When Anna Mae Barnes was eight years old, her mother gave her a scrap of material from a worn-out sheet. The youngster carefully hemmed the sides and presented a handkerchief to her mother. Her mother used this simple gift for many years. “This was the beginning of my love of sewing,” said Anna Mae.
Anna Mae is one of seven daughters, and she realized if she wanted to wear something besides hand me downs, she would have to make her own clothes. She found fabric and a pattern and made skirts and other clothes during her teenage years. She recalled making an attractive jacket. One of her friends looked at the label and wondered if it had been made by the popular fashion brand, Jantzen. “I was flattered and mad at the same time,” she said. “I realized I had a gift for sewing. I was lucky to have good sewing teachers in school. They nurtured the love of sewing. I learned that labels and fads didn’t matter. I found home sewn clothes could be as fashionable and attractive as those on the racks at fancy stores.”
After her marriage to Lehi man, Freeman Barnes, Anna Mae worked at Pykes Clothing Company located on Main Street in downtown Lehi. “Sewing was calming and relaxing for me. Even after the birth of my oldest daughter, I returned to work at Pykes.” Her three daughters, Camile, LeeAnn, and Lora have been all been the recipients of her marvelous sewing skills. She made all their clothes and quilts for numerous occasions.
For almost 20 years, Anna Mae made items for a small boutique in Lehi, Scrooge and Marleys. She made many aprons that were purchased by local lunch ladies. She also made sets of hot padsthat were popular items during the holidays. She also made pillows and other home décor items.
Anna Mae admits that she is a hoarder and has stacks of fabric purchased over the years. “I had to be productive and found sewing fulfilled two needs– utilize my sewing skills and the need to make others happy with the items I made.”
This Christmas, she made 53 sets of hot pads given to women in her church. This coming year she has already made 152 cloth bags used to store plastic grocery bags which she will give to all the members of her ward.
When her husband was a school bus driver, Anna Mae made “I Spy” bags. The clever bags had a clear window with random items scattered in rice. “The little ones would be entertained during the bus rides,” she said. “I was always looking for clever ideas I could make.”
88- year-old Annie Mae (as she is affectionately called) is still making useful, clever, and beautifully sewn items. She recently completed a quilt she pieced from fabric collected over the years. “I have arthritis in my hands and can’t do as much hand quilting as I used to do, but I have loved being able to have my quilts machine quilted.”
Anna Mae’s husband passed away four years ago this Christmas. “I have filled my days with projects and have tried to stay productive,” she said. As her health has declined over the last several months, she is determined to make the most of every minute. “I love to be busy, but I don’t want to live to be 100,” she said with a smile.