Our secret conversation

Mom and me, shortly before she passed away in 2016.

My Mom and I share a little secret. We have little “meetings of the minds” where we share heart-to-heart communication on a regular basis. Considering she passed away more than four years ago, you might think I’m a bit quirky to make such a statement. But she and I communicate through our secret, shared language of needlework. Even now, all these years since she left this earth, we send each other nudges of love.

I’m a quilter. Mom was a cross-stitcher. And she was positively brilliant at cross-stitch. I never caught the bug for cross-stitch, but Mom did teach me hand embroidery skills. So, we share a common thread through hand needlework. She never really understood my love for quilting, though. To her, quilts were what her mother made and used during the depression out of necessity from old clothes and feed sacks. It meant they were poor. She did not have fond memories of the Great Depression so I think the idea of quilts wasn’t favorable in her mind. But somewhere during her adult life she picked up the skill and learned to do cross-stitch, which she loved to do. For many years, we had this funny little tradition at Christmas where I would gift her a cross-stitch kit that I wanted her to make for me. She would always oblige and before the next Christmas she’d have it finished and given back for me to have it framed. I have a dozen or so of these precious hand-stitched artworks hanging in our home.

When Mom worked on her cross-stitched pieces, she was adamant that “the stitches on the back should look as neat and tidy as they do on the front.” And indeed, the underneath sides of her handiwork were truly as exquisitely stitched as the fronts. It always amazed me how beautiful she could make them. That, in and of itself, is a true talent.

When the dementia set in, I should have recognized the signs earlier. She had several cross-stitch pieces in progress, but she never seemed to finish them. Only years later did I realize she had forgotten how to actually create the stitches. But in those early days of her disease, she was rather good at hiding the fact she was forgetting simple tasks.

I love all the pieces she made for me and I cherish each of them. But there is one, a simple house, that is more special than the rest. She made it for our sparsely decorated home when I was a young bride and it came with twelve little cross stitched “door hangings.” The idea was to change one each month to celebrate the holiday or season. They are easily attached by a piece of Velcro on the back of each one. The cross-stitched house itself isn’t very large; it is only 8 1/2″ x 11.” It currently hangs on a wall leading down the main hallway in our home. I pass it every day. I notice it. Every. Day. And each month when I change the little door hanging, like I did today, I say “Hi, Mom. I love you. I think of you every day. Say hi to Pop for me.” And I send her love and light and a kiss and hug. And I believe she hears me and she says, “I love you, too. I’m so glad you take time to put the holiday hangings on the door. Thank you for remembering me.” This is our secret conversation. I feel it in the depths of my heart.

My husband, our sons and I think almost anyone who has come into our home has most likely passed by the framed house and never noticed the door hangings have quietly changed each and every month. I’ve never missed a month of changing them (although sadly, in one of our many moves, two of the door hangings were lost and I only have ten now.) 

A God wink? A sign? Simply wishful thinking on my part? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t miss taking these few moments each day to stop and think of my Mom and feel her love in my heart. 

You see? Whether you cross stitch or quilt, embroider, knit or crochet, there is love in those stitches created by your hands which transcends time and logic. Needlework is a form of communication, a language all its own. It is the language of love. 

  1. This is so true. I was the only person in two generations who wanted to learn embroidery besides my grandmother. She embroidered a twin size quilt top in the last year of so of her life. It was sent to me to be completed but I didn’t know how to quilt. About 40 years later I finally started quilting so I could finish that piece. My grandmother has been gone 50 years now and not only do I still embroider but I’ve caught the quilting bug as well, because of her. I think she would smile at that.

  2. Wow that is awesome. My Mom also showed me how to embroidery, which we enjoyed together for many blessed years. I too proudly display he beautiful work on my walls. They warm my heart every day. I also greet her & tell her how much she is missed. Now I add embroider into my quilts & wish she was here. Years ago she embroidered Square Dance couples on a skirt of hers. I found her original pattern & used it in a square in a quilt for my granddaughter so she could remember her too.

  3. My mom was also a cross stitcher and a quilter. I often bought her kits, but I didn’t necessarily get them back. Many were framed and hung in her house. But she did give them as Christmas gifts one year, so I do have one. Mom also crocheted and I knew she was slipping when she couldn’t make her famous dish cloths. Your house is certainly a special treasurer. Hope to see you in Paducah this spring.

  4. Beautifully told Kimberly. I remember your Mother’s cross stitching. She did a beautiful job. Cherish her memory and the good times you shared.

    • Kim, Having lost both of my parents now, I think of all of the little signs they are sending me. Mom was a sewist and had an amazing eye for color and patterns. I still have the last top we worked on together. I haven’t quilted it yet…that would mean it is finished and I am not ready for that. My dad never failed to revel in the complexity of some of my quits. He loved how I could transform bits of fabric into amazing patterns. I explained to him time and again that they were someone else’s patterns, all I was doing was rolling directions. Even now when I finish a quilt I look to heaven for Mom to tell me I got my colors right and Dad to tell me how great it looks. No matter how many quilts I make, I will always listen for their approval.

  5. I love your house cross stitch and the seasonal door hangings! What a wonderful daily reminder of your mother.

  6. Yes, it’s a treasure that we have memories of family who have given us gifts to remember them by. I hope one day friends and family will remember my quilts given at special times and think of me too!

  7. My mom was a seamstress and a hand embroiderer. I didn’t start quilting until long after my mom passed away, but with each finished project, I can’t help but believe that she would be so pleased and proud of the works I complete.

  8. From childhood my mother taught me what she called handiwork. Sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, etc. She said every girl should know the basics of handiwork. Today I love all of these crafts and sometimes have a hard time choosing which one to do. Sewing, knitting and crochet are my favorite. As I recall our time together, she the teacher, me the student, I am so thankful she insisted I learn those skills–life-long skills that I will pass on to my granddaughters. Good memories! You are fortunate to have your mother’s handiwork!

  9. Thank you for this! You expressed the feelings I haven’t been able to put into words since my mother passed. She and I shared a love of sewing and needlework. I have some of her wonderful work, and I was so sad when she forgot how to sew and knit as her dementia took her away from us. She passed in 2017. I miss her.

  10. I so relate to this, Kimberly. My grandma and mom were both excellent seamstresses, knitters and quilters. I have the Peter Rabbit quilt my grandmother made for my daughter when she was born in 1972. It’s as soft as can be and I have used it for grandchildren. (Suppose i should give it to my daughter!) My mom quilted before rotary cutters were available…I never could understand how she had the patience to cut the tiny pieces. She did machine piece but always hand quilted. Truly works of art that I am grateful to have.

    I have doll clothes that my grandmother made for my dolls that now my granddaughters play with. What wonderful memories!
    And, the list could go on!

    And yes…I hear my mom and grandma too. Wish I could visit with each of them again. Thank you for your well written article which definitely reminded me of my loving and wonderful mom and grandma.

  11. Kim, beautifully written. You shared your mom’s cross stitch with me and I have them where I can see them everyday. They are my favorite flowers. Thank you for sharing with me. If you don’t mind I will talk with her in a sister’s secret language. Love Aunt Ginny Pinny

  12. I love this!!! Thank you for sharing! Love you-Dee

  13. A lovely post! Thank you for sharing this story. I couldn’t agree more. ?

  14. Lovely sentiments, Kimberly. Thinking of loved ones, both family and friends who have passed, is such a gift to keep them alive in our hearts. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Such a sweet secret. I have two pieces your mom made for Bill and me. And yes they are perfectly done. One is the skyline of Atlanta and one of blooming dogwood flowers.

  16. What a wonderful story! Your mother sounds like a very special person — always change the door hangings — such a great way to continue to connect with your mother!

  17. Kimberly, what a beautiful tribute to your mother. My Grandmother taught my sister and I all the needlework . I think I was 6 and my sister about 9. My mother worked and my Omi sat down with us and taught us to knit, crochet, cross stick and other needlework. Born in Germany those were the things a we were expected to know. I got into quilting just about 5 years ago even though I sewed all my life since my Omi was an exceptional seamstress, which she shared with us as well. I love all those things and never know which I want to do at the time. I love to knit or crochet pretty baby afghans to give to a new mother as well as sewing dog bets and knitting warm hats for the homeless. I love your stories Kimberly and hope to get into one of your classes in Paducah since they are filled already.

    • Bea, thank you so much for your lovely comment! I hope you are able to be in one of my classes in Paducah, too! You never know — sometimes, there are cancellations! But regardless….please come by my classroom and say hello. I’d really love to see you in person and give you a hug!

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