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Heirlooms, Objects or Moments?

Not every embroidery project you make qualifies as an heirloom. So when do you decide to add that title?  I think that’s a very personal decision. I use that term when I’m sure it’s something I want pass down to the next generation. I want it to be something that will stand the test of time. I mean, will chevron pockets really be appreciated by the next generation? I don’t think so.PocketBL

Will subway art designs be cherished by family members in the next century?  I’m not so sure.BubbleBL

So what is an heirloom?  The dictionary definition is a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations. Break the definition down and you’ll notice three key words: valuable, family and generations.  Valuable is relative – there is no dollar sign involved.  Value can increase because of scarcity and age. Family of course, means it remains in the hands one family.  Generations speaks to age – the passing of time.

Heirloom status is not really determined by today’s generation. It’s determined by the next generation and the next and so on.  Even though we may want our creation to be an heirloom, it may not pass muster with the next generation. We can pour our heart and soul into making an embroidered project but unless the recipient holds onto it, it’s not an heirloom.

When you are pouring your heart and soul into a project, enjoy the process.  The process may be the only return you get. It’s the selecting of materials, the planning, the execution and the finishing that makes it an heirloom in my mind. The creation process is a loving act – it’s prayful.  It’s time to reflect on the recipient, the occasion and the family members who will be in attendance when it is shared.  That’s the heirloom moment for me.

What about you? When you’re creating, it is an heirloom moment or do hope it’s an heirloom object?

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  • Francine Meyer-Drasutis

    I hope the next generation values heirlooms the same way we do. I hold mine from my great-grandparents close to my heart.

  • Ennis A

    What’s valuable to one person may not be as important to someone else. But hopefully someone in our families will realize the effort and thought put into our creations. I’m giving away a lot of mine now to people that I hope share my taste and appreciate unique items!!!

  • Terri R

    I have sewn and embroidered for my late husband’s kids and grandkids. They always seemed happy with my creations…even passing them among the younger ones when outgrown. Of course, I have always been thrilled with their reactions, but my greatest satisfaction came from just creating for this wonderful group of people…they were truly creations of love and truly blessed my life.

  • beth d.

    I make quilts and they will be passed down in the family. I have no children of my own, but the good quilts will go some niece or nephew.

  • Belinda Germain

    I doubt I have made many items anyone would dub an heirloom, but I have had a lot of fun making items for my children and grandkids. Hopefully they will someday look at them and they will remind them of me, with pleasant thoughts.

  • Colleen Bell

    So funny that we are in the process of getting ready for a first time yard sale and seeing the children not value the things that I value. It’s made me realize that heirloom has a underlying value attached.

  • Peggy Schroeder

    Hi Eileen, When my husband passed away, I made aprons out of some of his shirts for most of my family members. They really liked them. I just finished doing six of them for a friend’s family out of his shirts. He was hit and killed by a drunk driver at 8:30 in the morning, and not being a drinker I have not figured out how someone can be so drunk so early in the am. I think they will keep them, and perhaps someday they will be considered an “heirloom”.

    • eileenroche

      Hi Peggy! I love the apron idea. I hope your friend’s family cherishes the aprons you’ve made for them. Such a touching idea. Hope all is well with you Peggy!

      • Peggy Schroeder

        Hi, thanks for the kind words. I am doing fine, recovering from another back surgery, and hope to be getting back to doing more embroidery soon. After all, I have a ten and a six needle machine, along with the single needle ones so have to get busy and use them before the machines and I get much older! I am really trying to get healthier so I can just lose myself in the sewing rooms again! I miss doing it a lot. Take care, hope to see you again, maybe on one of your cruises.

  • Gail Beam

    I made baby quilts for my grandchildren and I know that they loved them. My one daughter told me that she is saving all of the quilts for her one day grandchildren, as she does not sew.

  • Pam

    Loved the way you put it. I think I is what you do for whomever.

  • Brenda Noone

    I have made several personalized baby quilts for a nieces and friends. I hope when these babies grow up they will feel the love I put into them.

  • Maga

    My girls like the things I make and from time to time ask to have one of the pieces and I prefer they use them rather than keep them aside to save them. I have embroideries from my grandmother made and they will go to the girls but none of them have children and doubt if they will have so for me it is more important to use these things and enjoy them than keep them in a drawer to hand them down. Just another perspective on heirlooms.

  • karin callander

    My kids and grandkids undoubtedly like/love and cherish the items I make for them, be they quilts, wall decor or clothes, but I’m not sure anyone appreciates just how much of my heart and soul go into them. They never see the process, so they just think it happens in the blink of an eye and it’s easy. But that’s ok, cuz I get to hear comments like, my gramma made this just for me!,

  • Cathy

    My heirloom moment is when you see the joy cross the recipient’s face when they receive the gift that you’ve put your heart into.

  • Joanne Dillon

    I love to create something that brings a warm thought and a smile to my loved ones. I recently found out that the blanket I lovingly made for my grandson as a toddler graces his bed today as he and his wife raise their babies. Of course, you know great grandma Joanne is making blankies for the new babies!!

  • Nancy Weber

    When my daughter was born, I learned smocking by hand and created a number of dresses and bonnets and bubble suits for her. I was lucky and thrilled to pass them on to her for her daughter and seeing my granddaughter in them brought great joy. Now I am doing similar projects on the machine.

  • Laurene Shewan

    Thirty years ago, I made felt Christmas stockings for a couple of children of some friends. At the wedding of one of those children, she mentioned that she still puts out the stocking I made her. It was not THE gift I imagined that could become a family heirloom. One never knows what might become an endearing object to someone else.

  • Marti Morgan

    If you can keep the “men” out of the equation – there are some wonderful family heirlooms that I am sure no one thought would be come one. I have my husband’s grandmother’s quilt that I cherish, but he never gave a thought to. Now he is way into his grandfather’s rusted old hammer. Funny. Unfortunately in my family none of us girls had girls so I am looking for cousins to pass my creations on.

    • Karen Williams

      Don’t discount the entire male species! Perhaps your sons’ wives will appreciate your family heirlooms. I have 2 grandsons that I’ve made quilts for & I’m sure they’ll be around at least until a future bride decides differently. I involved both of them in the choice of colors/ design. The creative process is loving on my end & hopefully they will stand the test of time. Once given away, I have no more control & have to let it go. I can only let the recipient know of it’s history & intent.

  • Donna Fecteau

    I know that I value things that were made by my mom. I’m sure when she was making some of them she didn’t think of them as heirlooms but since she passed away, I treasure them. I think it will probably be the same way with my children and some of the things I have made for my home and for them. I did have a cross stitch project framed for my kitchen and the framer called it an heirloom and that surprised me.

  • Michelle Norris

    My happiness is watching the smile when someone receives something I have made for them. Whether or not it becomes a heirloom is their choice. The delight in knowing my gift pleases them is enough for me. Things loved have a way of becoming a heirloom of the heart!

    • eileenroche

      I love that – an heirloom of the heart!

  • sandi cunningham

    Sometimes it’s a carefully chosen Christmas ornament, a new baby finery made with details and love and perhaps embroidered with all the names of those who wore it. It could be photo albums moved to CDs to remain permanent. Yes, those quilts should surely be handed down with signatures of the maker and the recipients. All are worthy!

  • Francine Mollica

    You’ve made me really think about the word heirloom. I make things for others, but the love and effort is specifically meant for those I feel would appreciate that it’s a part of me. I always hope it will be used, instead of being enshrined in a box in the closet, but I never thought of the items being passed down. It’s actually fun to think that someone in a future generation, long after I’m gone, would be appreciating something I loved making.

  • Valerie

    I have and treasure some embroidered handkerchiefs that my grandfather gave my grandmother when they were courting over 100 years ago.
    I hope some of the items I make will be treasured by my family also.

  • Karen S

    When a family member had identical triplets I made bibs with the girls names and a design embroidered on them. I made her promise to use them. When she opened them she said they are to cute to use. I told her if they just sit in a drawer I wasted my time. She used them so much she asked me to make more. They used them for church nursery so they would be able to tell them apart. Much better than saving to be a family heirloom.

    • Karen Williams

      Good for you! It’s nice when someone says something is “too nice, pretty, etc to use”, but it’s so much better when an item that can easily be replaced is well-used & appreciated. Of course some things should be gently used or properly cared for, but when we state it’s intended purpose — perhaps we should tell them we’ll be happy to replace them when worn out.

    • eileenroche

      I agree!

  • Carol K.

    I never think of things I have made as heirlooms except of course quilts. As with most of we seniors know the younger generation does not value the things that we do. I have two grandchildren aged 5 and 9 for which I plan on making quilts. I plan on putting their names on them to be given when they are much older and can maybe appreciate them more fully. For now I make them smaller usable items they enjoy daily! I too think the heirloom is the joy of making and giving for both the recipient and the giver!

  • Sara Redner

    I don’t know that they would be considered heirlooms, but I make personalized baby gifts. I know many of the moms have saved these things when they are no longer used, planning to give them to that child when he/she is having babies of their own. But I make these things to be used and enjoyed, so I wasn’t thrilled when one mother told me she put the baby blanket away (UNUSED!) so it would still be “nice” when her daughter is grown.

  • Joan Shriver

    When my Grand Niece was born, I began a tradition of making a Christmas dress for her every year. I discovered that her mother had saved all of them and will now be handed down to her daughter. Of course, I’m busily making new ones for my Great-great niece!

  • Donna G.

    What a thoughtful article. I have quilts I make for family members that I hope will be cherished and passed down, but I haven’t given the process the careful consideration that you’ve stated. I’m going to be more mindful when I make the next one – for my first grandchild due in January.

  • Carolyn

    I’m so nostalgic I still have the little ironing board, and use in my sewing room, that my grandfather made me when I was 7. Some things I’ve made will be heirlooms, others not so much. I’ve told my children not to discard what I’ve made until I’m buried so as not to hurt my feelings.(Lol) For generational heirlooms, I’ve created a picture journal of to whom they belonged. That why, they can decide if they consider them heirloomsand if they want to keep the heirlooms passed.

  • Judi C

    The joy for me is in the creating. I have a very small family so I do not think my creative accomplishments will ever become heirlooms but I sew enjoy every minute I spend creating.

  • Jane

    For me, it is the intent behind what I am creating that elevates it a step or two above the mundane or day to day. It is the extra care in technique and choice of materials as well as the item’s purpose that I hope will inspire members of my family to treasure it enough to want to hand it down the line. Sometimes it’s hard to predict what that might be. As a weaver and a sewist, I recently sent a cousin a linen handwoven dishtowel that I had made in colors that matched her kitchen. To my amazement, rather than using it, she had it professionally framed to hang in her kitchen as art! Heirlooms, no matter what we thing our own view is, are truly “in the eyes of the beholder.” 🙂

    • Karen Williams

      Jane, That is SO true! It matters to us while we are planning, creating & gifting the item (perhaps that the love we build in), but the true test is how the recipient views it; whether or not it is valued, is ultimately not up to the creator, who has to let it go.