WELLFLEET — At Chris Grozier’s house, every holiday calls for stitching up a change in kitchen decor. She made the zigzag-patterned runner that stretches the length of her kitchen table, a patchwork of batik squares in rusty hues reminiscent of fall leaves. “Thanksgiving is all about the colors,” says Grozier.
When she was growing up in Truro, sewing was a family activity. Grozier still has the first thing she ever sewed — a pillow she made with her grandmother, Agnes Medeiros. It is emblazoned with a heart. “She ripped up her clothes so that we could make that pillow together,” says Grozier. The heart is framed by squares of fabric in prints recalling a bygone era.
Resourcefulness combined with creativity was a way of life for Grozier’s grandmother, who ran a boarding house in Provincetown, and for Grozier’s mother, Gloria Hautanen, who worked summers cooking in restaurants. “We were always crafting and always making things,” she says. “I remember picking beach plums and blueberries and making jelly. I remember dandelion wine and beach plum cordials. We had a huge garden. To this day I still make zucchini relish and my mother’s famous pickles. Back then we lived off the land.
“If we got invited to something,” Grozier adds, “the gift was going to be something homemade.”
As a teenager, Grozier made her own clothes. She started quilting in her 20s. After graduating from Johnson and Wales University, she taught in the culinary program at Cape Cod Tech, but Grozier still found time for crafting with her mother. “I would come home on weekends,” she says, “and we would work together, quilting and making gifts and baby blankets and wedding presents.”
Although many of their creations have gone out into the world, Grozier’s house is like a museum in miniature of their creative output. One of her mother’s hooked rugs in a purple pansy pattern hangs on the chimney and another with a folksy depiction of fishing boats is on the mantle. In the hallway, Grozier has a fabric decoupage piece she created of an underwater scene, and upstairs are quilts, which function more as embodied sentiment and biography than utilitarian bedcovers.
One small quilt, a confetti of eclectic textiles and shapes, is displayed hanging on a rod. Grozier made it in a class on crazy quilting that she took with her mother in Hyannis in 1995. (“I loved it, and she hated it,” says Grozier.) Crazy quilting is an old technique. “You rip up fabric, put it back together, and highly embellish it,” she explains. It’s a tradition also meant to highlight one’s heritage. Hers incorporates pieces of her grandmother’s mantilla, her father’s vest, a great aunt’s shirt, and other pieces collected from family members.
Twenty years ago, Grozier and her mother made a quilt for William Grozier — a wedding gift for Chris’s then husband-to-be. The blocks represent snapshots of his life and include badges from the Wellfleet Fire Dept. (where he is a call lieutenant and EMT), the Boy Scouts, and the Lower Cape Fishing Derby. Interspersed on the squares are words left by friends and family for the couple on their wedding day. “It has so, so many memories,” Grozier says.
Not all her projects are so elaborate. Currently she’s working on a collection of holiday-themed table runners that she’ll be selling at the Lions Club Holiday Craft Fair in Provincetown. And she encourages beginning stitchers to try easy decorative pieces like table runners, just “to bring the season into your home.”
For a first project, Grozier suggests a pattern called the 10-minute table runner. “There are free patterns for it everywhere,” she says. She has a few examples in her workspace. The trick is to sew two different lengths of fabric together, turn the piece, then create mitered ends. She adds interfacing to hers so the finished pieces have a little body.
Grozier’s studio occupies a large upstairs room. She has a mid-arm — a machine with a wide throat space (the area between the needle and the body of the machine) for handling large pieces — attached to a computer. Alongside her devotion to handicrafts, Grozier maintains a friendly relationship with technology: she coordinates online learning at Nauset Regional High School.
She is excited about a new Janome sewing machine, made for quilters, that now sits at the center of her workspace. “I’m still getting used to it, but this thing is incredible,” says Grozier. “I’m probably going to put more hours on it than I do my vehicle.”
The event: Provincetown Lions Club Craft Show
The time: Friday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The place: Provincetown Town Hall
The cost: Free