Sunday, July 27, 2014

She was crafty?

I’ve written a lot about my maternal grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy, most recently here.  One thing I never thought about was my grandmother being crafty because just by looking at her you’d think she was anything but.

My beautiful picture

This photo must have been when she was about 80 years old or so.  I remember that she was always, and I mean always, dressed to the nines and everything was just perfect.  As you can see in this photo, everything matched and she always carried a purse (or as she called it, a bag) to match her shoes which matched her dress.  It was always a dress – I don’t remember ever seeing her dressed in anything other than a dress and most, if not all, of her clothes came from her favorite store, Saks Fifth Avenue.  In later years she had trouble with bunions and rather than wear shoes that were comfortable and enabled her to walk easier with her bunions. she would still buy the best shoes and would take some sort of tool and cut a hole in the shoes right where the bunions were to allow more room.  I still laugh at this perfectly dressed woman with holes in her very expensive shoes!

As we were growing up, I really don’t remember Grandma doing much other than playing bridge.  I’m sure she did other things – shopping and lunch come to mind – but to a young girl it seemed to be all about bridge.  It was nice that she lived nearby my maternal grandmother and, I believe, they often played bridge with the same group of women.  But one thing I never thought about was that she might actually like to do something crafty.

Shortly before she passed away in 1982 and just a few months after her 86th birthday, Grandma gave me two needlepoint projects that she’d made so that I could one day pass them on to my daughters.  Oh sure, I loved them and I proudly displayed them in my home but I really never gave them much thought after that.

She was, obviously, so proud of herself for completing this project that she put a note on the back of each.

What I remember my parents telling me is that she hadn’t really done the entire project by herself but for the life of me I can’t remember the specifics.  She either bought the fabric with the figure already stitched and then she stitched the background…..or vice versa.  But whichever it was she did it and wanted to share it with me.

More than 30 years later as we were cleaning out my mother’s house I found this.

This one has no signature or other identifying information on it but I can only assume that she stitched this at the same time she did the others and gave it to my mom and dad.  And as they tended to do, they stuck it away in a drawer or closet never to be seen again.  Until it was time to clean out the house when it just jumped out at me and whispered “take me home”.  So I did.

And there was another needlepoint project that I’d forgotten about that also came home with me – this beautiful purse that I guessed had belonged to Grandma and then was passed down to my mother.

Thankfully, thankfully, several years before Mom passed away I spent a few days with her and for whatever reason, together we went through the cavernous hall linen closet where she stored all of her handbags and some of her jewelry.  And as we took things out to look at them, Mom would give me a description of the object – where she got it or who had given it to her, the significance, etc.  And because I knew my memory was fading, I decided to take some notes and put them with each object as Mom told me about it.  So guess what I found when I opened up this purse?  In my own handwriting it said:

Handmade by Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy, approximately 1960.  Purchased material in Vienna, stitched purse, professional put together into purse.

You know, sometimes I really kick myself for not doing something but this time I actually gave myself a pat on the back and a silent thank you because otherwise this treasure might have ended up in the estate sale.

Who knew my grandmother was crafty?


  1. Debi, what an amazing purse! This is definitely a treasure to keep and pass down through the generations!

    1. I hope I get an opportunity to use it one day before I pass it down. :-)

  2. That purse is very cool. You make me laugh when you say you found a note in your own handwriting with the purse. I find my handwriting on the back of old photos all the time. Also, when my mother moved a few months ago, downsizing, she gave me a variety of old (and not so old) objects and when she would tell me the story behind them, I would write the stories down because I know I won't remember them.

    1. At least we recognized our short comings and did something about it - our brains are just too full to remember things on our own :-)

  3. I think it's especially sweet that she referred to herself as "great grandmother" clearly indicating the pictures were for your daughters, not you so much. They remind me of of two needlework projects that my grandaunt did that are now hanging in our guestroom. I would use that purse for an evening bag. (By the way, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the description of your grandmother's shoes -- bunions run in our family. My mother and grandmother never donated old shoes to charity because the left shoe was always stretched out by that bunion.)

  4. As a quilter, I love to see family work that is passed down in the family. I always add a label to my quilts with my name, date, place and who I made the quilt for. Hopefully that will be a handy bit of information in the future.