(T-G Photo by Doug Dezotell) [Order this photo]
(T-G Photo by Doug Dezotell)
Sewing is an art form that is not as common today as it once was.
Christine Craighead is one of those gifted women, handy with a needle and thread, who learned her craft at her grandmother's side.
Christine will be 90 years old on her next birthday and she has been sewing almost as long as she can remember.
"My grandma, Eliza Moss, taught me most of what I know about sewing," Christine said. "She got me at the sewing machine when I was real little. I guess I was 7 or 8 years old when I finished my first real sewing project."
She has her sewing room set up in her home here in Shelbyville, equipped with several machines that she works at throughout the week. Her sewing machine and her serger sit ready to assist her as she does work on projects for her friends and family. A steam iron and an ironing board sit ready next to the sewing table for when they are needed.
Although her sewing projects are not as many as in years past, she still keeps busy sewing when she can.
"Sewing is more something I just want to do now," Christine said. "I can't just sit and look at four walls."
"I used to make drapes and toppers for windows," she said. "And I've made chair cushions, but now I mainly do alterations. I've tried to keep up with how many pair of pants I hem in a year. I did 71 in one month, and that was a very busy month."
Christine finds it a pleasure to sew for her good friends.
Christine has made a lot of bridesmaid dresses over the years, and has made her own dresses and suits as well. She still does that for herself.
"When I'm not sewing my hobby is reading," she said, waving her hand around the room at the books that are piled on shelves and tables. "I go out to the Senior Citizens Center and get books from their library too."
Christine was born in Jackson County, where she was raised on the family farm outside of Gainesboro.
She married her childhood sweetheart, Glenn Craighead, in 1939 when she was 16.
Glenn and his brothers worked on the family farm, but Glenn kept telling his bride that he really wanted to work in a retail business. When the opportunity came up for him to work in a grocery store in Gainesboro, he jumped at the chance.
Soon he moved on to work in a department store in town which was owned by the mayor. His boss saw Glenn's potential and knack for retail so when he decided to open a department store in Shelbyville he asked Glenn to move down and run that store for him.
Glenn and Christine moved to Shelbyville to start Draper and Darwin Department Store in 1956. The store was on the east side of the public square next door to Pope's Café.
Glenn managed the store and Christine worked as one of the clerks. Glenn served in that position for 15 years until moving on to work at Sullivan's Department Store. Christine followed him there several years later.
Glenn retired from Sullivan's when he was 65, and went to work part time at McKee's Men's Store.
In addition to working in the children's department at Sullivan's, Christine did alterations on the side to please her customers.
She retired from the retail business in 1985 when she was 62.
The Craigheads moved to Chapel Hill, N.C. in 1991 to be close to one of their sons and his family, but Glenn passed away just seven months later.
The Craigheads were married for 52 years when Glenn died in 1992.
Christine returned to Shelbyville in 1994.
Her sons, Edward and Ralph, lives in Atlanta and Chattanooga, so Christine lives in Shelbyville surrounded by her friends.
"I've been content to live here by myself," she said. "I have some wonderful neighbors and some good friends at church. My church family sees that I'm taken care of pretty good."
Christine and her husband attended Southside Church of Christ for many years where Glenn served the church as an elder. She still is an active member and is known at church and with her family for her scrumptious chicken and dumplings and her delicious chocolate pie.
"I love to cook," she said. "And I help the people of the church by taking food to folks."
Christine enjoys a simple life these days, sewing, cooking and helping others. She makes it her goal to live right and be of service to her fellow man.
She will keep on sewing as long as she is able, putting that needle and thread to good use.