Monday, April 5, 2010

When Mum Sews

Some time ago, I wrote here and here about the kind
of sewing that was done by the women in our family.
In particular, I mentioned free-motion embroidery that
mum and grandma did on their treadle machines.
Especially intriguing was a special variation of that kind
of embroidery, called cutwork. This tablecloth, that I
promised to take photos of when I visited Singapore
this winter, is something I still gawk at when I see it.

Mum made this, just because grandma said it couldn't
be done. The embroidery is so rich, so hand-made and
so classy (it's all white, like lace!) but that's even before
one considers the size and scope of this project.

This is a single piece of white fabric that mum embroidered
in sections, painstakingly cutting away most of the outer
area and replacing it with a web of thread, till only the
very middle has any visible fabric left.

I don't know the final dimensions of the tablecloth
but that table seats 10 + people. Not tiny.
And also not the "whip up" variety of project.

Here are some some cushion covers that also involved
free motion embroidery. Updated to ammend:
They are her own designs
*, but she says these first
eight were just her "practice pieces".
Ha, mum.
Most of us humans don't practice anywhere near this good.

* Apologies to grandma! My cousin Merle wrote to say
that there is also a lot of my grandmother's genius
in these designs - the faceless ladies, for instance,
are one of her trademarks. And mum adapted them.
Am always very grateful and thrilled and somewhat
wistful to learn something new about grandma
that I never knew. I remember her so differently as
a child myself, but I am slowly piecing together the
full person that she was, seen through the eyes and
stories of my mum, cousins, aunts and uncles. All the
women (the men, too, even if they don't sit around
the sewing machine like we do, reminescing!) in our
family, irrespective of how far we've come in our own
creative experiences, are unreservedly
in awe of her talent and skill. I'll share more stories when
I finally embark on my posts on drafting later this year.

These were some mum did later,
after having um, practiced a bit.

The leaves on these last two are very cool.

How cool? Here - I'll zoom in. See?

They were embroidered on some other fabric,
individually cut out and then stitched into the tree
pattern here. Now that's texture. I've always liked
running my hands over the leaves to flip them over.
But anyway, now you know why it seems completely
normal to me to sew leaves onto stems. It's in my genes.

Most of mum's embroidery was saved for clothes,
of course. Here's one of mum's dresses - a very
becoming halter-neck style sheath gown.

Mum hasn't done embroidery for a number of years
now, because her vision isn't up to it. She's regretful
that I haven't picked up this skill and am instead sewing
weird toys and bags. Now that I'm finally unemployed
(hurrah!) and ready to learn, we're in different countries
and I own an electric (ick ick ick) sewing machine.
How? There's all this good, old-fashioned, classic
sewing going on back home and I'm not there to learn it.
This is why I've put "teleporter" on my Christmas
wish list. Someone invent one quick. I'll even buy it on ebay.


  1. Yep, your mum has always been rather amazing in my eyes too; like some sort of sewing super-hero.

    Well I can gloat a little here and declare that I've the great honour of having seen this piece of cutwork perfection with my very own eyes!

  2. Wow! You come from RICH sewing? thread art? heritage. Thanks for letting us in to enjoy a peek.

    I made your chicken today. What fun. Hoping to create a table tent farm house so she has some place to lay her eggs.

    I feel so enriched having happened on to your little corner of the Blogiverse.

  3. WOW----
    Now I know why you are so talented. Your mum's works are so meticulous and wonderful. I was so proud of making toys for my kids till I read your blog. I am still making them toys but your ideas are something else. the chicken which lays eggs is so good. now I know this is in your genes. keep it up and wish you all the best

  4. I am flabbergasted! What amazing work your mom does! I love those leaves too, what a great detail!

  5. Those pieces are unbelievable! Really, they should be in a museum. I hope you get to get to visit your mom more often, so you can spend some time sewing.
    And, yet, as incredible as they are - I think all the things that you make are just as fantastic! and they have the bonus of being squeezy-lovable.

  6. Wow, that's beautiful ! I see where you get your sewing talent from :)

  7. I think I agree with your grandmother. That tablecloth can hardly be possible by mere mortal hands. How long did that take? I mean this in the best possible way when I say that your mom is my kind of crazy. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Amazing! I can't imagine the skill and patience it must have taken to create the cut work table cloth. It is truely a work of art.

  9. I'm also in the market for a teleporter, so please let me know if you find one? ;)

    That stitching is amazing. Honestly, I don't have words to express how incredible it is. I can't even begin to think how one would plan out a tablecloth like that, let alone make it and have it turn out so beautifully. And those leaves on the cushions are stunning! I really love the embroidery on the cushion with the little bird flying to the house, too - gorgeous.

  10. Your mum's embroidery is exquisite! I have been enlarging each one and drooling over them. I am so sorry her eyesight is no longer up to it. I, too, wish you could teleport there for lessons!

  11. Amazing! The colours and textures are so detailed.
    You must be very very proud of your Mum.
    I am also in Awe of your talent and creativity. I first saw your veggie garden and have been hooked ever since. One day your girls will have their own blog and be proudly putting up pictures of their mums amazing work.

  12. How absolutely exquisite!! Your mom is amazing.

  13. wow
    havent seen those in such a long time!
    i remembered when i visit my friends kampung, i would see them!
    am missing home now...

  14. What a lovely blog you have! I'm sorry because my writting english is not correct. Hugs from Spain!

  15. Your entire family is downright amazing!

  16. Oh my god! That tablecloth is just unbelieveable!!! How long did it take her to make it? It looks just like not from this world!
    And those leaves on the pillow! Amazing!
    I totally understand your wish for a teleporter! If you get one ... can you tell me the source? So I can come and visit you and just stare in disbelief at all the things you are making ... whish I do now with your blog ...

  17. So much eye candy! I love that your mum made the tablecloth because your grandma said it couldn't be done. Ha! I like her attitude! Was your grandma plenty impressed?

    Thank you for sharing all this gorgeous work with us. I love love love seeing things that people have laboured hard and long over with their own hands. Pretty darn magical!

  18. I really admire the great job done by your mum. I don't embroider often but I can imagine the amount of work and time that these took her to do. They are stunning.


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