Mary Katherine Lemmon Smith—my mother

“I take the vest out of the storage box that I keep under my bed and I am transported.  […] I knitted the vest during one week of our vacation in the Adirondacks. Funny how seeing it, touching it, brings back the  time and place. This vest holds the Adirondack Mountains, the lake, and my young children for me,” The Knitting Way — A Guide to Spiritual Self-Discovery by Linda Skolink & Janice MacDaniels

Mary Katherine Lemmon Smith

My mother, Mary Katherine Lemmon Smith, taught me most of what I know about needlework.  And if she didn’t teach me how to do it, she helped me untangle it—from bungled articles of clothing to early knitting attempts.  When we were younger she sewed a lot of our clothes,  including formal gowns.

She is a very creative individual in all aspects of her life.  If she doesn’t know how to do something, she figures it out.  In addition to practical items, she also enjoys making beautiful things like crocheted afghans, fabric album covers, and decorative flags.  She worked for a while as a decorator’s seamstress and sewed many custom-made draperies, comforters and other items.  One year at Christmas she made a set of custom drapes for my living room.

Mom and Dad circa 1953

Mom was born May 15, 1934 in Piqua, Ohio.  She was a straight-A student.  She worked in a department store after high-school graduation and married my father when she was 19.

Mom at her 60th birthday party.

She primarily stayed home to raise the five children she eventually had, which include my sister Annie who was severely handicapped with brain damage.

Mom, Dad, and Annie

Because she was basically house-bound with the care of my sister, my mom put her energies into doing those kinds of things that could be done at home, and sewing became a source of income and pride.

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Anna Matilda Adams Lemmon — my maternal grandmother

“Except in rare and isolated areas, crafts no longer exist as a way of life.[…] In our day, crafts are newly respectable, but chiefly as ‘hobbies,’ as ‘occupational therapy,’ or as new fashions in interior decorating. Yet behind the excuses given for indulging in craft activities, there lurks a kind of half-buried question, a faint suspicion that there is more to all this. . .

“The myths and traditions tell us that it begins from above; that all art, all craft, starts as a divine revelation. ‘Ideas,’ writes Coomaraswamy, ‘are gifts of the spirit,'” A Way of Working—The Spiritual Dimension of Craft, edited by D.M. Dooling. (A.K. Coomaraswamy quote from Christian and Oriental Philosophy of Art).

Anna and Cory Lemmon

By far, my grandmother, Anna Matilda Adams Lemmon, produced the most needlework of the women in my family, at least the most that remains in the family.

Anna Adams on her parents farm with some kind of bird

Anna Matilda Adams was born August 3, 1915 in Covington, Miami County, Ohio.  She had to help with farm work when she was a child.  Beginning at the age of 5 or 6, Anna started attending school at a one-room schoolhouse that contained eight grades.

They didn’t have electric lights at home, so they used coal oil lamps to see with and would take one from room to room.  They had a large coal stove for heat.

Anna Adams and Cory Lemmon - early 1930s

My grandmother’s family was quite musical and for entertainment in the evenings they would get together and play music.  My great-grandfather played the fiddle.  Her brother played the guitar, and Anna played the piano.  She said, “We had a good time, just playin’ music and singin’.”  That’s how Anna met Cory who would eventually become her husband and my grandfather; he came out to the house with some friends for the entertainment.

Dresses our grandmother made for my two older sisters and me - 1958

Anna was happily married, raised three children and never worked a day outside the home.  She stayed busy embroidering and crocheting throughout her life.

Crocheted dress for great-granddaughter Anna - 1988

She produced numerous embroidered pillow cases and doilies; she crocheted numerous doilies and various other items; and she produced probably hundreds of crocheted afghans.  I personally own four.

My daughter Anna with my grandmother who she was named after, 1988.

We celebrated my Grandma Lemmon’s 90th birthday in the summer of 2005.  I made a display of photos and some of her needlework that we had collected over the years.  At the time, she suffered from dementia and was eventually moved out of her home and into an assisted living apartment, and later to a nursing home where she died in 2010. The last years of her life she had very poor vision and was no longer able to do any needlework.

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