This is a Christmas story I think you’re going to love! It may be a little long, but it’s worth taking the time to read 🙂 !
Connie came to my Open Lab class with a unique project idea. She had inherited a huge bin of handmade doilies from her husband’s grandmother – and she had a plan!
She wanted to make them into tree skirts, but didn’t have a pattern. I started by asking her the story of the doilies. She told me the story of:
“Anna Yersin” Cookie Nana
“Anna Yersin’s hands were never idle. Her days were filled with the duties of wife and mother. In the evening she crocheted or tatted, for many years by the light of an oil lamp. Hand crocheted whole table cloths have been passed down to family members through the years. The crocheted doilies, dresser scarves and table runners used in these tree skirts were found in the homes of her and her children. While Anna may not have made all of them, certainly the bulk of them were her handiwork.
Anna was also a great cook and baker. Her chicken and dumplings with apple strudel for dessert were family favorites. It was, however, her cookies that inspired her oldest Great Grandson Michael Scott to call her “COOKIE NANA.” At the age of 3 he had no idea how appropriate the name was.
During WWII Cookie Nana sent cookies to service men, not a simple task since sugar and butter were rationed. She continued this practice even after the war, always supporting those who served. Her children, now married with families, always had cookie jars in their kitchens filled with her cookies. Her cookie baking was especially prolific at Christmas. She began her baking after Halloween. Not too early when you understand that she baked 25 to 35 different types of Christmas cookies, many of which were decorated and intricately done. She also doubled and tripled many of the recipes. The cookies were packaged for mailing and sent all over the United States to family and friends. She filled large sturdy department store gift boxes with cookies for her children and grandchildren. This was her Christmas gift to her family. In turn, we never had trouble deciding what to give Cookie Nana for Christmas or Birthday gifts. We gave her flour, sugar, butter, postage, nuts, chocolate, the list was endless.
Cookie Nana gladly shared her recipes, loved to share her secrets, but, no one in the family has ever been able to exactly duplicate her cookies. She was blessed with a gift, and we are blessed to call her our “Cookie Nana.”
The story continues with Connie’s memories:
“The process of designing and sewing the tree skirts triggered many of my own memories of Grandma Yersin, “Cookie Nana.” When I married Bob, Grandma gave us a wedding gift that I came to realize carried great meaning. I was now a Yersin, and every Yersin household had a Kitchenaid mixer. In 1970 Kitchenaid was not sold in department stores. It was purchased through the Hobart Co., maker of heavy duty commercial mixers. At the time I wondered what I was supposed to do with this tall machine sitting on my counter since it didn’t fit anywhere else. Forty five years later it is still on my counter. It has never been repaired and is continues to be the workhorse of my kitchen.
When I was pregnant with Jill(1973), I spent one whole very hot summer day at Grandma’s house learning how to make strudel. She gave me a special table cloth to be used when I “pull” the dough. Yes the dough is pulled from the bottom and stretched until very thin, later to be used in the layers of the pastry. “You have great fingers for pulling the dough” she said, but, though I may have great fingers, I didn’t have her stamina. I never again made strudel by pulling the dough, not after I learned about phyllo dough!
I fondly remember, The Farm. Cookie Nana and her husband Anton bought 6 acres of land in Franklin, WI on 35th and Puetz Road in 1945. The 2 buildings built closest to the road were summer homes for Adolf and Philip. The lower building close to the pond belonged to the senior Yersins. There was electricity, beds, stoves, and sinks, but no running water and no bathrooms in these buildings. The outhouse was centrally located on the land. While most of the acreage was grass, large gardens were planted every spring. Many of my unforgettable memories were from the frequent summer picnics on a 20 foot long picnic table housed in a large screen house. We never knew how many relatives, friends, or neighbors would stop by. Cookie Nana came from the old country where the women were the cooks and the men always came first. The Yersin women were all outstanding cooks and always made plenty to share. These wonderful meals were then followed by card playing and baseball games.
In closing Grandma’s house I chose 3 things that are currently used in my home. I have Grandmas cake decorating kit. I absolutely love it. It is made of stainless steel, with interchangeable decorating tips. I use it every Christmas for my decorated Christmas cookies. I also have her oil lamp. Phil always told me it was the lamp he used for studying before they got electricity. It is displayed on an antique Singer treadle machine in our entryway. I also have a glass basket. It had a paper taped to the bottom, “Wedding Gift from Mama 1912.” Inside the basket, I have placed her tatting tool with about 18” of tatting. It was labeled the last tatting Grandma was working on. I found the tatting in the box of crocheted items used in the tree skirts.”
After a bit of brain storming, Connie decided to make the tree skirts “dresden plate” fashion and to place a doily at the rounded end of each “blade”, whether they were round or not.”
Now the question was, how do you attach the doilies and keep packages from catching on them. The answer: cover each blade with tulle (sparkle tulle added to the Christmas charm), layer and quilt.
Once they were quilted, she sewed them together with the “reversible quilt as you go” technique I’ve shared previously (click here to read about it).
Then she finished the outer edge by attaching lace with a facing.
Connie set a goal that she’d have them all done by Thanksgiving – and she did it!
She printed the story shared above on labels she has lovingly handstitched to the back of each tree skirt. What wonderful Christmas gifts her children have to look forward to!
Great job Connie! Thank you so much for sharing your talents and your family story with us!
If you enjoyed Connie’s story as much as I did, feel free to comment to this post. I’ll make sure she receives any and all comments 😀 !
Carolyn M says
A wonderful story from Connie and you, Chris, and a lovely tribute to Anna Yersin!
Thank you for sharing!
What a wonderful way to use the treasures! Beautiful!
Wonderful execution of your plan Connie! You envisioned a very special project to preserve your family memories! They are lovely and your children will have the additional memory of your planning and work to create the tree skirts.
Kathleen Swinkowski says
Love your story and you did a wonderful job on the tree skirts. I’m sure the recipients will be thrilled with them.
Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas.
Patrice S says
You did a fantastic job with utilizing and preserving your families special handmade treasures from “Cookie Nana” which will be passed down for many generations along with her story. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Terri T. says
Beautiful workmanship, both by your Grandma in the lace and you in the skirts that preserve the family legacy. Terri
Deb M says
What a wonderful tribute to the Cookie Nana! The tree skirts are beautiful and they, along with Nana’s story, will long be cherished by your children and their families.
How inspiring! What a beautiful way to use your treasures and share them with the family!
Susan A says
What a wonderful story…and congratulations on honoring your family treasures
Diane Pichelman says
Beautiful…..What a Wonderful and Great Keepsake, and story. Thank You for Sharing.
Jan H says
What treasures! My Aunt Jeri made a lot of doilies and had them tacked onto very ugly solid fabrics. I put them all together in a lap size quilt and it’s hanging on my living room wall. Truly a treasure!
Judie Coffey says
I love stories like that. Thank you.
Judy Wilke says
What a lovely family story. Thank you for sharing it. I have been trying to decide what to do with some old sequin pieces off of an old tree skirt given to me as a wedding gift 53 years ago.. I want to keep the them and may follow your example. Judy W.
Brenda W. says
I so enjoyed reading about Cookie Nana, but, seeing the 7 Christmas tree skirts is just beautiful. Thanks for sharing this with us.
Connie Yersin says
Chris, Oh my! I’m speechless. You posted the entire story including my memories and then added pictures of not only the process but of strudel and an old kitchenaid mixer. Your guidance was crucial, not only in the choice of a tree skirt, but using the quilt as you go technique and the sparkle netting to hold down the doilies I couldn’t have done it without you. Based on the number of replies our joint effort is now inspiring others to retrieve family heirlooms and put them to use. This crazy quilter who saved 100 doilies for 20 years apparently has company. Thank you. I am truly honored.
A Blessed Merry Christmas, Connie
Joyce H. says
What gorgeous tree skirts! And what a wonderful way to pass along family treasures and stories to the next generation! Connie–you’re a genius! Merry Christmas.
Great story! Great idea!
Loved the doily tree skirt. I too have hundreds of them, from my grandmas, and great grandma and other relatives. I also have have boxes of ladies handkerchiefs from them too. You have given me some ideas, now just to find the time to make something with them. Thanks cousin Chris
A few years ago when I was teaching a class on making Pillowcase Dolls, one of the students, a former neighbor from growing up on the farm signed up for the class. She brought many pillowcases her family had found when cleaning out the family home after her mother had passed, she was overwhelmed by the sheer number they had found. With all that was going on in her life, she was ready to give up on the idea of making that number of dolls for her siblings and the grandchildren. She commissioned me to take on the job, six months later at a family picnic all 36 pillowcases were presented on a soft cloth doll body with a matching bonnet and a name embroidered on the dolls butt that said that the dress had been embroidered by their mother/ grandmother Marie between 1935-1970. It was a big job that brought a lot of joy to the siblings and the grand children. Not only was the embroidery well done by Marie, some had tatting and crocheting as part of the edgings. There are so many ideas out there on preserving family memories. Those Kitchenaid mixers just keep goooooooooing. Have a Blessed Christmas.
Please be sure to tell Connie that she did a fantastic job on all of those tree skirts. Those surely will be a treasure for her children for many years.
What a wonderful way to share family history that will last forever.
Such a neat story! Thanks so much for sharing!!!
Michele R. says
So beautiful, Connie. Your skill is remarkable. Cookie Nana’s and your handiwork will be treasured for many more lifetimes.
Jeri Schulz says
Very inspirational and lovely. What a great project, Connie! As usual, Chris, you’ve given such inspiration to a talented quilter
Laurelie Neubauer says
My first time reading this wonderful story. It is a beautiful tribute to the Cookie Nana. You have a kind heart Connie and your children will always appreciate your hard work you did for them. I know I would.
Emily P says
Now I finally know what to do with the doilies we received from my husband’s grandma! I know the work that went into them and hate that they are sitting in a box but wouldn’t have room to display them all even if my home was 10x the size it is! THANK YOU!!
That was a great gift to give and to remember family. For family is always special and memories that can’t be replaced.
Thanks for the inspiration. I’m working on some skirts now using doilies crocheted by three generations of women in my family! They are turning out amazing!