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My Grandmother’s Sewing Box

I’m not sentimental about a lot of things.

Sure, I have that cool rock I found in Florida when I went there on a particularly great trip, pictures of my son cover the walls in my office, a drawing made by his tiny hands is on my door and a few trinkets scatter my house that someone special gave me. I know some people like to hold onto everything and that’s ok. I get it. I’ve just never been that person.




Perhaps it comes from years of packing and moving, from knowing that when it comes to crafting, yes, I have a lot of yarn, a lot of fabric, a lot of notions, so I don’t keep a lot of other stuff. When you’re a freelance designer, you tend to not make a lot of things for yourself. When I find myself with “free crafting time” I make things for family and friends. For me, the look of joy when they open it and seeing them wear what I made for them is infinitely better than knitting something for myself and tucking it away in my drawer. The idea of “here, I made this for you and you can wear it whenever you’re cold, whenever you need to know I’m thinking about you, whenever I can’t be there and you need a hug, wrap yourself in this and know that I love you and I care about you, no matter what,” makes me forever grateful that crafting runs deeply through the branches of my family tree.

Crafting spans generations. We make things with love, we wrap them up and give them to someone. If you take care of things, they can last years and years and knowing that the sweater I just made for my son may someday be worn by his child? There’s something pretty darn special about that.

I’ve written about my grandmothers on my blog before. They were both crafty women who lived through a difficult time. I was lucky enough to have one until I was 12 and the other until I was 16, but I still regret not knowing them as I am now – an adult, a mother and a crafter. How I wish I could talk to them, learn from them, have them show me a better way to do _____. I think about them often, especially when I’m sewing or crocheting.

my son's quilt

my son’s quilt

I’ve gotten heavily into quilting lately. Summer is a time for fun, for new things, for adventure. I made my son a bright quilt covered in Dr. Seuss (which he chose) fabric from our trip to Lancaster. He loves it and I have visions of him dragging it to college with him someday (my husband says I’m crazy). I have a little sewing box I’ve been using that’s nothing special – just a boring box that holds my sewing notions. When my grandma Myrt passed away, my dad had the foresight to save her sewing box for me. It sat in the attic for years, waiting patiently to be filled once more with the tools of our trade. It sat there while I finished high school, while I attended RISD, while I moved to New York and began a life for myself.

A few years back my dad gave me that sewing box. It’s just as I remember and so her. Pale pink shot through with gold thread, spacious inside, a plastic tray for bits and bobs. For years I kept it in my office, knowing it was there but feeling like it was still hers – that I wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t fill it with my stuff. I continued to use my crappy little sewing box, knowing that her box was there, just waiting for me.


Earlier this week I glanced at her sewing box and knew it was time. I waited until today, after I dropped my son off at his little preschool morning camp, my husband was at work, the dog was asleep and the house was silent. I took my time, I cleaned up her box, emptied out my old one and began the transition of filling hers up. There were a few things of hers still in there… the afghan pattern she was “famous” for, covered in her notes, the pattern so worn it was held together with tape, some embroidery floss, some rusted out embroidery hoops and a pack of needles. It was an incredibly emotional experience, knowing that her hands were the last ones that had touched the box, tucked needle packs into the little pouch, put the bobbins in the little plastic tray and latched the lid shut. Such promise fills this box… The promise of future projects, thoughts of projects past, ideas forming in  the crafting part of my brain, memories of a grandmother and granddaughter.

Myrt raised 3 boys, my dad being the youngest. She was a talented crocheter and sewer with a brilliant mind and a kind heart. It took me so many years to realize that she would have wanted me to use her sewing box, to make it my own, even though it will always be hers. I have so few things of hers and it makes me think… Is this all that will be left of me when I’m gone? Some knitting needles and an impressive yarn stash? Will someday I have a granddaughter who will happily inherit my “stuff” and continue on the tradition of creating and making? Will she sit on her floor as I did this morning, tears running down her face as she places her sewing things in this very box and think of the time we had together, knowing it was not enough?

Myrt has been on my mind a lot lately, as I sit at my sewing machine at night when the rest of the house is asleep. I like to think she’s sitting at the table across from me, sharing advice on how to raise boys, how to be a better crocheter and how best to organize her sewing box. My dad says I’m a lot like her and I think of her, as I stitch away.

Thank you for your sewing box, Grandma. I promise to pass it down to the next crafter in our family.


5 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is an awesome post Tanis. I wish I had my Gram’s sewing box. No idea what happened to it. Pretty sure my mom sold it at the yard sale she did and I was away. Otherwise I probably would have bought it.
    Hope all is well. Love the quilt! K

    July 11, 2014
  2. Jaime McCorry #

    Great Blog, Tanis!
    My Mom & her sisters were the crafters! “The Girls” crocheted, sewed and created Crewel pillows. I remember my mom learning how to knit just so she could knit me and my siblings socks we wore with our kilts (we all played in a bagpipe band!) When my mom passed away and we cleaned out her home I found all the knitting needles, crochet hooks, embroidery hoops that belonged to “the girls”. I put them away with the intention of learning how to knit and crochet. Now I’m finally learning how to knit with the help & inspiration of you and other talented ladies, and using those old straight needles. Sometimes I can hear them all chatting away as they work together still…

    July 11, 2014
  3. Joanne #

    Your post is so full of love and admiration. I didn’t know my grandmothers well or for much of my life. I did, when my Mom passed, claim all her knitting needles and her paper ream box of knitting patterns—her notes scribbled in the borders. Whenever I made something for her, she cherished it.
    I know she is watching over me and thrilled I am embracing her crafts.
    Thanks Mom

    July 11, 2014
  4. Lori #

    I have all of my moms crafting supplies and I truly treasure them. Love this post and thank you for sharing!

    July 12, 2014

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