Sometimes my mind wanders while I knit. Yesterday I started thinking about my grandmother, my Nana, while I was working on my latest hat. It’s a cloche-style hat with a button on the flared brim reminiscent of the hats that flappers wore in the 1920’s. Back then no respectable woman would consider going out in public without a hat. Other than couture from the expensive European fashion houses, everything was made domestically. No cheap imports. Many clothing stores employed their own seamstresses and milliners.
And that’s why I was thinking about Nana. She started as a girl helping in millinery shops, fetching materials and thread, and using a magnet to pick up pins from the floor. She worked her way up and eventually made hats for Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.
When my dad was young Nana was no longer working at Saks, but he remembers her sewing hats at home. Sometimes he would come home from school to find wedding veils draped over the lampshades while she worked on them.
By the time I was a little girl hats were going out of style. Millinery was becoming a lost art. Nana still sewed though. Sometimes on her old treadle sewing machine and sometimes by hand with her arthritic old fingers.
She was a wonderful cook and gardener too. Now I wish I had paid more attention to her work and asked more questions. I could have learned so much but I was just a little girl without the patience for those old-fashioned things. My love of knitting and crafts evolved after she was gone but I like to think that it came because of her influence. I think she would be pleased.