Preserving Signatures

The grandmother of my children, Mom-mom Roche could feed an army within an hour’s notice. No one ever went hungry in her house. The warmth that is shared around her table is legendary – wonderful food, prayerful gratitude and lots of laughter.

On special occasions, she would dress her table in a fine linen cloth. Over 50 years ago, she started to ask her dinner guests if they would sign her tablecloth.  Later, in her spare time (how she ever found a spare minute with 7 children, 21 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren), she would hand embroider their signatures. The next time you saw the tablecloth, the last signature would be stitched – she never missed a single autograph.

It became a rite of passage for all family members. I remember seeing toddlers finger the embroidery and ask when they could sign but Mom-mom wouldn’t let them scribble a few dashes and dots. Oh no, they had to actually hold the pen and sign their name.  The anticipation was about all they could handle. They would watch an older child sit at the table next to Mom-mom and sign. Usually, a tongue was sticking out of the child’s mouth as he or she focused fiercely on the task. Oh the pressure! Not really, Mom-mom has a heart of gold and hugs to match.

My children, now in their 20s remember the day they were asked to sign. Not the same day, mind you, because Janelle is two years older than Ted so Ted had to wait his turn. They loved the ceremony of it and when visit Mom-mom they always examine the tablecloth looking for their own signatures, those of the newest family members and those who have are no longer with us.

Mom-mom has passed this tradition to her grandchildren. When Janelle was married last year, she gave her a hem-stitched linen tablecloth for Janelle’s table along with her blessing to update the tradition to today’s lifestyle. No longer will the signatures be hand embroidered, instead guests will sign a piece of paper, Janelle will photograph it and send it to me. I will then load it as a backdrop into Perfect Embroidery Pro digitizing software and digitize the signatures.

I’m honored to carry on this tradition for Janelle even if some of the nostalgia is lost in the process. She will have a stitched memory of a tradition from her childhood that she can pass down to the next generation.

Today, I started with family members who attended Janelle and Kegan’s wedding reception. (Yes, I know that was last summer!) In a new file in Perfect Embroidery Pro, I loaded the image as a backdrop (File/Load Backdrop).ST1

Then I traced each line in same manner as the letters were written. ST2

As tempting as it was to smooth curves and straighten lines, I forced myself to just follow the lines. After all, it’s a signature not a lesson in calligraphy. 2 sus

What an enjoyable task – as I digitized each name I focused on that person, so many memories come flooding through my mind.  It’s like I was spending time with them – all part of the gift!

Do you have any family traditions like this? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

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11 Comments on Preserving Signatures

  1. Marie
    May 14, 2016 at 3:11 pm (4 years ago)

    I absolutely love this tradition and think I should start it this year. We all love Mom-mom Roche, what a loving, sweet woman.

    Reply
  2. Jackie
    May 14, 2016 at 3:19 pm (4 years ago)

    I have a friend who did this for her Christmas table cloth. Every year is in a different color, hand embroidered.

    Reply
  3. Teresa
    May 14, 2016 at 3:28 pm (4 years ago)

    Beautiful tradition and thank you for sharing and planting seeds in our minds of traditions that could bring our families together with the same sense of history and memories that you are blessed to have within your.

    Reply
  4. Colleen Bell
    May 14, 2016 at 5:40 pm (4 years ago)

    In our family, the birthday tablecloth has each one of our nine children’s hand prints from the day we did it and then they all wrote something. It was all done with fabric paint and is much loved. It is waiting for the first grandchild 🙂

    Reply
  5. maga
    May 15, 2016 at 1:24 am (4 years ago)

    I have inherited a signature tablecloth from my mother who started it the year she and my father got married. The last signature was that of my first husband. This is not embroidered yet and I have completely forgotten on what occasion this happened as the date has faded badly. There are more signatures that is not embroidered because my mother’s eyesight was not good due to glaucoma in her later years. 30 years later when both my parents were dead and my brother and I discovered this heirloom we realised that several of the signatures were unknown to us. If you make an heirloom like this please record somewhere who has signed and the relationship to these people and keep it with the tablecloth. As children you see lots of friends pass through your home and do not pay attention. I am not sure whether I will embroider the last signatures or leave them as they are just pencilled onto the cloth but I am trying to find a way to preserve this for my children should one of them want it later on.

    Reply
  6. Karla
    May 15, 2016 at 9:47 am (4 years ago)

    What a great idea. This is something I am going to start. We have several occasions coming up the next few months, just happen to have a cloth that would be the right size for names, and hand prints of the babies.
    Thank you for all your fantastic things you blog about.

    Reply
  7. Beth R
    May 15, 2016 at 10:06 am (4 years ago)

    I had started doing that on blue jeans that I wore to summer camps. I would ask new friends there to sign them, then I would embroider the signatures. Of course I outgrew the jeans – so I made pillows. Still have them, though I don’t remember all of the signatures on the material. But I remember many of the good times!

    Reply
  8. Doree Shandera
    May 18, 2016 at 3:20 pm (4 years ago)

    What a fabulous tradition………something to be treasured forever.
    I was wondering what font was used to sew out the signatures?

    Reply
  9. Dolores Paynter
    May 24, 2016 at 3:14 pm (3 years ago)

    I love your story on the tablecloth. My mother did a similar thing at their 25th wedding anniversary and embroidered over all the signatures. On my 50th wedding anniversary my sister-in-law made me a wall quilt and used the tablecloth as the backing, carefully copying the signatures that didn’t fit in
    the space. Such nostalgia remembering family friends, most of whom had passed on.

    Reply

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