The Closer

Craft Chores

I call my mom, affectionately, “The Closer.” Over the last several years she’s been the recipient of this friend’s or that’s unfinished craft project. Sometimes the assignment is from a friend who has passed away (not to be morbid, but at 86, these things happen), whose children want their mom’s handiwork finished but lack the necessary skills. Other work comes from friends who may lack the eyesight or dexterity to finish something they began years before. Mom always steps up. For most of her life she’s been busy with her hands—knitting, crocheting, embroidering, quilting, and scads of other things.
craft closer
She doesn’t let her own declining eyes or arthritic kinks deter her. In fact, she regards these little craft chores as a kind of antidote for aging.

She isn’t always thrilled about the project. She called me the other night, wanting input on the best color for the back of a swordfish. She’d inherited a, “ridiculous” in her terms, embroidery project that involved an aquatic scene on a dresser scarf. The fish colors had stumped her. I have no doubt that she’ll have her victory over the swordfish in the end.

I admire my mother not only for her follow-through on these occasions, but her curiosity. (She once figured out the technique on a friend’s rug and then taught herself how to Bosnian crochet to close the deal.) And despite the domestic nature of mom’s projects, she very  much enjoys the opportunity to learn about handiwork from other places, other cultures.

 Craft Connections

craft closer

After she began making her own pine needle baskets a few years ago, I showed her some pine needle baskets from Guatemala. She was impressed to the beyond by the artistry. She evaluated the length of the Guatemalan pine needles and bemoaned the shrimpy bits she collects from her own ponderosa pine. (Read about some amazing Guatemalan basket makers in this article from ClothRoads.)

Perusing Chip Morris’s Maya Threads she learned about the arrival of the sewing machine to Zinacantán, Chiapas, in 2000. She recalled nostalgically when the sewing machine arrived in her own life—long before 2000! And what a miracle, that machine embroidery could produce those marvelous flowers of Zinacantán.

Reading through Sheri Brautigam’s Textile Fiestas of Mexico, she loved the photographs of the palm weavers in Uruapan, noting how similar this craft was to her own wheat weaving.

craft closer

One of my favorite pictures from Eric Mindling’s Oaxaca Stories in Cloth is of Vicenta Jiménez, ambling through her field, sheep in tow. Her likeness to my mom is strong: the long, wispy braids, the purpose in her stride, mountains in the background, a lifelong devotion to sheep.

I suppose what’s most heartening about my mom’s attention to the handiwork of others are the easy and happy connections she finds in lives so entirely different than her own. I am learning.


Thrums Books–the world in textiles
Available at Amazon, ClothRoads, and at your favorite book shop

8 thoughts on “The Closer

  1. Kathleen Walsh-Moleski says:

    Dear Karen –
    Touched by the story of your Mom finishing projects of others – and made me realize my mother (96) has recruited me to be the ‘closer’ of a quilt project she worked on summers in the 50’s and 60’s while minding us on my grandparents’ beach. Last year I asked her what had happened to the quilt and she gave it to me – all pieces were finished but never put together – it was an amazing gift since I had thought it lost during my family’s many moves.

    Received Eric Mindling’s book – read it first backwards for the photos and then reversed to fill in the extraordinary text. I have a library on African and Indian weaving, but this is now my most beautiful fabric book in both text and photos.

    Many thanks,

    • Karen Brock says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Kathleen.
      And I’m so glad that you’re enjoying Oaxaca Stories in Cloth.
      And keep us posted on the quilt progress.

  2. Judy says:

    Thanks for the great story, Karen. I remember wearing a sheep scarf from Scotland to one SOAR. You said that your Mother would love it, so I gave you one for your Mother at the next SOAR. I always wondered if she wore it.
    Nice memories.

  3. Cindy Sargent says:

    Hi Karen,
    This is Cindy Sargent, in Peru. I’ve been thinking of you. If you get this, please give a quick reply. When I get back to Loveland, we should start some Spanish lessons.
    🙂 Cindy

    • Karen Brock says:

      Hi, Cindy.
      How nice to hear from you. I have been thinking of you, too. Yes, definitely yes, to Spanish lessons!

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