The giving tree


Shortly after my birthday last year, I got a wild hair and decided that what I needed to do was not sell things or make things to sell, but to do something only someone like my Nanny* or mother would do.  Something big, fabulous and meaningful.  I started scoping out, through Etsy and other venues, vintage sampler kits that were (hopefully) still completely intact...cotton floss and all.  JillRuth is a fantastic place to find sampler kits and other vintage ephemera, if you're in the market, and because she sells her work online and in an antique stall somewhere in fabulous Nebraska, she's able to acquire some really awesome stuff.  I bought two kits that day...a vintage linen "To Err is Human..." kit and the one I'm currently working on, a Tree of Life pattern.  When I received the pieces, they smelled exactly as I wanted them to smell...all musty and like your grandparent's basement.  I ironed out the linen, separated the threads and put them aside to start up with I had a spare moment or two.

Six months later...

I started working on the Tree of Life/family tree sampler during the Snowpocalypse and I am absolutely in love.  I'm about 1/5th of the way through and I couldn't be happier.  I love the imperfection of the stitches, the bright colors, the flowers, the leaves and the meaning behind it all.  Sometimes I hold the fabric up to my nose and breath in every last molecule of must just to remember.  I imagine somewhere along the way, there might be a few tear-stained spots on my lovely sampler as I wistfully remember sitting on my Nanny's ugly brown plaid sofa, with my tiny feet dangling over the edge, learning how to push through my first few stitches on a scrap of fabric while she, with her scratchy-from-smoking yet beautiful voice, told me I was doing a wonderful job.

Sometimes there's nothing more restorative for our souls and our hearts than doing something we did as kids.  In the Spring we get on bikes and let the crisp wind blow onto our faces and through our hair or we stick buttercups and dandelions under our chins to see how much we love butter.  In the Summer we dive into pools and play silly games with our friends, stay up all night eating s'mores and sitting by campfires.  In Fall we indulge in Halloween candy and drink warm cider on hay bales with friends, and in Winter we throw snowballs and delight in the feeling of the first few snowflakes getting stuck in our eyelashes.  I'm convinced that if I'm askew in any way, that all I need do is pick up a needle and some thread and weave a tale with my memory through the fabric.  There is great value in experiencing the same thing over and over again; ritual is restorative.  To everything, turn, turn, turn, right?  This family tree is giving more than it, or I, could've imagined.  I can't wait until I'm finished.

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* Nanny is my maternal grandmother.  She was a fabulously crafty lady, born to French immigrants in New York City and trained in the crafty arts by her mother, my Great-Grandma Courtade, who was a seamstress in the Garment District for much of her young life (my Great-Grandpa Courtade was a music copywriter for BMG, incidentally).  This is a picture of all of us crafty ladies, shortly before my Nanny passed away.

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.