Monday, October 31, 2016

What To Do What To Do, What To Do?

Grandmother's Hankies, personal photo

They can be that proverbial two-edged sword. Family heirlooms. We are delighted to have these special items that once belonged to an ancestor or relative, especially those things which provide some special insight into their lives. But then, all too frequently in my case, these items stay stored in a drawer or box. And I continue to wonder what to do with them.

Last week during a visit to our local library, I may have found a few suggestions as to what to do with some of these heirlooms. As I was walking through the craft section of the library, I spied several books dealing with crafting family history and memorabilia. I added them to my check-out pile and then spent an afternoon looking through the books and considering some new possibilities.

Memorabilia Quits by Rita Weiss had some new takes on ways to use family items in a quilt.(1) In addition to the often seen T-shirt quilt and quilts made with family photos printed onto cloth, there were photos of a lovely quilt made with squares featuring "Grandma's Hankies". This made me think of the box in an attic trunk filled with handkerchiefs passed down from my Grandmother to my mother and now to me. All are still in excellent condition, lace and printed design still there; after all, these were used primarily in the Sunday purse when those ladies when to church. A smaller project might be making several pillows using some of the handkerchiefs, together with initials or a monogram. Or ... 

Judi Kauffman had a very interesting book, Memory Crafting Beyond the Scrapbook, which featured a number of smaller projects.(2) One quick project was a "Memory Tray", just a simple wooden tray with photos or cards displayed beneath a piece of glass. That might be a possibility for using some of my mother's handwritten recipe cards or a way to display Christmas photo cards received from family members. Another small project was a "Keepsake Envelope". This was essentially an envelope sewn from satin, lined with a soft material, designed for storing a piece of jewelry, an award, a baby bonnet, etc, together with a card describing the provenance or history of the item. This would certainly be a special way to protect and commemorate the medals my mother-in-law received as a college student in the late 1920s.

I've been an avid scrapbooker for years so I added several books on the topic to my stack to checkout. I especially enjoyed looking through Scrapbooking Your Family History by Laura Best.(3) One of my first scrapbooks was a family heritage book. I know how much time was involved in completing it so I especially liked seeing a number of smaller scrapbook projects in Best's book. For starters, she had a "Family History Jar". The jar contained a number of questions, each written on a strip of paper, together with a notebook for recording the answers. It would be a great conversation starter at family gatherings. She also reminded scrapbookers to provide a key identifying all those family members in group pictures. I loved the idea of a scrapbook page picturing a child along with photos of the person(s) for whom the child was named. Another simple idea was making one scrapbook page on a specific theme or person to hang in a 12x12 inch frame. This could be a page of photos from Christmas or other family gatherings to hang at holiday times, a collection of photos of a grandparent through the years, pictures of various houses where a family had lived, so many possibilities for an easy way to display a little family history.

Lisa Bearnson and Becky Higgins coauthored an interesting book, Our Family Scrapbooks. It deals, of course, with large, heritage scrapbooks, but the book also presents some great small scrapbook ideas.(4) One of the simplest books was a "Family Faces" scrapbook, just a single photo of a relative on one page of an small photo album with the person's name or a short sentence about him/her on the opposite page. This is a great idea for young children whose relatives may be scattered around the country. Another small scrapbook was the "One Memory at a Time" book. This was a perfect way to use some of those interesting old photos like my grandfather working on the family farm or my father in a baseball uniform. This small scrapbook called for a 4x6 inch photo album, one picture on the left and a short descriptive paragraph about the photo on the right page. Finally Lisa and Becky used a similar idea for documenting family heirlooms, again having a photo of an item on one page and brief information about the item on the opposite page. This would be a way for me to provide information about Thomas Nelson's clock, my Grandmother's metronome, or my mother-in-law's college medals.

Several years ago, I started my Pinterest board Celebrating Family as a way to keep and share other projects related to family history. Once again, a trip to my local library stirred my creativity. Now I have more ideas about things that I could do as a way to celebrate and share some of our family stories with others.

Lessons Learned:

  • Our local libraries are filled with so many interesting books and materials.
  • Think outside the box. An craft or creative idea found in one source might be tweeked or expanded a little and become a great means for sharing our family stories or history.

(1) Weiss, Rita and Linda Causee. Memorabilia Quilts: Fabulous Project With Keepsakes and Collectibles. New York: Sterling Publishing Co, Inc. 2007.
(2) Kaufman Judi. Memory Crafting Beyond the Scrapbook: 130 Projects to Sew, Stitch, and Craft. Iola WI: Krause Publications, 1999.
(3) Best, Laura, Scrapbooking Your Family History. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2005.
(4) Bearnson, Lisa and Becky Higgins. Our Family Scrapbooks. Primedia, Inc., 2005.