HEIRLOOM #3: GRANDMA’S KERCHIEF

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Our Heirloom series highlights personal items or mementos that hold a special meaning, regardless of monetary value. Our hope is to reveal the incredible value of family, memory, and things that last.

This week Erin, our Director of Media Services and Special Projects, shares the story of her grandmother’s kerchief.

From Erin:

My grandma, Nancy Jo, was a beautiful, artistic, kind-hearted, and very stylish woman. She had a contagious laugh, and I remember her as always happy and smiling. Throughout much of her life, she painted and drew as hobbies (mostly pictures of flowers and birds), made clothes, crafted, and was an amazing cook. (My favorite was her coconut cream pie, which I made for Christmas this year.) I like to think she passed her creative traits down to my dad, who then passed them to me.

When she passed away in May of 2011, she left me her engagement ring, her sewing machine and a box of fabric scraps, hats from her collection, her paper doll collection, and a collection of her kerchiefs. That spring, I had just been introduced to Alabama Chanin and wouldn’t begin working here until the following year. But, I’d been inspired to begin making and sewing for myself and was excited and proud to share my projects with my Grandma.

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I became engaged last summer (and, though I have her beautiful ring, I am lucky enough to have an engagement ring of my own) and I have started working on my dress for my wedding this fall. I am using one of the kerchiefs she left me as inspiration for the stencil design on my dress; it is a large orchid pattern – my favorite flower. The kerchief itself is bright pink and navy, with flecks of green.

My grandma was very creative, and I think that also showed in the way she dressed. She wore hats, kerchiefs, and scarves to cover her head (as fashion accessories) – around the house, outside in the yard, even over her hair when it was in curlers. I have seen lots of pictures of her wearing them when she was younger. This particular kerchief is in really good condition; it was a nicer, more formal silk scarf so she probably didn’t wear it for just everyday occasions. I’ll save it for my special day.

I was drawn to the orchid scarf because it is so representative of her style. She loved bright colors and every outfit she wore was perfectly matched, from head to toe. Jewelry, accessories, shoes, purse – all impeccably styled. I admired the way she took such care with her appearance and, as a child, I was enamored with her big walk-in closet, where I played hide-and-seek. She was a very skilled seamstress and made clothing, tablecloths, and drapery over the years.

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I am so thankful that I’ve found a way to have a piece of my grandma with me on my wedding day – and that I am able to share the stories I hold close to me. In my mind, I can see her sitting there, dressed to perfection and smiling. I love the idea of combining my own style with hers – using something old to create something new.

My Grandma also had an atrium filled with house plants of all kinds; when we were cleaning out her house, my parents kept an orchid that my dad had given her seven or so years ago for Mother’s Day. It looked dried out, like it wouldn’t survive, but I bought a new pot and some potting mix in hopes to revive it. Last fall it began to bloom.

Thank you to Erin for sharing her heirloom and memories with us. 

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