Saturday, 15 March 2014

My stitching heritage


Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I'm in Cyprus, visiting my family and eating my body weight in Feta flavour crisps...and so much more! However, I think that it's also the perfect opportunity to share a little more about my stitching heritage, which I only recently discovered fully myself. Last year I shared the story of my great-grandmother and the silk she painstakingly spun and wove for her daughters' dowry - which I am now one of the lucky recipients of.

My Armistice Blouse made from my great-grandmother's silk


Today, I want to share the story of my grandmother's skill - she is so ridiculously modest that she initially didn't think it warranted sharing with us. You see, my grandmother was a bit of a whizz at freehand machine embroidery! She used to decorate plain bedding and make it into something special for the family household. One of my favourites is this set below, which shows so much attention to detail. The colours and design are so fresh and pretty and I don't even know where I would begin to embroider scallops...machine or no machine!



My grandmother also helped her mother to put the intricate finishing touches on the hand-spun silk bedding for their dowry. It was a combination of embroidery and crochet and the result is so stunning, don't you think? 



So well-known had my grandmother's skill become on the island, that from 1947, when she was around 16, she started taking in students. Around 6 female students (and their sewing machines) could be accommodated at the family home and over a 3-month period my grandmother would teach them everything she knew about machine embroidery, even helping them work on specific projects along the way. She got paid one Cypriot pound a month, which in those days was a pretty significant contribution to the household!

And just because I couldn't resist sharing, here are some gorgeous pictures of my grandparents. I know I must be biased, but I think they're one of the most handsome couples I've ever seen!

It's been said that my grandfather fell for my grandmother because of her red-ish hair that she used to regularly wear in girlie plaits. I don't know why, but I find that an incredibly cute notion!


This last photo is such fun! I doubt they had many cars in the village so it must have been a blast posing with this one. My grandmother's the one on the left leaning on the car and because she's always been somewhat of a matriarch - always the strong pillar of the family both physically and mentally - it's so nice to think that she once may have been a little frivolous.


I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I've enjoyed learning about my stitching heritage. Does stitching run in your family?

76 comments:

  1. Oh wow, your grandparents were a gorgeous couple and your grandmother was insanely talented! No one in my family went any further than the usual basic clothesmaking and mending, but I got my drawing streak from my grandfather! I even have a landscape he drew on vacation in France, with a version done by five-year old me next to it. I'm sort of sad that he died when I was very young, and he never knew that I made drawing my job!

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    1. Aaaw, this is so touching! I love the drawing memento you have from your grandfather (with you featured in it) and that you draw for a living. Lovely, thanks for sharing!

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  2. That is such beautiful work, I'm not surprised she so modest, my mom was the same way. My mother did a lot of sewing for us as well as hand embroidery. After years of ignoring the fabric arts, I now have children of my own and have picked up the sewing & crocheting again, what a joy. Enjoy the visit and I love those photos!

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    1. Thanks Diana, you enjoy your sewing and crocheting too!

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  3. Gorgeous stitching and lovely old family photos, very romantic! I have one from the early 40s of my grandmother and her sister sitting on a car that I just love. It's so neat to see what one's grandparents were like when they were young.

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    1. So true Andrea! We only get to meet our grandparents when they are older, so it's fascinating finding out about their younger selves!

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  4. What fabulous photos and the embroidery is lovely. My Nan was incredible with cake decorating but sadly I did not inherit her talent for that. My mum worked as a machinist for ladybird clothing when she left school and regularly made us stuff as kids, but knitting is my mum's real forte!

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    1. Oooh, I'd love to become a great knitter!

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  5. oh doll this is so lovely :) I love reading about family history and yours is truly gorgeous. No wonder you've turned out to be such a nifty stitcher with this calibre of sewing in the family. Your grandparents look so happy. Thank you so much for sharing. Also feta crisps?! amaze!

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  6. Stitching doesn't run in my family, sadly. I love the pictures of your grandparents and the bed sheets are beautiful. Lucky you :)

    http://asaucystitch.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Thank you, I am indeed very lucky!

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  7. So interesting, and such beautiful work. You are right to be so proud!

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  8. Sewing was something that both of my grandmother's did extremely well. Knitting, crocheting and just about anything crafty was also on my father's side. My mom was a knitter and quilter. I've done most of the stitching.
    Your grandmother's work is beautiful. It is a shame that more people don't appreciate this type of work.

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    1. Sounds like you've got a lot to live up to with all that talent in your family!!!

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  9. Beautiful! What a wonderful story! Stitching does run in my family. My great-grandmother and her sisters were well-known (in their small community) for their beautiful hand stitching. They also had a loom (which doesn't exist anymore, sadly) and did some weaving. My mom has a coverlet that they wove from the flax they grew themselves:)

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    1. Fantastic, thanks so much for sharing Angela!

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  10. That is so lovely, I love thinking about the way sewing is passing down through generations and that its's having a resurgence now. Definitely gorgeous photos of your grandparents too x

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  11. Wow that embroidery is exquisite. I would have never guessed it was done freehand.

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  12. Wow, what a treasure! The embroidery is simply beautiful, as well as your grandmother. I dare say you look quite a bit like her :)
    The crafty and textile gene skipped my mother, but her aunt, my great-aunt was a great seamstress. A depression era upbringing will do that to you, I guess. Luckily, I inherited a lot of her sewing supplies and patterns. It feels very special to be connected to family through hand crafts, no?

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    1. Yes, it really does feel very special! I bet your inherited supplies are divine!

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  13. That embroidery is amazing! Your family photos are great too - it must be wonderful finding out so much about your grandmothers hidden talents! My mum was an artist, mostly in textiles & did a lot of free hand embroidery which I remember her saying was really difficult. I'll need to share some more examples of her work soon.

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  14. I love this post because I grew up in Cyprus and have quite a lot of embroidery that my mother collected as we travelled through various villages, and it is all stunning. I can't bear to use it so it sits in drawers, which now makes me feel a bit sad! My mother painted a lot and I have a couple of paintings of women sitting in the sun doing hand embroidery. However, I have nothing as beautiful as the bedding that you've shown. I love the photographs of your grandparents, what village were they from? Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. You really grew up in Cyprus!? Brilliant! Where about? My grandparents were from Leonarisoo...know of it?

      I'm sure your mother's paintings are lovely!

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  15. Love this! Especially the old photographs. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress and sewed all her life until she couldn't see well anymore. I'd love to put some of her sewing story down on paper for posterity, like this. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Yes, definitely do...it's a lovely thing to share!

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  16. Wow you have such a beautiful heritage! Not only did your grandmother have some mad skills and talent, but a handsome couple they were indeed! My grandmother was also an incredible seamstress (no hand embroidery though..) It is something to live up to and a family tradition that to keep alive!

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    1. Yes, we are now responsible for carrying it on! No pressure ;o)

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  17. How lovely! It's wonderful how those items are still in use. What a talented woman. My Grandma sewed but I never realised until after she was gone. She made dresses and tenniswear etc and was part of a social sewing group at Church!

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    1. So sad you didn't realise before, but it doesn't change the fact that she must have been very talented indeed!

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  18. Such beautiful work, that silk is incredible. And yes your grandparents certainly were a very handsome couple. How lovely to know all of this about them. x

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  19. Love both the stitching and the story. I collect (and use!) hand embroidered pillowcases and these examples are truly lovely!

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    1. Glad they're been appreciated Jeri, thanks!

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  20. So pretty, I sometimes wish we learned embroidery and sewing skills as they did from generation to generation. Thanks for sharing especially the photos.

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    1. Yes, that would have been great!

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  21. Thanks for sharing your family's wonderful stitching history!

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  22. Gosh, what amazing skill she has! That bedding is simply stunning. I wish I had the skill to do something like that.

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  23. Wow! These pieces are so beautiful! Your grandmother sounds like an amazing woman, and she and your granddad really are a lovely couple! What a great post! My mom's pretty crafty, but my grandmothers weren't into that scene at all. But I've inherited a beautiful quilt that my husband's grandmother pieced (she's since passed away) that we both really treasure, and I've also received some fun notions that belonged to my husband's great-great aunt. She trained as a dressmaker in Chicago in the early 1900's, so that's pretty neat. :)

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    1. Wow, those notions from the 1900s must be incredible...how amazing to have trained to be a dressmaker back then!

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  24. What gorgeous work and how lovely to know that you share a piece of history with such a remarkable woman. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Erin, lovely way of putting it!

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  25. This is such a nice story! I don't have a similar thing in my family but my Mum was into sewing when I was younger and now as I have got into it she is getting back into it too, which I think is nice!

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    1. That's so lovely, how cool that you've inspired her back into it ;o)

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  26. I adore old photos; thank you so much for sharing. My grandparents lived in the same era, and I, too, have a special connection to my Nana who so patiently taught me to machine sew, embroider, and crochet. It was after her death that I went back to sewing because I miss her so, and feel closer to her when I practice these arts. One story I can tell about Nana is that she was very thrifty and often sewed our clothes well after the time she could afford satire bought. I have many happy memories of shopping in high end department stores "just to look" then running over to the fabric store to buy a pattern and material to recreate what we had seen. She was a master at it, and I grew up wearing many a faux designer dress.

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    1. What gorgeous memories you have of your Nana, thanks so much for sharing. It's really touching!

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  27. Wow beautiful work! What a talented lady!

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  28. Beautiful photos! It's great to be able to connect with your grandmother through your shared craft. Her work is incredible!

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  29. Both the pictures and the linens are lovely - what a legacy!

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  30. Your Yiayia's work is beautiful.
    My Yiayias did lots of cotton thread crotchet and I still have their bedspreads.

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    1. Yiayiades are the best, aren't they?!?

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  31. Your grandmother is truly talented! I'm amazed that the embroidery is all free-hand! It's perfectly executed. I've been fortunate to learn more about my own stitching heritage lately. It's really a treasure to have examples of the work your ancestors produced, and it's wonderful you have these stories to share!

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    1. Thanks Michelle! I'm glad you've had the pleasure of finding out about your own stitching heritage too!

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  32. What gorgeous work, and thank you so much for sharing her stories with us! I'm really blown away by it, what wonderful pieces. That embroidery is breathtaking. As they say, you come by your talent honestly. :)

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    1. You are very welcome, thank you for appreciating and commenting ;o)

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  33. What exquisite embroidery, your grandmother is super talented. Thank you for sharing your stories and lovely photos. Everyone always looks so smart in the olden days.

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    1. Yes, people did take great care in their appearances in those days. And it's not like they weren't busy or didn't work hard! I don't know how they fit it all in!

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  34. Your grandmother's work is beautiful. She reminds me of my Grandma who can sew and knit anything! Thank you for sharing the sweet photographs too.

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  35. This is the first time I'm reading this and wow, you're grandmother was amazing. Obviously, her attention to detail runs in the family :)

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    1. Haha, thanks Madalynne...you're too kind!

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  36. A lovely post Marie and such beautiful embroidery, your Grandmother was very talented! My Gran taught me how to hand quilt and Mum taught me how to dress make..I made my first skirt 25 yrs ago and still sew with Mum. I love hearing of other families sewing past. You must be so proud!
    Samantha x

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    1. Lovely stuff Sam, thanks for sharing!

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