"But, really, why does anyone create? You feel a... a restlessness inside, a need to make something new, something no one has ever seen before. You want to add to the beauty and the richness of the world with a gift, an offering that is uniquely yours. It's an act of selfishness and generosity, all rolled into one."

-- Bruce Coville,
The Last Hunt

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Wow, it's been three months since I last posted-- and today's post will make you cry. The things I'm showing today have actually been ready for a little while now, but I wanted to wait until my mom received them before posting, even though she knew they were coming.

Earlier this year, a good friend of my mom's had a baby. The friend's own mom had recently passed away, so my mom stepped in and became the baby's grandma. Sadly, Alana was born premature and with many birth defects. She lived her entire life in the hospital and had many surgeries, some successful and others not. At age 5 1/2 months, she was taken off of life support and died quickly and peacefully.

Despite all her physical problems, Alana's cognitive and behavioral development were normal. She loved when people would make her stuffed animals dance for her. She responded to her name and other important words like "Mommy"-- this is especially impressive since Mommy never actually got to be her primary caregiver, but Alana still knew how important Mommy was.

My favorite story was when my mom came in to the hospital, and the nurses were playing a CD for her. "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" came on the CD, and my mom started singing along with it; this was a song Alana knew well because my mom sang it to her a lot. The CD player was on one side of the crib and my mom was on the other, and Alana started looking back and forth, making the connection that the sounds on both sides of her were the same.

After Alana's death, my mom wanted a special box to keep her mementos in-- footprints, a cast of her hand (or maybe it was handprints and a cast of her foot, sorry I can't remember), photos, and especially a pair of stuffed tigers she had bought her. I offered to decorate a box for her and another for Alana's mom.

The boxes needed to be a certain size to accommodate the tigers, and at first I had a hard time finding something big enough that wasn't completely hideous. Finally, I found a pair of nice plain white hat boxes at The Container Store.

I decorated them with a combination of tatting and "boughten" items (as my great-grandmother would have said). Then my good friend Laura painted Alana's name on them, which I could never have done.

The theme for my mom's box was butterflies, with some little ribbon flowers. The hearts on the top are the "My Fluttering Heart" pattern from Teri Dusenbury's book Tatting Hearts. Other designers whose patterns I used include Jane Eborall, Ruth Perry, Jennifer Williams, Joelle Paulson, Adelheid Dangela (from the book Tatted Butterflies), and the Palmettos Tatters Guild (from the book Butterflies Migrating).

Apologies for the quality of a few of the photos; I had to take them quickly because Squijum really wanted to help.

I glued everything down before Laura did the paint work. I love how she worked the final "a" around the butterfly. The little pink satin bows on the top are reminiscent of the ones that were always in Alana's hair-- judging from the photos I have, the kid owned more hair accessories than I do.

For Alana's mom's box, the theme was roses. My dad wrote a poem, which my parents had framed for Alana's parents; it was decorated with pink gingham ribbon, lace, and ribbon roses, so I made the box to match. I included a few yellow roses as well to keep it from getting too Valentine-ish. There is less tatting here, largely because I wasted a lot of time on a pattern that ended up not working. I've never been good with the type of rose pattern where you make each petal separately and sew them together. I just don't do well with positioning them as I sew. So after I had finished that one, I threw it away in disgust. I ended up using Mary's Roses by Suzann Does It All; for each one, I did make the optional center, in a different color of thread. For the smaller roses, I used the rose from Marilee Rockley's Eternal Rose Cross and Sharren Morgan's Jessica Rose. The leaves are the "Simple Leaf" pattern from Karey Solomon's book Tatting Turns Over a New Leaf.

I arranged the roses on two of the little pre-made crocheted doilies you can get at Jo-Ann's. With the smaller ones, I also included a pre-made gingham bow. I really like the way these arrangements look.

For the box itself, I ended up using only pre-made ribbon roses. I'm only showing one side plus the front, because the other side is identical.

I learned a fair amount about different types of glue while working on these. Tacky glue, which of course is nice and easy to control, worked great for the strips of ribbon and lace. Unfortunately, it didn't work at all for the ribbon flowers and most of the tatted pieces-- not enough surface area, I think, plus the surface of the boxes is fairly slick. I tried "3-in-1", which bonded extremely well, but was very stringy and therefore impossible to control where it went (that's why there are a few spots of visible glue on your box, Mom, sorry about that). I finally went with "Fabri-Tac". This is very similar to the 3-in-1, but slightly less stringy-- still stringy enough to be challenging, just not quite as bad. I found the best technique was to squeeze a dollop of glue onto a sheet of waxed paper and dip the flower into it, rather than applying the glue directly from the bottle. It is too bad that I couldn't find a glue that both worked really well and was easy to work with.

Here are Grammie Tiger and Alana Tiger.

And here is Alana herself, at a little over 4 months. She was doing relatively well at this point.


  1. Well this little Alana looks beautiful, and I saw a headstone once I never forgot and it said " budded on earth to bloom in Heaven" She looks like a beautiful little baby girl and The little box you made is a very sweet thing to do. I too have suffered a loss of a grandchild at one month old, It was a couple years ago and I miss him and pray for his mom and all of us he left behind, I am glad you are remembering the sweet things she did on her short time in this life, hope that you all and mom are comforted and given strength to continue and keep the happy memories with you.
    God be with you from Carollyn

  2. Beautiful keepsakes to celebrate her very short life.