Her closets overflowed with old clothes, rags and bolts of ancient fabric. The dresser drawers hid boxes heaped with greeting cards, magazine pictures and old calendar pictures of flowers, leaves and birds.
I saw no use for any of it.
My husband’s mother knew exactly what to do with all of it: As soon as she had time. When the last of her five children let, she had time and space.
First out of the closet were the inch-wide mill ends from the cushion factory. Folding each strip in half, she began crocheting a rug. As it grew too big to hold, she sat on a small stool and crocheted her way around the dining through reels of bright green, harvest yellow and orange until the floor was covered. The leftovers became smaller rugs for the doorways to the dining room.
About the time we moved south to Arkansas, she made a loom of sticks and strips of old jeans. Other strips of jeans, sewn together were woven to make a sturdy blue rug to protect the hardwood floor in a small hallway.
Upstairs, one bedroom had a cold, highly waxed linoleum floor until she wove matching runners to lay beside the bed. Our sons thought the rugs were part of their entertainment when we visited. They would hit the rug running and slide across the room to the opposite wall.
That room had one of the overflowing closets. Our first overnight visit, 13-14 years ago, we moved around several bags and boxes of material to find the extra pillow or blanket that we needed. Through the years, the boxes have disappeared as her store of materials became warm comforters for grandchildren when they married: Sturdy, practical, pieced flannel quilts for their babies or twin-sized quilts for beds as children grew.
The boxes of double knit left from the leisure suits and dresses of the 70s waited the longest to be used. Using a heavy nail, filed into the shape of a hook, she pounded it into a piece of wood that fit her hand and began her greatest work of art: Hooked rugs.
Burlap bags were cut open and marked off into foot-wide squares to frame the picture of leaves, flowers and birds she designed and hooked into the rug. Before designing a violet, she studied as many pictures of violets as she could, drew a pattern of the flowers on the burlap and began hooking in yards of purple and green polyester strips.
At last, I understood the reason for a dresser full of old greeting cards, calendars and advertisements.
She repeated that same detail study with the flowers, leaves and a bird on each rug. Between quilting projects, it took her years to painstakingly hook the four rugs hat eventually covered her living room floor with colorful, hooked fabric pictures.
Last spring when we visited my daughter helped her grandma work on a fifth rug. My husband’s mom wanted each of her children to have a hooked rug. She gave that one to us recently. Because her closets are nearly empty, our beds and floor are enhanced with her work.