Sarah Ann Green Collins

Sarah Ann Green Collins
with her son Henry Hone circa 1916

SARAH ANN GREEN COLLINS...Evans...Hone...Barnes...Breen b.1862 d.1935

A thrice married Englishwoman immigrates to Canada with her 4 surviving children and marries a widowed Ottawa Valley farmer with two children of his own.

This is my paternal grandmother's story RE-IMAGINED lovingly by me.

To post I have to ask you read from #1 and thence backwards to the top of the page.

Hope there isn't Word protocol stuck between the lines now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

# 7 New Grimsbury,Warkworth January 25, 1875.

New Grimsbury Warkworth England January 25, 1875
“First we arrange our chairs so we have the best light. Sarah I’ll need your help.”
“Yes Gran. Where would you like your chair?”
“Beside the window and bring over the reading lamp and my sewing basket as well, please. My old eyes just don’t see as well as they used to. Don’t forget your own needle case.”
I half drag half carry Gran’s chair for her and position it as she requests. It isn’t quite right so we try it again. Success. Next my chair goes close to the same spot so that I will have a clear view of her fingers and all she does. I am so excited to be starting on real embroidery with my own needle case and all. Having Gran all to myself is the second treat. She tells good tales about when she was a girl and she sometimes tells tales about when my own Father was a boy.
Gran holds my one elbow and grips the arm of the easy chair with her other hand. She lowers herself into the easy chair. Her mouth makes a puffy sound as her bottom drops the last few inches onto the seat cushion.
“I never know if I’m going to fall in and I wonder if I’ll ever get out of the chair again,” she laughs.
"Oh Gran you know I’m here to help you.”
“Sarah you are a gem indeed. Now sit down and hold your hands out front of you at the level of your waist. Can you see your right hand with good light?”
“A little shadowy. Shall I turn my chair a little?”
“Exactly right. Now is that better?”
I nod yes and Gran reaches into her wicker basket and brings out the most beautiful napkin I have ever seen. It’s white and has white embroidered initials and has holes with thick even stitches of embroidery around them . She hands it me. I accept it reverently and hold it on the flat of my two hands.
“Oh Gran I don’t think I can do this. It looks very difficult.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to do this straightaway Sarah. It’s called cutwork and it takes a practised hand. I wanted to show you what you can strive for. If you don’t have a goal then you can never reach it.”
I nod yes again but truly wonder if I will ever embroider this well. As if Gran has read my mind she turns to her basket again, puts away the cutwork and brings out two men’s hankies well worn and washed to softness. They looks like Father’s.
“Time for you to get started. Would you like to use your Father’s handkerchief as your first practice piece? It’s soft and will be easy on your fingers. I filched two from the laundry as Ellen was taking it upstairs yesterday. Ellen wasn’t sure I should take it as she feels, as most help does, that she is responsible for missing items. I told her, ‘If my son gives you any cause please tell him to speak to me.’ She seemed relieved at that.”
Gran took one of the hankies and pulled her embroidery hoop from her basket and proceeded to force the fabric taut between the two hoops. She motioned to me to do the same. I struggled to do it as quickly as Gran did and failed. There was a big fold right across the middle.
“Sarah. Lesson number one. Do not rush.”
“Yes Gran.”
The second try was the charm. The next hour anyone coming into our parlour would have seen two heads bent over one task. One snowy and with the slightest tremor, the other shining darkly looking upwards every few moments to the snowy one for guidance.
"I’m lucky to have you to teach me this Gran. I really think I can do it."
“I’m happy to be with you Sarah. We have a lot of time to make up. At your age I was helping my mother sew the family’s clothing. We sewed the winter clothes in the summer and we sewed the summer clothes in the winter. In between we mended. I think you will sew a fine seam. Not everyone has the means to buy their clothing from tailors and dressmakers.”
“I though we were just going to embroider.” Mother always sewed our clothes on her Singer Sewing Machine but she mended our clothes by hand. Maybe Gran is as old fashioned as Mary says. Father bought Mother the sewing machine in Banbury and it was the first one on our street. Mother was proud of it and many of the neighbour ladies came in to see it. I am feeling a little scrappy but it is not proper to correct your elders. I bite my tongue.
“Your dear Mother knew how to sew by hand but your Father provided the sewing machine so she never had to. But Sarah there may come a day when your life is different, a time when you may have to live by your wits. Any skills you learn can be put into good use if the future does not bring you a good wage earning husband. Think of your Aunt Mary. Her husband died at a young age and she had to support Walter and his brother on her earnings until they could work too. I was right to teach her to cook and sew. Now she runs the Soup Kitchen in West Ham.”
I want to tell Gran that I won’t marry unless I madly adore my husband to be, like Annie and Walter, and that Father has instructed we three girls that no suitor need come calling if he can’t support us properly. I hold my tongue. I love my Gran and I don’t want a foolish spat to spoil the day.
Gran reached back into my needlecas. This time it yielded a tiny pair of silver-coloured scissors. So tiny what could they be used for? Gran turned her work over, took three tiny stitches on the wrong side of her work and then snipped the embroidery floss close to the surface of the hankie. You could barely see where she took those last three stitches. I shook my head. So much for me to learn.
“I think Father will be pleased and surprised to see his initial on his hankies. Just like the shops in the High Street sell.”
“Not half as pleased as you will be to see the smile on his face and his knowing that you made one for him,” Gran beamed.
I flushed in anticipation of the big day. “Gran when you said Mother could sew, did she ever hand sew any clothes for us?’
“I’ve never seen any except the baby layettes.”
“What’s a 'layette'?”
Gran delights in giving me new words. This one wasn’t an English sounding one. Layette?
“A layette is a complete set of clothing for a newborn baby. Sounds like a French word to me but I don’t know how it came across the Channel to England. I really don’t.”
“Did Mother sew a 'layette' for me?”
“My Sarah. You are full of questions. Does your mind ever sleep?”
I nod yesbut think 'Is Gran trying to avoid my question?' Often my questions about our Mother go unanswered. Only Annie listens to my questions and gives me answers. I decide to try again.
“Did she Gran?”
“Oh Sarah. After all the babies your Mother loved and lost she quit making layettes. There were enough leftovers by the time you came along to last you until you were well out of nappies.”
“What do your mean by ‘all the babies’? I only know about losing George. “
Before Gran or I could take another stitch or say another word Mary and Annie burst into the room. Their coats were powdered with snow.
“It’s snowing. Sarah come outside with us. It’s lovely. It’s like the baker has sprinkled the town in sugar.”

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