Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Inheritance

About six weeks ago, my last grandparent passed from this life to the next. Grandpa was just a few weeks shy of his 97th birthday, which would have been this past week. Since that time, his children have been going through and dividing up his belongings, which in this case also included the belongings of his wife, who died about 11 years ago.

Grandma was an incredible seamstress who made clothes for everyone in the family, from three-piece suits for the men to frilly "doll dresses" for the little girls. I'm really the only one of the children or grandchildren who makes much clothing - others in the family are talented with quilting or doll-making. So when it came time to bequeath Grandma's cabinet full of clothing patterns, I was the recipient.

When I say "full of clothing patterns," I am being quite literal. The cabinet is a commerical pattern cabinet, probably purchased when a fabric store was changing its inventory or going out of business (though I'm not sure about that). Of its four drawers, three are simply stuffed with patterns. One of the drawers (seen in the above picture) held a number of boxes with brand-new zippers, sorted according to color. (The boxes, by the way, are another of Grandma's hobbies - she covered cardboard boxes with wallpaper scraps to make storage containers that are beautiful as well as functional).

Since Grandma died in the late 20th century, most of the patterns are pretty badly dated. I don't know how old the oldest patterns in the cabinet are, but I know they will probably go back to the 1970s and maybe even earlier. The night the cabinet was delivered, my daughter had quite a lot of fun looking through the old clothing styles. Because I've been so busy with the end-of-year grading and with finishing up my chapter of the university's self-study report, we haven't had a chance to go through them since that night. It's something I'm looking forward to for this summer (after I'm through with the summer class I'm teaching). The good news is, some styles seem to be coming back into fashion, judging from what I've seen while shopping for my daughter (I once said - aloud - "When did clothes from my high school years come back into style?!!"). Maybe we can find some patterns that we can use this summer to give Lily a very fashionable wardrobe to take back to school in the fall.

One thing about Grandma that made her unique is that she drew a lot of her own patterns by copying from a piece of store-bought clothing (another useful skill she taught me - hooray!). One section of one drawer is devoted to the homemade patterns, all of which are in regular white envelopes and labeled, in Grandma's handwriting, with the name of the person the pattern was for, the size or person's age, and a brief description of the piece. I could tell Lily was beginning to feel a little left out as she saw pattern after pattern drawn for cousins and (especially) for her brother. I told her not to expect to find one, because she was only two years old when Grandma died, and so there wasn't a lot of time for Grandma to have made something for her. However, she kept looking, and eventually she found two envelopes with her name, including one for a Valentine's Day dress full of ruffles made when Lily was three months old.

It was really cool (for lack of a better word) to see Lily's satisfaction at being part of the legacy. I look forward to exploring this inheritance with her this summer, and maybe to pass on this tradition to another generation.

1 comment:

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

you will have a great time going through all those patterns for sure - maybe Lily will inherit the gift of making clothing after seeing all of this?