Growing Up Learning Embroidery

Together

Three generations of women sat together doing embroidery and other crafts in my parents house. Our family sews, does embroidery and crochets together passing down the skills we learned from our elders. We sat around the living room or on Grandma’s porch in the afternoons and evenings, joking and chatting while we stitched together (or we were snapping green beans from the garden). Our household produced beautiful pieces with Scottish tatting, eyelet, embroidery, and crochet.

Great Grandma Tatting

Great Grandma Sedilla Canniff
Great-Grandmother 1911

My Great-Grandmother did Scottish tatting and embroidery on elegant dish towels, quilts, doilies, pillowcases and dresses.

Grandma Embroidery

Sedilla with daughter Opal 1950
Opal Kilpatrick with her mother, Sedilla in 1950’s

Her daughter did  embroidery in colored flosses  making days-of-the-week dish towels, flowers, herbs, quilts, table cloths and napkins.

My Grandma, “Opal” taught me how to do embroidery stitches on small things like pillowcases and napkins. After I learned how to do all the basic embroidery stitches sufficiently, I graduated from her 101 course and slipped into the real world of embroidery from there.

Mother Sewing & Crochet

Mary Schultheis 1970s

Grandma’s daughter was my Mom. Besides being a supreme seamstress, she did fine crochet crafts using thin cotton thread and her speedy little hooks. It was amazing to watch her hands click her needles together as she was knitting. It was just as amazing to see her going rapidly in and out of her next tablecloth, she had very fast hands with her hooks and needles. Her projects included things like doilies, tablecloths, Christmas tree skirts, blouses.

First Real Project

When I was in high school, Grandma gave me my first real embroidery project as my Christmas present. It was a full tablecloth kit made by Bucilla who’s name has changed to plaid on now. This tablecloth kit had the thread, cloth, needles, and hoop in it with instructions similar to a paint-by-number set. Put this color floss here, using this stitch. This first tablecloth was a daisy and rose pattern with vines and leaves taking me an entire year to finish. Seems like maybe, there were a million times where I needed to change the thread colors. I threaded a different color into my needle so many times, that it truly became second nature. Many times I thought that maybe it would be impossible to finish. But each evening I stitched on it some more and finally, it was done. It would not surprise me, to find out that my family had placed bets on weather I would finish it or not. Probably the most significant result has been the creation of a lifelong habit that I dearly love.

Opal Kilpatrick
My Grandma, Opal Kilpatrick at the Lihui, Kauai HI airport parking lot in 1988.

Grandma was also responsible for many of my best recipes. Her name was Opal (Canniff) Kilpatrick. Being half Scottish and half Indian she had beautiful white hair just like her Mom. Here is a picture of her pausing for a photo for me in the Lihue, Kauai HI airport before we walked over to the gate for her to climb up the stairs to catch her flight.

She had come to visit me and my kids before moving away to the mainland to live with her sister in Oklahoma. I snapped this photograph with one of those old Kodak 110 film cameras, little did I know, this would be the last time I’d see her in-person before she passed away. This picture is kept in my wallet and I still miss her. Grandma’s voice is heard whenever I spread my daisy tablecloth on the dining room table on a special occasion.