Mother Goose and Elizabeth Travis Johnson

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” Emilie Buchwald

Alastair and libary Mother Goose

My 9 month old grandson is shown here with the Mother Goose storyteller. While she is a familiar figure to him by now, he seems to find it a bit intimidating to be in such close contact with her and her fantastical flying fowl.

NOTE:  This suit looks much better with a shirt, but it was more than 80 degrees when the picture was taken this week!

MotherGoosestorytime

Babylock's Mother Goose on white baby cord

Since Alastair was a few months old, his mother has read to him and taken him to the weekly toddlers’ Mother Goose Story Time at the public library. Not only does it give him enriching opportunities to hear more language and have social interaction with other children, it gives my daughter opportunities to meet like minded mothers.  They both enjoy it.  I thought it would be fun for him to have a special outfit for library day.

Alastair’s parents are avid readers and will do everything they can to encourage him to share their love of books.   The pattern for the shoulder button Jon-Jon suit is Glenn from Children’s Corner and includes the button on bib. The machine embroidered Mother Goose is from Babylock’s Mother Goose Card 24. The black and white  check Glenn suit is the same one used for Alastair’s Halloween outfit. The bib takes less than an hour to make, including the embroidery, so making one for a special occasion is not time consuming.

I’ve had this pattern for 20-25 years and made it up for the first time for Alastair. But it brings back a lot of fond memories I have of beloved, legendary Elizabeth Travis Johnson, who designed this and many of the earlier Children’s Corner patterns. Those new to the world of smocking and heirloom sewing might not recognize the name.

Mrs. Johnson was the author of The Complete Book of Sewing for Children, an invaluable classic reference book. For many years, she wrote a regular column in Sew Beautiful magazine, answering readers construction questions. She taught sewing to thousands of women around the country.  She taught at Martha Pullen’s School of Art Fashion in Huntsville, AL, until she was 85 years old! She sprinkled tidbits of wisdom for every day life in every class.

Mrs. Johnson, as most people called her, or Elizabeth, as she asked people to call her, was pure delight. She and her husband Glenn (thus the name of this pattern) had one child, Gwen, for whom the ever popular ruffle sleeve bishop pattern was named. In class discussion about different garment styles and different finishing techniques, she liked to say, “We all have different taste. And that’s a good thing or you would all be after my Glenn!” Though the elderly Mrs. Johnson was almost totally deaf, she was adept at reading lips and taught her classes without a glitch.

Her patterns were more tailored and practical than what is generally considered  “heirloom.”  Her sample garments had little or no lace because, she would say, “You know, there are more ways to kill a cat than to drown it in buttermilk.”

We were roommates at several sewing schools and what fun we had. Once in Jacksonville, Florida, after a long day of  teaching, we had been up late,  eating popcorn, laughing and talking in our room with Mildred Turner and a few other teachers.  The next night, she was in bed when I returned from teaching a night class. On the bathroom mirror, penned in lipstick, was the message, “I’m napping. Wake me for the party.” I did. After another wild night of laughing and popcorn revelry, she conscientiously cleaned the lipstick message from the mirror.

Some time later, Mrs. Johnson sent me a spool doll she had made, using wooden spools and dressed in a simple calico sewing novelty print. In her note, she said it was a party doll.

Mrs. Johnson joined her dear Glenn in heaven in 2003. Every time I look at that doll, hanging in my sewing room, I am reminded of one of her most famous quotes:  “Really I don’t dislike to cook, but what you cook is eaten so quickly. When you sew, you have something that will last to show for your efforts.”

Please forgive me for my wordy stroll down Memory Lane.  But I know Mrs. Johnson would have enjoyed seeing Alastair in his Glenn suits and bibs.

6 Responses to Mother Goose and Elizabeth Travis Johnson

  1. Elizabeth truly made great contributions to the world of sewing. She was a delight & amazing.
    Beckie in Brentwood, TN

  2. “Miss Elizabeth” was one of my favorite teachers. She always made everyone feel special, no matter their level of sewing capabilities. Thanks for reminding me of her.

    And Alastair is adorable in his suit.

  3. I certainly agree with Elizabeth’s reference to cooking vs sewing. Many years ago I took several cake decorating classes and learned how to decorate many different kinds of cakes. But I soon discovered that every time I presented someone with one of my creations, and I saw the knife come down into it…..I would cringe and felt sadness at the loss of my handiwork. It was then that I decided that hand stitchery and sewing creates heirlooms that last, cooking and cake decorating are a form of admirable artistic expression that are here today and eaten tomorrow!

  4. “She was a delight & amazing.” And missed.
    Janice

  5. looking for THE COMPLETE BOOK OF SEWING FOR CHILDREN BY ELIZABETH TRAVIS JOHNSON. does anyone have a used one they would like to sell?

  6. I did have my mother’s copy for sale, but it sold almost immediately. Good luck finding this. It is an absolute treasure of sewing advice and how-to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>