Monday, 31 January 2011


There is one person that is the biggest reason I started this blog. That I started sewing. That I started to have an interest in clothes. That person is my maternal grandmother, Greta. I have no intention to reflect my personal life in this blog, but my grandmother is such an essential person when it comes to developing my interests that I feel she has to be here. She was also the kind of woman who Alla kvinnors bok was written for, middle class with enough wealth for some luxuries, but still seeing the importance of mending and re-use. She was not an altogether easy person, she could be annoying and exhausting, but she was also wonderful in so many ways and I loved her very much. Now, seven years since she passed away, I find that the less good things are of no importance anymore. Just all the great things remains.

My grandmother was born in 1913 and died in 2004, just a few months after her 90th birthday. The picture above is from her wedding day, which took place in 1942.

She had made her wedding gown herself. She was a great seamstress. Without any formal training she had learned to sew at home and she had all her life a feeling for style. I remember a walk we took when she was 85. Straight as a rail she scorned the tan poplin coats that elderly ladies often seem to wear. No, she wore a dark red leather coat paired with a black beret on her snow-white hair.

She was curious all her life, always wanting to learn more. She never taught me to sew, but she taught me about fabrics and love for beautiful things. And more importantly, she taught me an outlook. “If you want to do something, learn how and then do it.” She was never daunted by unknown territory. During her long life she not only sew, but made lace, tie-dyed, made clay figurines, macramé, hats, dolls and much more. I remember that for my tenth birthday she made a whole company of hand puppets for me. When I was eleven she made two late 19th century children’s dresses for me and my sister. She had a collection of gorgeous 19th century clothes. She saved everything, but as she also re-made her clothes, a lot of what she wore was made into new clothes. However, I have a few things still. Like her wedding gown in green georgette.

There are also two coats, an evening jacket and a suit from the 1940’s that I will need to take pictures of. Several dresses from the 1960’s. And a collection of underwear dating to the late 1930/early 1940’s. My grandmother was a very slim woman when she was young and told me she didn't need to wear a bra until she was well over thirty.

Vests in silk jersey with lace insert.

My grandmother would have loved this project. In my mind I can imagine telling her and hear her say “Oh! Oh! Oh!” as she always did when she got exited. Then she would describe some of her clothes from that time and she would probably be able to find a scrap of fabric still remaining from a particularly beloved outfit.


Danièle said...

What a great tribute to your grand mother! She was a great beauty, and left you with a great appetite for sewing, you could not ask for a better gift!
The underwear is stunning!

GentlewomanThief said...

She sounds like my kind of lady - if you want to do it, learn it! What a great inspiration and I love that she stayed stylish rather than going for one of those beige 'granny macs'. Thanks a lot for sharing these gorgeous images - she is beautiful and that underwear is amazing.

Isis said...

Danièle: Thank you! Yes, she was. I inherited all her sewing stuff and I think that I have managed to have something, if only the sewing thread, from her in every sewing project since then.

Gentlewomanthief: She really was! The underwear are lovely, though the knickers are completely see through!

Anonymous said...

Greta was a very interesting lady in every way:-) Even though I didn't inherit her interest of sewing I have some wounderful memories of her and you talking about dresses and different kinds of fabric:-)
I think I have som dresses for my old Barbie doll that Greta made me in "Garbo style":-)


Auntie said...

My Maternal Grandmother was from Denmark. She taught me to knit, early in the 1960's. Now, I'm in my 60s. I read that one of the most difficult but important decisions a woman makes in her lifetime is how she will dress as an old woman. I'm in the midst of making that decision now, and thinking 40's-esque vintage style might just serve me very well.

Auntie said...

Please tell us a little bit more about the vests. Are they blouses? Intended to be worn as a slip? A camisole? They are lovely.

Isis said...

Auntie: I think 40's fashion could work very well indeed.

The vests are just camisoles, meant to be worn underneath the clothes. I just talked with my Mum about my grandmother and she told me that until she married she spend all the money that didn't have to go to food and rent on her wardrobe. I can well believe it. :)

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