiness that i see how our son adores her, and how moved he has always been by her piano playing. how his own gift of piano playing follows in her talented footsteps.

now... little rikrak doesn't love sleeping so much. never has, really.
but over the years, it became obvious that during each trip to his nana's , when she'd play him beautiful piano concerts at bedtime, he'd fall blissfully into dreamland. now, as a young boy, every night he listens to her precious cd, of his nana playing his favourite quiet lullaby songs, and the peace and comfort it brings him at bedtime thrills me. i am so thankful for this thoughtful gift. it's such a keepsake of her amazing talents, too.

i'm so lucky that my mom has shared many precious handmade gifts with us, and encourages me everyday to live my handmaking dream.
thank you, mom.

i have two!
my 2nd is about my maternal grandma.

my grandma, as i've talked of before, was a master crafter. there was no handicraft she couldn't perfect. for as long as i can remember i was mesmerized as i saw her creating: sewing, painting, woodworking, cooking, doing needlework, knitting, macrame, sketching, etc, etc, etc. and we are so lucky, as a large family, to have so many of her amazing creations.

but my favourite handmade gift of hers is the beautiful bed quilt she handmade for me: the intricately appliqued, hand-stitched Colonial Lady.

my grandma was my first link to quilting. i was always amazed with the precise & colourful beauty of her patchwork masterpieces.

since her passing, this beautiful tactile memory of her is even all that more special.
my grandma is the loving soul who taught me to sew, instilled a joy of patchwork, quilting and vintage textiles in me, taught me the power of being ecofriendly { in craft & life } long before it was hip & cool, and among other inspirations, showed me the beautiful power of creating on a daily basis. somehow in life, i became a full-time quilter. all that patchworky understanding came from her!

thanks so much for that, grandma.
indeed, my handmaking life was born from your wise, crafty lessons.



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  1. these are all so sweet! i especially love that you have one for mr. rikrak :) thanks so much for including my little story. i'll have to tell mom :)

  2. So many beautiful stories!!
    Thanks for inviting me to share mine:)

  3. These are wonderful stories! Thanks so much for inviting us to share.

  4. What sweet sweet stories! I'm so glad you asked us to share and was able to read the lovely tributes!

  5. These stories are just great! I love features like this and I'm so glad that you had a great turn out :)

    ~ Kristen

  6. it's so touching to read these stories, and the impact mom's & handmaking make on all of us!

    glad you're enjoying them, too!

  7. Great stories, thanks so much for sharing them

  8. Oh, I love everyones stories!
    Thank you for inviting us to share, it's wonderful !

  9. Mr RikRak's story's my favourite. Thanks for sharing, everyone :) These are delightful stories!

  10. These are beautiful, touching stories. What a great idea. Thank you for each one!!

  11. I enjoyed reading all of these stories. I am honoured I was able to share mine. Happy Mother's Day!


thanks so much for your comments, nicies!
it's a joy to read what everyone writes here.
thank you!