Making Memories
Janie Tipton crochets baby items that become family treasures, but memories (and maybe her grandmother’s lost biscuit recipe) are what she cherishes most

Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Janie Tipton’s crocheted baby items (displayed at Irene’s Emporium on South Broadway Street) often become cherished family heirlooms passed down from one generation to the next. “They are a unique gift item you can keep forever,” said Tipton, who treasures the craft that was handed down to her from her grandmother.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

Sept. 11, 2005 -- Local resident Janie Tipton creates crocheted heirloom baby items that often become treasured keepsakes that can bind the heart and soul of one generation to the next.

"You usually won't find stuff like this in a garage sale," laughed Tipton of her precious little baby outfits, bibs, booties, bonnets and bottle covers stitched with delicate thread in an assortment of pastel colors. "People usually hand them down or keep them."

Tipton said that she has heard that her crocheted baby things often end up in shadow boxes as cherished mementos of onae's first year.

"I mainly sell to grandmothers," said Tipton, who explained most grandparents want a unique gift item that is considered "extra special." "It used to be very common for grandmothers or expecting mothers to crochet things for their new born. But I think somewhere along the way it went out of fashion. It's just much easier now to go shop rather than make something yourself."

A retired schoolteacher, Tipton said crocheting has always been her favorite pasttime and she is thrilled to finally be able to devote as much time as she wants to what she calls "a cottage business."

"I don't want to get too busy with it," she explained. "That's why it's nice to be able to put my things in Irene's [Irene's Emporium on South Broadway Street]. Because I'm going to do this regardless. It's what I enjoy.

"And there are only so many baby showers I can go to in a year," she added, laughing.

Tipton first started creating household items such as dollies, bedspreads and tablecloths. It wasn't until she was about to become a grandmother that she tried her hand with baby items.

"The first one I made was for my own granddaughter," recalled Tipton. "I couldn't wait to give it to my daughter-in-law. It was just something she could keep forever." 

Crocheted items of all kinds passed down from family members undoubtedly make wonderful heirlooms, but for Tipton, learning the craft has been a gift in itself.

"I have crocheted for as long as I can remember," Tipton said. "I was 7 years old when my grandmother taught me how to crochet. I would sit by her rocking chair and make little crochet chains, and then she would inspect them. If something wasn't just right, she'd pull them out, and I would have to start all over again."

�Tipton admitsshe got lots of practice that way.

"That's a memory I'll keep forever," she said. "In my generation, grandmothers and granddaughters weren't close like they are now. We would sit there and not speak seven words to each other the whole time we sat there. But just being together with her was really neat."

Tipton said that one day she hopes her own children and grandchildren show an interest in the craft and she's able to pass it along to them.

"Anytime they show an interest in anything I can help them with, I'm ready. I jump at the chance," said Tipton. "You know, it's not so much the activity that you're doing that makes it special. It's that your doing it together. I value those times."

Someone once told Tipton that most grandchildren will one day become curious about who their grandparents were, what kind characteristics they had, and even the things they thought about.

"I've wondered that a lot about my own grandparents," admitted Tipton, who said she regrets not learning and inquiring more from her grandmother while she had the opportunity. "There were so many other skills I wish that I had asked her about."

In particular, her homemade biscuit recipe.

"She would make these biscuits as big around as a saucer, and they were just to die for," laughed Tipton. "They were just wonderful. What I would give to have that recipe."

Of course the recipe was just in her head, according to Tipton, who said nobody has it written down, not even her daughters.

"She had a secret, and I wish I had it," said Tipton. "So many don't think to pass those things on."

According to Tipton, things we leave behind are clues to who we were, and she said for this reason she is doing all she can to pass along traditions and legacies for generations to come.

In addition to her hobby of crocheting, Tipton also enjoys collecting and putting together puzzles, and has made it a habit to date and journal inside the box tops.

"I write about whatever is going on in my life at that time," explained Tipton, who said it's even interesting for herself when she gets the puzzle down to piece together again at a later time and look back over what was taking place in her life. "The things we leave behind for them will one day be meaningful. I want to be a part of my grandchildren's lives in some way, even if I'm not here physically, I'd like for them to know me. And with the little things we leave behind, that's possible."

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