My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY'S PHOTO - Mom and Daughter at Work

Elizabeth "Lizzie" McCaffrey Flemming (1858-1922), my great-great-Grandmother, and her seventh child (of ten), daughter Charlotte Teresa "Lottie" (1891-1937), are seen in this photograph darning stockings in the front yard of their home in Birmingham. Taken about 1903, the photograph shows young Lottie practicing a necessary skill that young girls often learned to do to help out their mothers. And with a family of eight children at home, ages 4-22, there were no doubt always socks in need of darning. Her mother Lizzie, sits next to her in her rocking chair with her sewing box in hand. (Their home at 2500 1st Avenue has since been demolished.)

Lizzie's father was Charles Flemming (1854-1932), my great-great-Grandfather; her older brother Harry (1878-1955), is my great-Grandfather. Lizzie is my great-grand Aunt.

Lizzie and Lottie Flemming
ca. 1903
From the picture it's easy to assume that the hot months in Birmingham are in full swing. First of all the two are sitting outside to darn the socks - with no air conditioning available inside the house was the hottest place to be on an Alabama summer day. Second, Lottie is wearing a crisp white dress with sleeves only down to her elbows. Unfortunately for her mother, adult women - even in the hot, humid South - wore long sleeves, high collars, long skirts with petticoats throughout the year. There are also flowers on the bush to their left.

The Lost Art of Darning gives some background of darning: "Not too long ago, a pair of hand-knitted socks was considered a valuable Christmas or birthday present. Why? Before our industrial age, a lot of work, know-how and considerable time had to be employed to care for a sheep, to shear it, to wash the wool and to spin it until finally a pair of socks could be knitted which in itself is more complicated than knitting other garments. And wool wasn't as hard wearing as modern materials are, so women had baskets full of items to darn. And any luxury thin cotton or silk stocking that could be saved by mending, would also have found its way into the darning basket, because to acquire new socks or stockings was either more time intensive or more expensive than darning it. So a small piece of wood in the shape of an egg or a mushroom to help support the task, a pair of scissors, a thick darning needle and thin darning wool in the most popular colors could be found in any household's sewing box."
from The Book of Knowledge, Volume XI
published 1910 has this to say about the skill: "Darning is done by hand and is, to a degree, a lost art in today's throw-away society. Vintage sewing machines often have settings for darning socks and table linens, reflecting the importance of it in times when clothing was either homemade or very expensive. A mending basket full of stockings, yarn and darning needles was a common sight in homes of the past.
Sock and Darning Egg
Darning of knitted socks and other knitted garments involves inserting a round, hard object, such as a darning egg, to create a solid working surface. The repair begins with a needle and matching yarn, which is sewn through the edges of the hole. Once these stitches are anchored, a criss-cross pattern is created over the hole, which creates a patch."

I remember my Mom darning socks when I was young in the '60's. She used the Fisher Price Snap-n-Lock connecting toy for babies that was my little sister's. It was one of the few times I ever saw my Mom sitting down during the day. Maybe that was an added bonus to the hard-working moms in the past. Yesterday I bought socks for my oldest son to send in a care package to Auburn but I've got more socks to buy for him before I mail them. With three boys in my family I can only imagine how much money I would have saved if I would have learned and practiced this lost skill that all the ladies in my tree no doubt could have done in their sleep.
Snap-n-Lock beads

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