Treasure Trove

Although I didn’t learn knitting from any of my grandmas who did fiberwork, I do come by it honestly, and on my visit to the family homestead in April, Mom let me pick out some samples of my great-grandma Delphia’s needlework to keep. I’ve yet to branch out from knitting, but if anything is going to inspire me to finally learn my way around a crochet hook, this is the stuff.

“Basic” doilies in a variety of patterns and colors:

Fancier doilies:
I love the way the variegated yarn brings dimension to the pansies–this is one of my favorites.

There are more unusual pieces–doesn’t this pink and white dresser set have a very modern feel?
dresser set

And this square of candlelight lace is just luscious:

There are some spectacular samples of tatting:

The lace insets in this runner make me think of rose windows:
rose window
rose window detail

There are mysteries, too, like this embellished towel:
diamond detail
What technique is this? Is it a variant on crochet? A kind of knotwork? I’ve never seen anything like it.

The most beautiful and intricate piece was one I didn’t get to bring home, because it has pride of place in Mom’s home:
door detail
If I want one of these for my own–and I do–I’m going to have to get crackin’ on my crochet skills.

Some of these pieces are fragile, as you’d expect of century-old lace, and will need to be conserved carefully. The tatted snowflake, for example, is destined for a secure retirement framed behind glass. Many of them are surprisingly sturdy, though–with a gentle cleaning, several of them could go right back into daily service on dressers and tabletops.

One of the things I like most about these works is the sense they give me of my great-grandma’s personality. I was lucky to grow up knowing her–she passed on when I was 22–but I knew her mostly as a stern, intimidating figure. It’s interesting to have these delicate, colorful bits of creativity as hints to what might have delighted and pleased her.

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3 Responses to Treasure Trove

  1. CountessZ says:

    WOW!!! That is amazing. Seriously amazing. I just want to touch them all and figure out what each one is. Is it possible that the mystery diamond is a crochet technique for making bobbles? They almost look like tiny delicate bobbles in the picture to me. Will have to do some investigating and see what I can find. Now I just want to go home and make doilies!

  2. Ramona the Mom says:

    What an interesting thought about Grandma R’s personality. I had never thought of that. What would she think to know that samples of her work (and her mother’s) were out there on the internet for all the world to see? Very nicely done.

  3. kaizerin says:

    CZ: “Maybe” to the bobble idea. They lie quite flat, and if I could get a really good picture you’d see they seem to be layers of stitches in opposing directions–perhaps over-stitching of the underlying netting?

    Mom: I thought about my grandmas working some of these pieces by lamplight, before the days of rural electricity, before television or maybe even radio (do you know when they would have gotten a radio?). And I thought how funny, and how achingly precious, that these delicate pieces of domestic history survived and were handed down, and yes, are now on the Internet. And how wonderful that their terribly modern granddaughter, living a life so radically different from theirs, can have this connection to their lives, can see through one narrow window something of who they are, how they lived, what they felt or thought. I sit sometimes and watch my own square little hands working the needles and fancy I can see their hands at work, too.

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