*Stitching Together* Memories of Mom: 3rd Annual Tea 2019 ** The Planning

Throughout my childhood, memories of my mother seated at her Domestic Imperial Automatic sewing machine remain vivid. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can recall the whizzing hum of the belted wheel, that she occasionally had to give a little manual spin to start its rotation as she guided fabric through the fiercely bobbing threaded needle to form an even seam. I can hear the clink and gentle metallic crunch of her sharp chrome finished scissors slicing through fabric that was strategically laid out and pinned with delicate thin sheets of tissue pattern pieces forming shapes of sleeves, collars, bodices and skirts.

I watched as she patiently moved the pattern pieces around on the fabric to carefully position all to fit and then tacking their corners down with straight pins pulled from a red tomato shaped pin cushion. Occasionally she would prink her finger slightly wincing with a little jolt.

I was called to her side many times as she held pinned together pattern pieces and later partially sewn pieces of fabric against me, to ensure the perfect fit as she reached for pins held between her lips to mark were a seam had to be taken in or ripped open for a proper fit. The satisfaction she must have felt from her completed garments, encouraged her to master more difficult patterns and designs over the years. All so that we could both look fashionable on a tight budget.

When I was in the third grade she labored for hours, hand sewing over 500 sequins on to my ballet and tap costumes for dancing school. She tacked on each sequin individually with a small glass bead stitched over the little hole in its center. A year later for Christmas, she had taken multiple fabric scraps and formed them into Jacqueline Kennedy fashioned dresses, coats and gowns for my Barbie doll. As a teenager of 15 I was invited to a prom. She made my soft yellow chiffon empire waist gown and found little wired chiffon butterflies she placed in my hair. Later when my own Jr. prom came around, she had gained enough skill that allowed me to draw an image of a dress I had seen Marie Osmond wear on The Donny & Marie show, and recreated it in a soft pink chiffon.

As more and more women over the generations, joined the work force, sewing became a less predominate domestic skill, and the ease and convenience of department stores made buying ready to wear clothing more desirable. In fact, I envied girls who were able to buy clothes in stores, while they envied my one of a kind designs created by Mom that I was of course too young to truly appreciate at the time.

For this year’s Remembering Moms Tea, our theme is in honor of the mother of two sisters who not only made clothes for each of them, but made a living as a seamstress. While this was their mother’s profession, most of those in our group also have memories of their mothers or grandmothers sitting at a sewing machine, stitching fabric by hand with embroidery thread, crocheting or knitting.

The Planning:

STEP 1: Determining the theme- the names of each attendee was written on small pieces of paper and placed inside of a tea pot at the previous year’s tea. A name was pulled and the theme for the following year’s tea will honor that mother.

STEP 2: The invitation: Clip Art – with a sewing machine and notions – some areas sprinkled with a little white glitter, then adhered to card stock on one side ; printed invitation details with a small clip art mannequin on the reverse side.

I searched online for images of vintage pattern envelopes and chose a variety of the brands that I recalled seeing as a young girl either in my Mom’s supplies or my own from home economics class, i.e., McCall’s, Simplicity, Butterick and Vogue. I don’t recall any “Paris Vogue” patterns in my Mom’s sewing kit, but it was interesting to find the couturier and Christian Dior designs during my search.

A variety of pattern covers were printed [5″ x 7″} and then adhered with a glue stick to envelopes of the same size. The back of the envelop was sealed and then a slit was cut at the top edge of the pattern image. Each envelop now resembled an opened vintage pattern envelop and was included with the invitation (both fitted into a larger envelop). The message below was inserted into the pattern envelop (like a book marker).

Please Bring:  Your memory notebook; your framed photo of Mom & if your mother sewed (or stitched – cross stick, embroidery, etc., crocheted or knitted) find a photo of something she made, place it inside the pattern envelop and bring all to the tea.

**See Post: “Gathering/Tradition: Annual Tea in Remembrance of Mom” for info on notebook and framed photo and the story of how this tradition began.

STEP 3: Favors – inspired by the teacup pin cushion on the clip art used for the invitation.

To merge the tea and sewing theme, I used small espresso cups, printed fabric (with spools of thread); cotton balls for stuffing, dark pink twine, and a gold rimmed pearl embellishment to create mini pin cushion favors for my guests. A few years ago I found this measuring tape cotton ribbon and decided to buy it for “one day”. I’m so glad I did, because it makes the cutest bow on top. The card of sewing charms I found at Walmart and secured one charm with a pearl head pin into the center of the bow. Six pearl head pins are pushed into the padding to complete the look of the tea favors.

STEP 4: Time sensitive items: Some mothers made garments on sewing machines, but others may have knitted, cross stitched, embroidered, or crocheted. When I found these sugar dollies on Pinterest I couldn’t resist. I chose the cameo lace pattern that is reminiscent of the past and has a lovely silhouette of a lady – like moms and grandmothers.

STEP 5: The finishing touches….Decor, table runner and napkin rings.

Drawing from memories of my mother, I began to form the decor for this sewing themed tea a couple of months in advance to allow for time to find or create items I wanted to use. Neither my friends or I had retained our Mom’s sewing mannequin that I originally imaged for my decor, but then I remembered I have a small jewelry mannequin and decided it would make a sweet centerpiece with a little decoration.

Sifting through my gift wrapping tissue, I chose a sheet of light pink and an orange floral. Each were folded into a stack with 6 to 8 layers. Various sized circles (similar to the size of a quarter or smaller) were cut and then pinned to the form with a pearl straight pin. From the top layer to the bottom, one at a time I scrunched the layers around the pin head to form little rosettes. I made the same layered circles with pieces of tissue from the one pattern I found among my sewing items. A small pattern piece (for a cuff) was used to create a pinned pattern resembling a skirt. A 12 inch piece of cotton measuring tape ribbon was formed into a bow at the center of rosettes on the shoulder.

I searched for a printed fabric of sewing notions to create a table runner, but I was unable to find anything with the correct color palette. So I pulled out Mom’s old sewing machine and stitched together five pieces of the “Fat Quarter” 18″ x 21″ fabric used for the pin cushions. While adding the dark pink rick rack, Mom’s machine came to a halt -protesting any further action. I had to employ the help of a friend to finish sewing the rick rack to the edges of the fabric to complete my table runner.

With a cup of tea to sip on, I inventoried the left over fabric,
charms, pearl embellishments, rick rack, cotton measuring tape ribbon.

I originally toyed with the idea of tying rick rack around my battenburg napkins forming a bow, but as I surveyed the items left over from my pin cushion project I decided I could do better. With a cup of tea to sip I began to create nine different napkin rings.

  • Cut strips of fabric, ribbon and rick rack into 6″ strips.
  • Fabric about 2 inches in width – seams top and bottom folded and ironed in place.
  • Hot glue used to glue rick rack or cotton ribbon over open seam of fabric (or)
  • Rick rack hot clued to top and bottom edges of measuring tape ribbon (last pic side views if base)
  • Hot glue ends together to form ring
  • Top with bow, charm, buttons, etc. (see below)

While searching through a bag of buttons I’ve had for years (those little bags attached to garments with extra buttons and beads), I found a set of dark pink buttons with small sequins and matching beads that reminded me of my sequined and beaded costume that Mom spent hours creating. I had to create a napkin ring in memory of her loving labor.

STEP 6: Getting the garden ready…..

Spring has just arrived and now is the time to freshen up the herb garden and feed it some liquid fertilizer to encourage edible blossoms to form. Violas and pansies also edible make tea sandwiches and soups even prettier. Chives and their blossoms (below) were used to adorn these dainty deviled egg baskets a couple of years ago.

The foundation of my Mother’s Tea is now ready. A month prior to the scheduled tea (mid-May) I hope to have the Menu decided. I’ve asked the two sisters whose mother is being featured to think about some of their mother’s favorite flavors and foods. I hope to translate some of those thoughts into the soup, tea sandwiches, scones, pastries and possibly even the sparkling cocktail.

Watch for the future post following the event sharing the menu and pictures with the full presentation. I hope the ideas shared here will encourage and inspire tea traditions everywhere! Please share this post with your friends and family and offer your ideas and feedback with me. Thank you!


Gathering/Tradition: Annual Tea In Remembrance of Mom-2018

I purchased these soup bowl and saucers years ago at an antique shop. When I attempted to negotiate a lower price,
the shop keeper asked how I would be using them. When I told her about my collection and love for entertaining she said,
” I just wanted to make sure they went to someone who would
love them as much as my Mother did.They are now part
of my Remembering Moms Tea

As we ease into the month of May, the stores are suddenly cleared of Easter candies and décor, immediately replaced with gifts and cards for graduations and Mother’s Day.  One year the void of not having my Mom for Mother’s Day struck me.  The memories of planning something special to do with her for the holiday that I hoped she would enjoy was sorely felt.

Over the past several years I understood that she preferred spending time with me more than receiving some elaborate gift.  Creating memories and quality time together grew more meaningful and cherished, while the memory of gifts received from year to year were easily forgotten. I tried to be original and put a lot of thought into the sharing of time. We had brunch at Commander’s Palace, high tea at the Windsor Court Hotel; attended the Broadway musical Beauty & the Beast, attended the Art in Bloom Exhibit at our museum and had lunch at an uptown café.  I tried to introduce her to things she’d never done, while also showing her the way into my world – and the things I loved. She was always so excited at each new adventure.

Mom had a number of brooches, beautifully adorned with various colored rhinestones or pearls and a different design for nearly every occasion or holiday.  When Madeline Albright’s exhibit of pins (received while she served as Secretary of State) came to the New Orleans Museum of Art, we and one each of our friends got together to see the exhibit and have lunch at Ralph’s on the Park.  Of all my efforts, the one that interested Mom the most however was high tea. The sight of a little tea shop just made her squirm with joy.

Left: Royal Albert :Old Country Roses
Center: Teapot -Crown Dorset, Stafforshire, England
Right: Burton & Burton

Decades ago, I attended a family bridal shower and noticed a large round table with a silver coffee urn and a variety of china cups and saucers each with a different pattern. When I asked why they were all different I was surprised to learn that it was the hostess’s teacup collection, something I had not considered or seen before. I’d never been a fan of collectibles. They just sit on a shelf and collect dust and create clutter. But this collection sparked my interest. This was a collection that was not only beautiful to look at, but also “useful”, and so my search began.

Although the collection at the bridal shower was lovely, I had chosen to collect tea cups with specific criteria.  While they may all be different, I wanted a common thread or cohesiveness between them. As a result all of the cups in my collection are trimmed in gold and have either pink or red roses in the pattern.  Shortly after my third or fourth cup, my mother followed suit and began to collect similar cups.  She also bought some that are part of my collection as gifts during her travels to California and Germany.

In the final months of my mother’s life, I hosted a tea for her and her friends.  It turned out to be the best idea, giving her this opportunity to share time with her friends while doing something she loved, and of course I’d made her proud. It was the last time they saw her well and I was grateful that they had this joyful time together. Mom passed away just two months later.

Cup: Elizabethan Staffordshire Mom brought back from a trip to California has continued to be one of favorites in my collection.

The following year while going through some of her things, I was overwhelmed by all of her cups. Many were the same as my own and others didn’t fit into my collection. I decided I would take those that I wanted and individually wrap the others in gift boxes. The Spring following Mom’s passing, I hosted another afternoon tea in memory of my Mom for the same group ladies, along with a few of my helpful friends, and presented each of Mom’s friends with one of her boxed cups. They were surprised and touched… some saying later that they have a cup of tea in the afternoon in memory of Mom with their cup.

Mom’s cups wrapped in boxes with teacup ribbon and a honey spoon for her friends.

A year later, as Mother’s Day approached, I realized how odd it felt not to have my Mom here for Mother’s Day. The more I thought about it, I realized that several of my friends had also loss their mothers. Why not continue on with what had unknowingly formed a tradition? Thus, is the genesis of my Mothers Tea.

I invited those whose mothers had passed and asked each to bring a small framed photo of their mother. The weekend before Mother’s Day we gathered for high tea at my dining room table and shared memories of our mothers, with their images perched beside us.

I learned that they, like myself, felt the loss each year, but didn’t know what (other than bringing flowers to the graveyard-some no longer living where their mother was buried) to do with the holiday.  Of course, we all have our own children and grandchildren to celebrate our own “Mother’s Day” with, but our gathering to remember our mothers has made the holiday something to look forward to, rather than feel awkward about. And so a tradition was formed in 2017 with a small group that grew further in 2018.

I gave everyone a small journal with the label “Remembering Mom” on the front to jot down memories as they occurred throughout the year to share with everyone. The 2nd year I gave everyone a small rhinestone frame (found at T. J. Maxx or Marshalls) prior to the scheduled tea date. This controlled the scale of frames on the table and crowned our mothers’ images with the sparkle they deserved.

Photos of our Moms framed like the jewels they were in our lives.

For my 2018 tea, I used the Royal Wedding and Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee events as my theme. Harney & Sons teas designed with these occasions in mind and traditional British cream scones were the first items decided. Among the tea sandwiches were the Coronation chicken salad and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth’s and Prince William’s, chocolate biscuit cake that is thinly sliced after it sets.

We started our gathering with Kirsch Royals (Cassis or Chambord and Champagne with fresh raspberries for garnish) toasting each other “Happy Mother’s Day”, followed by a short prayer for our mothers and then, to bring our hearts, minds and memories of our mothers to the surface, I projected Ed Sheeran’s music video of “Supermarket Flowers” (that he actually wrote for his grandmother) on my smart television screen.

A little teary eyed, we gathered around my dining room table for afternoon tea and took turns remembering something about each of our Moms.  One of my friends recalled a memory of pulling the seeds from dried marigolds as a child that her mother planted every year, while planting marigolds as a deterrent for bugs in her own vegetable garden.  She said as a child she didn’t appreciate the reason why her mother planted the marigolds year after year or saved their precious seeds. She found herself forming a new appreciation of the memory as she planted her own marigolds. As she told her story, I suddenly remembered that my Mom also planted marigolds.

Another friend recalled memories of wonderful travel adventures on trains, cruises and in exotic places like South Africa, crediting her Mom for her love of travel. Several of us remember our mothers at sewing machines making our clothes, doll or Barbie clothes and the little things they did to keep us busy. One friend recalled memories of her Mom cutting flowers from her garden and wrapping the stems in wet paper towels for her and her sister to bring to their teacher (others of us remember our Moms doing the same.) Memories of others brought back remembrances of our own.

Not all memories were perfectly lovely. We all learned from talking that everyone has moments of strain, judgement, control and disagreement with their mothers just as we do in any relationship.  Learning that this is common between most mother and daughters helped some of my friends be more forgiving of those times.  As I told one friend, I try to think of how I would like my daughter to remember me, knowing she will lovingly find fault in my parenting too.  None of us will be remembered as perfect. Everyone does the best they know how to at the time.

The first year I served this Korbel Sweet Rose’ that everyone really enjoyed. On the right a tray of tea sandwiches, cream cheese and strawberry, cucumber with herbed goat cheese and egg salad profiteroles

After our deep conversations, I played part of a meditation from the Deepak Chopra & Oprah Meditation series, Day 20 “Hope Offers Forgiveness”. To paraphrase -someone once said forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. It’s being able to let go and not being held hostage for another minute by the past. Forgiveness is to accept and release that things could not have been any different and what happened, happened. Holding on to any bitterness is actually poisoning you. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not the person who in any way hurt or wronged you. Forgiveness releases us so that whatever we feel hurt us in the past, no longer has power in our future.

We agreed that in the end, everything happened exactly the way it was supposed to. We all turned into lovely women, great friends and good mothers because of what we learned from our mothers. Little did I know that my spark of inspiration decades ago at a bridal shower would one day lead to an annual celebration where my own teacup collection would be used to honor and celebrate our Mothers in a whole new way. What better way to honor our Mom’s than to remember and honor the life they gave us?

I found this statue of an Angel Mother and child
that created a perfect centerpiece for my table.

At the end of the celebration, I placed everyone’s name in a teapot. We pulled a name from the teapot- and I announced that this year’s theme for the tea, would represent that person’s mother. The friend’s mother that we will be honoring this year was a seamstress and I’m having fun putting together a tea sewn together where we can share more precious memories of our mothers this year. Stay tuned for the ideas and planning for our Seamstress themed Mother’s Tea.

If your Mother is no longer with you and you’re struggling to find a way to keep her memory alive, remember what she loved and form your own group of friends who are probably experiencing the same void that you are. I can only hope that our Mothers feel our love and are smiling down on us for not having forgotten them.