Handed Down

This post isn’t really about making art.  Well, maybe.  If all creative endeavors are art, which is stretching it a bit, I think.  The subject of what is art will be another blog.  I have Mimi on the blog-brain today.

scn0037 MIMI LYLE

I like this picture of her because it looks like the old lady I knew, being the youngest grandchild. Her quirky smile, a bit mischievous. And she was mischievous.

My grandmother, Mimi, taught me to crochet when I was a little girl.  She started me with a potholder before I could cook, and a big needle, and thick yarn.  Because she did it, I wanted to do it.


My great-grandmother Hoyt’s Crazy Quilt.

Before long, she also taught me to stitch and tat (make lace for you non-needleworkers.)  she told me that all of the women in our family were good stitchers.  My mother couldn’t do any of this, and so the “skips a generation” theory came to excuse my mom from the lineage.

In high school I elaborately embroidered a jeans skirt I made from my brother’s old jeans.  My mom thought this was a waste, such beautiful embroidery on hole-ridden jeans.   I made a small blanket of every color in the rainbow, random stripes that became my favorite cats blanket when he was dying.  It went with him, wrapped him up and kept his dead body warm.   My mother admonished me for giving it to him.  He was, after all, my best friend and practically kept me alive when I was grieving not being able to have babies.  What would I use it for?  No baby to wrap in it!


One of the blankets we kept, Oregon Winter.

I picked up my crochet hook again when I found I could not have children.  A deep depression descended upon me, and Mimi came to the rescue tying me to hundreds of women who have sat and stitched their way into sanity.  27×18 rows = 486, a row around = 570, and with nine squares (I gradually made them 12 squares) = 5,130 stitches.  With every stitch I prayed for the lifting of the depression.  I made a blanket for every member of our family, and then kept going, selling them for several years after my depression had left me.

By the way, I started painting nine months after I miscarried, another story.


Mimi’s needles, now mine, and yes, I use them all the time. By the way, the top “needle” is not a needle at all but a button hook for Victorian shoes.

I make money off Mimi’s needlework lessons.  When I am stitching a zillion small stitches in a tapestry I think of her, and wonder what she would make of all this.  I think she would love the scarves I make, knitted nightly because I can’t keep my hands quiet unless they hurt!


Back to rows of color, back and forth . . . I sell them every year beginning in August!

I have no children to hand down the needlework tradition to, and I wonder, who will get her needles when I am gone?  Who will love this tradition as I have, find it may even save their life, want to have Hoyt-Smith-Powell needles and the stories that go with them?


My images in this series can be reposted if there is a link back to zenkatwrites.
All Images ©D.Katie Powell.

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
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4 Responses to Handed Down

  1. notewords says:

    Lovely post. So glad you were able to find a way out of the depression. Handwork is healing! 😉

  2. heartscraps says:

    This is Jan from She Writes (recent new member). I love this post. Like you, I was taught to crochet by my great-grandmother and I wanted to learn because she did it. I made a baby blanket and have held onto it ever since, but when I finally had a child at 39, decided not to even pull it out of my old chest to use. He much preferred a cloth diaper to carry around with him! Now I crochet shawls or throws and I donate them to nursing homes or hospital patients. This is my mental therapy, the crocheting. It’s like meditating almost and having something in my hands, creating something, makes me happy. So glad to have met you on She Writes.

    • zenkatwrites says:

      I am afraid my baby blanket went to my fist cat when he was dying — it was just the right size and he loved it. Now it is still in use as a cat blanket 20 years later — sits on their cat tree as a cuddle spot. Nice to have met you too! Kate

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