The first time I met Mrs. Miller was at the town dump, well close to the town dump. She had her wagon parked on the main road where everyone around here turns in on Saturday and brings their trash. A more entrepreneurial type would call it a great location. Set up in front of her wagon was a table with all sorts of pies, gorgeous produce, jams, cookies and candies. Inside her wagon were two darling daughters making pot holders. No idle time for these children. The oldest helped her mother deal with customers and make change as necessary. She was there with her wagon and her girls every Saturday of the summer selling her wares and her wares were good! We would do neighborly chat about gardening and cooking and meet again the next week.
When strawberry season came Mrs. Miller had the best berries around, the most flavorful and the biggest quart boxes you ever saw. One night she and her daughter drove their wagon to our home to see if we needed some more strawberries and of course we did. This is a small town where everyone knows where everyone lives and it was delightful to see her wagon come up the drive with its beautiful gelding pulling the load.
This year Mrs. Miller's berries were so good that I had to have more. After work I drove to her home on a quiet dirt back road. I bought the last of the strawberries from one of her 7 daughters, the one assigned to work the little stand out front of their home. When Mrs Miller saw my car she came out to chat. We talked raspberry blight, deer flies, weather. She and her daughters wore their summer bonnets while working around the home and I just couldn't help admiring Mrs. Miller's. They were of a cotton organdy. The crown of the bonnet was ironed into the finest stiff pleats, less than a 1/ 4 inch deep. Where the tiny pleats met the brim was what I really couldn't help staring at. Each pleat was a perfect matching depth and stitched to the band with the tiniest of stitches along the idea of a fagotting stitch. The thread crossed a one eight inch space between the brim and the crown. It was perfection in execution. She promised to come by the house when the raspberries came into season. I couldn't get these bonnets out of my mind.And where did the fabric come from?
Yesterday afternoon as I drove home from work I passed a UPick Rasberry sign and wondered if Mrs. Millers were in yet. I stopped by the home and yes, they were in . After handling our transaction it was time to chat and I asked her daughter if she purchased her bonnets or made them. She smiled as if the thought of buying the bonnet was comical and told me they made them. I asked where they got the lovely fabric and she insisted on getting her mother, who was quite busy, to tell me. Mrs. Miller came out and beckoned me into the house. I didn't want to intrude but she is so friendly. When I passed through that doorway, behind her and her trailing dark skirts, my breath was taken away. The beauty of the utter simplicity of her home stopped me in my tracks. She was in the midst of canning her peas. A spare trestle table, surely made by her husband, was covered in spotless white vinyl. Sparkling glass jars loaded with hundreds of fat little peas were arranged on the table. All I could think of was that I had walked into a Rembrandt. This very very large room was the kitchen. It had no cabinets. It was ruled by the 5 foot wide black enamel wood fired stove, a beautiful beast , that sat center stage along the empty long wall of the room. It was filled with copper pots of all sizes, dinged and dented but polished to showroom shine. What remained in the room, opposite the trestle table, was a simple sink and counter and a pump to bring up water.
We sat at the table with her jars of peas and discussed fabric and bonnets. She could not tell me enough about them. It was clear she loved to sew, loved fabric, and even had a stash. She showed me the different organdies she used and the advantages of each. She ran out to a mysterious room behind a curtain and produced a box of fabric samples from her source, Stauffer's Dry Goods in Pennsylvania. We went through the samples. There were many. Then she explained how she got her tiny stitches and pleats, all so perfectly straight and matched. She admired my bag and asked if I made it. I was honored that she even noticed, but another passionate sewist always notices these things. We talked and talked. I left with an order form for Stauffers and a promise to bring some of my smocking to show her. She clearly loves her way of life but is very interested in how others, the "English" live and loves to talk and learn about it. I felt like I had found someone with the same passion for fabric, hand work, and sewing. She just could not tell me enough about her sewing. I know I will go back to Mrs. Millers. On the surface our lives are VERY different. In reality, we have a lot in common....
The other day Mrs. Millers husband came up our drive by mistake. He tied off his horse and my husband walked him through the woods to a neighbors where he would close a deal to put a dormer on the roof. This is the world I live in. Sometimes it can be isolating and other times it is very very special...Bunny