The Stitches We Leave Behind — Introduction

When I was in college the second time, this time earning an English degree, I took a concentration of Women’s Studies classes. This is the first in a multi-part series from a project I wrote while taking a Women’s Studies/English class called “Reading between the stitches.” You can find other series I’ve written, or am writing, about on my “Series” tab above.

Hand-stitched album cover for "The Stitches We Leave Behind" project


By Christine Grote February 20, 2006


I have humble roots.  Many of my ancestors were farmers, with a few craftsmen and women thrown in.  Although a few of my ancestors came to this country in the mid-1800s with the great German migration, many of them had been in this country since pioneering days.  Much of the needlework the women in my family did reflects a simple, utilitarian purpose, typical of the pioneering mindset, as opposed to elaborate and fancy quilts and needlework.

From a genealogical perspective, women in families are difficult to trace, but logic tells us that if there was a male ancestor here in this country, he had a female mate, although she may be unknown to me.  When I think about my women ancestors, I realize I may never know much about them, but I may have a connection to them even so.

I know how to do many kinds of needlework.  I sew, embroider, knit, and crochet.  Without exception, I learned these crafts from a female member of my family.  My mother taught me most, but my grandmother on my father’s side of the family taught me a few things as well. Reason stands to offer that the women who taught me were likely taught by their mothers and/or grandmothers.  This passing down of a talent or craft probably occurred from early times.  My needlework abilities have come to me through a curious, unidentifiable, circuitous path through the women in my family for generations.  It is my connection to them.

See The Stitches We Leave Behind under the Series tab above for more links in this 10-part series.

16 thoughts on “The Stitches We Leave Behind — Introduction”

  1. How fun that you did a Women’s Studied concentration. My grandmother taught me how to knit, but I’ve forgotten how now. Probably, it would come back quickly if I tried to tackle it again. At any rate, I look forward to the rest of this series. Great start.

    1. I wanted to minor in Women’s Studies, but finished everything else up first and just decided to be done. The Women’s Studies courses didn’t come up that often. I think knitting would come back quickly for you. I don’t do it often, and never really learned all the stitches and terms, but can clack two needles together with a bit of yarn inbetween to make a little something. We made small rectangles once that someone connected together to turn into blankets for those who needed them.

      I’m glad you like the series. I had second thoughts about it, but with everything that is going on in my life right now I needed something relatively mindless.

  2. My Dad is the one in my family who taught three daughters to knit and crochet. He was left handed and I’m right handed so it was surprisingly easy to learn because instead of having to sit next to me or behind me, he sat right in front and I just mirrored his movements. 🙂
    He learned his skills from his Mother though, my Nana. 🙂

    1. My apologies for my gender-biased comment about the women, although I still suspect it is true in many, if not most, cases. As you’ll read later, my dad also learned how when he was sick one time and couldn’t do much else. His “mirror” method of teaching you was interesting. I wonder if that is how he learned also.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. I dabble in all sorts of fiber art though none were taught by family members. I’ve had friends teach me or I’ve tutored myself….wish I’d had that connection through women in my family though.

    1. The women in my husband’s family don’t do any of the needle crafts or arts to speak of. One of them sews. The ancestors in that family came recently from Germany. I don’t know if that made any difference at all.

  4. My Grandmother tought me how to knit, I have found thoughts of those moment together with her. I’ll have click on your link “Series” to read more. We are living by many farms. When we go to town we often hear of people talking about the day rounding up cattle, planting seeds, or baleing hay. It is interesting to see and to hear these stories.

    1. taught I see I spelled that wrong. I also noticed your pretty header with the crocus. My favorite Spring Flower the one that’s always first to Hello. :+)

    2. It’s a different life style isn’t it? Well, that’s assuming you’re not a farmer, in which case it would be the same life style.

      There is so much to learn about in this world.

      1. We are not Farmers :+) yes it is a different life style. I’ve actually been enjoying learning the different ways over here because of the rural life.

        I agree there is alot to learn about this world it’s exciting. :+)

  5. My grandmother taught me to knit, though I haven’t done it in a long time. An aunt quilts. I like your crazy quilt! One of my favorites, would like to try that in a small project sometime. And I love your new photo!

    1. Thanks, Patti. Your comments about your quilting and your desire to see some of the rudimentary quilts I’ve made sparked this series. My story and photos come at the end of what i think will be this 10-part series.

      The little crazy quilt is only about a 12 inch square. It just covers a scrapbook-size photo album. I had fun making it, although it’s clearly not perfect. I also crocheted the “lace” that’s on it. I should have used smaller thread for that, but I didn’t have any and was in a hurry.

    1. Thanks, William. I’ve been thinking about that lately, how sewing and needle crafts may not be something I can always do. My grandmother who crocheted voraciously was eventually unable. It was sad. It was the thing that kept her hands busy and herself occupied.

      Old age is a real kick in the seat of the pants.


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