Sewing and Crochet Art Forms

Don’t Be Afraid to Sew

Mary Kilpatrick Schultheis
My Mom, Mary Kilpatrick right after graduation from high school in Kansas 1952

Sadly, sewing is a lost art in our society. Picture the pioneer that sat on a rocker in front of their fireplaces all winter hand sewing clothes and quilts in dim light. Honestly, we have it real easy with our sewing machines in comparison. People have a unfounded terror of attempting to do the “impossible” task of constructing a garment. Fears are easily proven wrong as a result of, discovering the steps to sew any item are very precisely laid-out in the patterns. If you can read and follow directions, you can sew anything. You will find that the process gets easier and faster due to repetition, and each additional item made from a pattern gets easier still.

Sewing is a cumulative skill worth pursuing. Learning to sew teaches you how to use your precise hand movement skills constructively, to mind to plan which step first, and your perseverance strengths to complete a project. Above all, making custom pieces that are not only unique, and well-fitted give a person a special sort of self-satisfaction when complete.

Passing Down the Sewing Skills

I like to sew, which I learned from my Mother. Her name was Mary Schultheis and she was so talented in many ways as a pianist, and a seamstress who spent many hours sewing our family clothes and everything else as I was growing up.

An amazing thing she sewed for me were all the fancy “holo ku’s” or costumes I used to dance hula solos in shows downtown Waikiki. These outfits were very complicated fitted patterns which were designed to imitate the 1800’s missionary dress styles. Probably a real nightmare for my Mom. Long dresses with many small buttons/clasps, lace and trains dragging on the floor. How difficult it must have been, to put 3-4 of those outfits together every year. It would be similar to making multiple prom dresses on a yearly basis. I really should of thanked her much, much, more for this! Hindsight. The items that I make now, will never even compare to her skill level on the sewing machine. My sewing projects are happily made and given away, sold, or donated to church fundraisers the majority of the time.

Learning

I record the, “Sewing With Nancy” programs on the Public Television Station to view when I have time. She lays out really neat ways to go about sewing a large variety of items.

Crochet too

Mary Schultheis 1970s

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.

Embroidering was Family Learned

Three generations of women sat together visiting while they embroidering along with other crafts in my parents house. Our family sews, embroiders 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 pieces.

Great Grandma Tatting

Great Grandma Sedilla
Great-Grandmother Oxendine 1911

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

Grandma Embroidering

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.

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.