The Poet and the Maker: An Ancestral Fantasy [Discussion]

27 January 2021
By Kim Werker
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When I first read Ikshaa Pai’s essay about using her great-grandmother’s cross-stitch books as she’s started dabbling in cross-stitch herself during lockdown, I thought of my fantasy relationships with my own great-grandparents—one on my father’s side and one on my mother’s—and how, in very different ways, we are connected through time and craft, though we never met.

My Great-Grandma Marion’s treadle sewing machine has pride of place in my living room. My cousin and her wife drove it out here to Vancouver from New York a few years ago. Over several months, my husband restored the oak table the machine sits in, which my great-uncle had stuck wood panelling to in the ‘70s.

Photo description: A long, narrow drawer removed from its sewing table, seen from above and oriented at an angle horizontally, containing vingage spools of thread, pieces of tailor's chalk and more.
A drawer from Great-Grandma Marion’s sewing table. My cousin kept the drawers exactly as she’d found them, full of vintage notions, decaying odds and ends, and the needle book my cousin sewed when she was in grade school.

You might think this machine, and the role it played in my paternal great-grandmother’s life—at first a luxury item purchased in the early 1920s, then a source of livelihood for her family through the Great Depression—is what came to mind when I read Ikshaa’s article, but the truth is that it’s a different great-grandparent I feel closest to when I explore my craft.

Some of this essay appeared originally in my email newsletter; it has been revised and expanded here.

We’re too small an operation here at Digits & Threads to have comments open on all of our articles, but we suspect these pieces about our grandparents and great-grandparents have you thinking about the folks who have touched and influenced your experience of art and craft, too. So we have opened comments here, and we invite you to share your tales, both real and fantasy, below.

About Kim Werker

Kim Werker (she/her) is a co-founder and publisher at Digits & Threads and Nine Ten Publications. She has worked in the crafts industry in one way or another since 2004 as an editor, writer, instructor and speaker. She's authored six books about crochet and one about making ugly things on purpose as a creativity exercise. Kim lives in Vancouver, BC, with her husband and son, and their mutt who's named after a tree.

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