Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Legacy in Satin

Being a child of the fifties and sixties, I well remember my mother going every week to the 'beauty shop' to get her hair done.  This involved shampooing, rolling, sitting under the hairdryer, having her hair 'combed out' and teased (or back-combed) and then the obligatory clouds of lacquer hairspray.  The most difficult part in this whole process was keeping her hair beauty-shop-fresh until the next week.  A hairbrush did not touch her hair for that week.  She didn't even scratch her head except with the end of a rat tail comb!  Then there was the sleeping to keep her hair from getting mussed while she slept.  There were bobby pins to be placed at strategic spots in the 'do' to keep the curls from uncurling, and for a long time she would wrap toilet tissue around her head to keep her hair in place.
Carrie Mae, 1965

Then, one glorious day, she heard about sleeping on a satin pillowcase!  It seemed that the slickness of the satin would keep ones hair from static, thus preserving the do.  This was a big deal!  The answer was here and she wanted that satin pillowcase, but where to find one?  None could be found on the shiny pages of the Sears and Roebuck or JC Penney catalogs.  She made the trip to downtown Knoxville and to the Shopping Center in Oak Ridge but found no satin pillowcases.  Not to be defeated in her quest for the perfect coif, she set out to find the fabric and make them herself, and with true "Little Red Hen" determination, she did.

Using flannel-backed satin, she made herself beautiful pillowcases.  She slept on one every night for the rest of her life, even taking her pillow with her when she had to be in the hospital.  That hair could not survive without it!  She made one for my daughter, Sarah Grace (yes, another double name) who still uses it even though it's getting threadbare and worn.  The pillowcase torch has been passed down and I gladly take it in hand.  So, here are the instructions for making Carrie Mae's Satin Pillowcases.  Happy sleeping and may you never have a hair out of place.
After measuring an existing flat pillowcase and remembering that a pillowcase is all one piece of fabric, folded in half, transfer your measurements to your satin.  (I bought one yard of flannel-backed satin that is 45" wide.  You can get at least 2 cases out of this amount.)  Add 3-4 inches to the top so that it can be folded down for the opening.  Add 1/2 inch to the sides and bottom for a seam allowance.

Continue by turning top of case down 3-4 inches and pin in place.
Carefully sew in place as this seam will show on the outside of your pillowcase.  Sew 1/2 inch seam allowances on long side and bottom.  You may want to serge or use pinking shears on the raw edges.  I used an old fashioned zig-zag.
Turn your pillowcase right-side-out and press on appropriate setting for satin.   There your have your own satin pillow case.

If you do not want to make your own cases, visit my Etsy shop at

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vegetables and Quilts

When I was a little girl, my grandmother "Grace" who lived next door to us would work all through the spring, summer and early fall in her garden.  It was a labor of love for her as she loved raising vegetables, cooking them and, above all else, eating them.  She sang hymns as she tended her garden.  I can hear her high soprano voice even now.

She was such a humble, country woman but one of the most talented people I'd ever known.  She never thought that she could NOT do anything...even things that normally a man would do.  If Grace wanted a back porch on her house, well, she'd build a back porch.  She did everything with joy and that made me want to be with her as much as possible.  What fun she was!  From turning up the country music on her AM radio so we could dance and sing in the kitchen, to getting a watermelon fresh out of the garden every afternoon and devouring the juicy sweetness just a few steps from where it had grown.

Grandaddy & Grace, 1930's
When all the canning, freezing and drying of her vegetables had been done, the weather would soon be turning cool.  This was when she brought out all her bright, colorful fabrics, cut them into shapes and magically turned all these pieces into a quilt top.  Then it was time to turn the quilt top into an honest-to-goodness quilt that would be placed on someones bed.  I would run to her house after school in the cold winter months and she'd be down in the basement quilting.  She hung her long quilt rack from the ceiling near the furnace and we sat in straight back chairs as she taught me to quilt.  "Now Susie, you want to put some stitches in this quilt?"  Would I?  She taught me to rock the needle back and forth in order to get as many stitches on the needle as possible before pulling it through the fabric.  It was as if we were in a contest with some unnamed quilters.

After my grandaddy passed away, Grace started making quilts full-time and made a modest living at it.  She would make a quilt and mail it to a shop in New York that would sell it for her.  How blessed are the people that may still be sleeping under one of her creations!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Welcoming the Future While Remembering the Past

This is my first post on my new blog and I'm really excited!  You may look at my profile picture to the left and think that I'm 6 years old but this is my first grade picture that was taken in 1960 (you can do the math).  I call it my Susie Jane picture because my mother named me Susan Elizabeth but always called me "Susie Jane".  I don't know where she got that but it had to have come from her southern roots.  Her name was Carrie Mae and she was born and reared in central Alabama.  Most of the women in her family went by double names such as "Lily Mae", "Willie Mae", "Joyce Faye", etc.  

Carrie Mae (my mother)

Mother was a beautiful lady that only lived 66 years.  She had green eyes that could look right through me as she would stop and look down at me before we entered a business or someone's home and say, "Now, Susie Jane, don't you embarrass me in here, you hear?"  The cardinal sin in our family was to do anything that would embarrass Mother and I was always the one that succeeded in doing just that.  My older siblings were much better at "being good".  

Mother came from a home where the women sewed.  They made their own and their daughters' clothes, crocheted intricate tablecloths and bedspreads, kept every scrap of fabric and turned these scraps into warm quilts for their families.  I do not remember ever visiting my grandparents' home in Alabama and not seeing women sewing in the living room.  In that part of the state there were many textile factories at the time and my step-grandmother (Wilbur Sue, yes that was her name!) would get scraps of fabrics and trims from friends that worked in the sewing factories.  I made many night gowns for my dolls from the nylon and lace scraps that she always seemed to have.  

In future blogs, I'll be telling you more about the women in my family and how they influenced my love of sewing.  I'll also be posting old family photos and new photos of items I'm sewing today.  

Thanks for reading my blog and come back soon, ya hear?