The rugs were pleasantly pliant, yielding with a firm squishiness beneath my feet – like a good handshake. “Hello,” they said, “good to see you!” They were all similar in color; featuring flesh-hued blending’s of taupe, ecru, nude, and tan. All had been woven by my Grandma Lillie’s expert hands on an old window frame she had fashioned into a loom. She was never idle, my Grandma. In the evenings when family would gather in front of the TV, chatting over the televised voices of the weatherman, Lawrence Welk, and Johnny Carson…Grandma would settle into weaving at her loom. Old clothes ripped into strips provided the material for the rugs.
My Grandma Lillie had been born into a large family in 1905, her parents were Norwegian immigrants. Money was always tight during her early, formative years, and also during the Great Depression when Grandma and Grandpa ran their little restaurant called, “Pete’s Eats.” Through it all, she had learned to manage her money very wisely, to pinch every penny. Every little bit of cloth from worn and tattered clothing, blankets, and towels found new purpose in Grandma’s busy hands. The prettier bits became colorful crazy quilts given to grandchildren. But the other bits, for nothing was ever wasted, found their way into useful rugs. A household necessity in north Minnesota!
Below are images of my quilt made by Grandma Lillie more than 45 years ago.
Those flesh-hued rugs scattered throughout her home, that I found so pleasant beneath my feet…they were a little weird looking. They didn’t look like they had come from old dresses or shirts. I would bend down and feel them with my hands. How interesting…the texture was familiar, yet somehow alien at the same time.
Years passed. Grandma and her rugs were long gone and deeply missed. While reminiscing on the phone one day with my mother, I asked, “Mom, remember those weird, flesh colored rugs Grandma Lillie had in the farmhouse?” What were they made of?”
“Oh!” giggled Mom, “Yes, I remember them! Those were made from ladies stockings.”
“Pantyhose?” I asked, astounded.
“No!” said Mom, a shocked gasp slipping from her, as if I’d said a bad word. “Ladies stockings, the kind women once used to clip unto garter belts. They didn’t have panties attached to them. They were stronger than today’s pantyhose.”
“She had to have had a lot of ladies stockings to make all those rugs!” I said, marveling over the idea.
“Well, I suppose ladies in town donated them to your grandma knowing she would put them to good use.” said Mom.
And that’s exactly what Grandma did. Those ladies stockings made marvelous rugs. Weird looking, but so pleasant beneath the feet! My Grandma Lillie was a master craftsman recycler of the finest caliber.
When my Grandpa retired from farming, he sold their house and built them a new one beside Clearwater Lake. During the move, grandpa carted off two truckloads of Grandma Lillie’s hoarded, old dresses, shirts & shoes. Grandma was livid! I don’t think she ever wove another rug after that. Rather, she picked up her crochet hook and wove lovely bed spreads and table cloths for family members.
This, despite the fact that she was nearly blind with cataracts and glaucoma! She did this while telling stories about the “old days.” Grandma’s legacy of weaving and telling stories lives on through me. I may exhibit the skills differently, but they are at their core, descended from my beloved Grandma Lillie. I was, and still am, her greatest fan.
Say, if anyone has any old ladies stockings lying about, for goodness sake, don’t throw them away! I’m thinking of weaving a rug. Oh, and I’ll take old pantyhose if that’s all you have, I’ll cut the panty part off – gotta move with the times.