Why do I (Kara) love to stitch? I have from a young age loved to do any hand work that involved a needle. My inspiration has always come from this lady, my Grandma.
Esther Steinke was a beautiful person inside and out, and during the course of her 90+ years on this earth, she was an inspiration to many. She lived in St. Joseph, Michigan, for most of her life. With her husband, Ray, she raised two daughters and had a profound influence on her five granddaughters and her thirteen great-grandchildren.
|Esther and Ray Steinke's wedding day|
She was an outstanding seamstress and made all of her own clothes as well as for her two daughters while working full time. When her granddaughters came, she made us all matching outfits for Christmas and Easter, even though we lived in different parts of the country.
|Our velvet Christmas outfits|
|Another set of Christmas outfits|
She would come home from her factory job, make dinner, and then sit down to the sewing machine. But sewing clothes was not all she would do. She loved to knit and crochet afghans, doilies, and tablecloths.
|Some of her doilies|
|Afghans she made for my children|
|A beautiful crocheted tablecloth|
As she got older, she didn't sew so many of her clothes anymore, and arthritis limited her knitting and crocheting. But she found an outlet for her need to sew when she and the ladies from her church got together to make flannel baby quilts for children in need. She also stitched a few of those flannel quilts for her great-grandchildren, and my son Alex fell in love with his from the time he was born. As the great-grandchildren got bigger, she made them all a larger size flannel quilt.
|This was our daughter McKenna's flannel quilt made by her great grandma|
Alex loved his big quilt so much that he took it everywhere he went: sleepovers, camp, and even college. Because of its travels, his blanket is in rough shape.
As Grandma began cleaning out her house of things she wasn't going to be using anymore, I usually received most of her fabric, since I was the seamstress granddaughter. So given the condition of my son's blanket, I am so grateful that I have these leftover pieces from my Grandma to make him a new one with a little bit of her in it.
With me living in Maryland and my Grandma living in Michigan, I didn't get to spend as much time with her as I would have liked, but the times we did visit were all the more special. We'd walk in from our long drive and inhale the scent of just being in her house. She was usually in her back bedroom watching her "stories" while working on a baby afghan. Because she spent much of her time in that room, I wanted to make her a lap quilt that would go nicely with the colors she had back there and could be used as a quick cover-up for her naps. I chose the Snail Trail pattern, as it was my favorite block at that time. She loved it and used it daily until she moved.
I miss her so much now that she is gone, but I feel blessed to have so many examples of her handwork. But more than the tangible examples of her inspiration in my life, I have so many memories that I treasure and that my children treasure of her inspiration in all our lives.
Has someone in your life inspired you? We'd love to hear your stories about them.