Thursday, January 31, 2013

Painted with Light

I walked outside today and into the light of a beautiful day. When I looked up and saw this tree I thought. . . "There is the paintbrush, still dipped in light, that has painted my world with sunlight today." May your day sparkle and may your inner light shine bright into this world.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fine Lace Doilies

Three from the fairy realms 
One on the snow
I believe if I were a small enough insect to fly between the snowflakes of a snowstorm, weaving in and out, darting all about with out getting touched by one, this is what the snowflakes would look like to me. Just for effect I placed one of these, my most gossamer doilies, outside against a setting of freshly fallen snow. It's hard to see that way. There are three of these little lovelies in the chest of textile treasure I inherited and they are made out of what feels like sewing thread. Could they be bobbin lace? They measure five and a half inches across and I don't know how to measure stitch per inch in something like this, but I have included a penny to help you appreciate the scale. These are destined to be framed. Until then I keep them rolled up in a towel. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about these, please leave a comment. I may take them to a local lace guild and see what they can tell me. Imagine making something like this out of so fine a thread! I know they were made by a grandmother of mine, but which one? So light, so delicate I start to imagine a drop of the fairy-folk blood in my family tree. Perhaps the merest atom of a being fashioned these delicate little things as she sat at a toadstool deep in a forest of flowers. Indeed, these have about the same weight on my hand as spiderweb and I avoid handling them very much because I am afraid to find they are about a strong a a spider's web, easily torn. However, in the bit of handling I do give them they surprise me. They are tougher than they look. A lot like my grandmothers were no doubt, and women everywhere. Even elven ones.

Up close to one

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Embroidered baby dress

The gathers make a small ruffle around the waist.


All I have to do is take this dress out of the treasure chest of inherited textiles, unfold it from its wrap of tissue paper, and find I am holding a summer day. Even now in the coldest part of winter with ice and snow on the ground and more headed our way I am transported to another time and another place full of sunshine. I hold this little toddler's dress and the light wight of the thin cotton fabric brings to mind the warm days and gentle breezes, the kind that move through the grass and flutter little dresses like this into small gentle movememts like the wings of a butterfly.  I am reminded of how the warmth of the sun feels on my skin through fabric which is nearly as weightless as the air itself. Warm, light. It's a free feeling, a feeling of being barely dressed and with ease of limb, moving about outside as something soft and made almost of cobwebs brushing light fingers over me as I move. And then there are the flowers on this dress. I do not think they were hand embroidered and though the hem looks like it could have been hand stitched I believe this was a machine made dress of the simplest design, perfect for the simplicity of a perfect summer day. The flowers, as I was saying, bring violets to mind for me and the blossoms of hollyhocks and maybe the little daisy my grandmother used to grow in her garden and which spread into the lawn. It was my grandmother Ester Krabbe who wore this little dress in the early years of the 20th century. This dress lets me meet her as a tiny child and imagine the kind of summers she had as a toddler playing in the sun of the back yard in and out of the slight shade from the trees and in amongst her father's flowers.

Slightly blurry, but this is the backside of the embroidery and includes the hem and a side seam.
Daisies? Hollyhocks? Any flower meant to remind us of them all? The little green and purple chain reminds me of a daisy chain, the kind pieced together while lazing in the  grass or the sun

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mother Nature's Lace

Mother Nature is a lace maker and this morning I woke to find she had been busy all night on these wonderful, filigreed creations. She has dressed the trees all in lace and don't they look enchanting in all their winter finery against the deep blue silk of the sky? 

Bravo!! Just like a model dripping lace in  fashion show

Some of her stitches up close

She does meticulous work.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Long Ago Little Girl's Sewing Project

 In the world of Lynn the best room in the house is a largish room with lots of natural lighting where a spinning wheel, loom, and a sewing machine are set up never needing to be moved. This room is yet to be fully realized but it isn't far off and at least there is a version of it now in existence. would be full of baskets of threads and fiber and fabric and several lovely old dolls would be around the room to add a warm old fashioned feminie touch along with the lace and linens and other needle work set around 
and on display. Luckily for me several of my Grandmother's old dolls were to be found in the trunk of inherited textile treasure entrusted to me, and here is one of them on a small doll quilt my mother made for the dolls of my own childhood. Esme' comes with a wardrobe of two or three dresses and a little round velvet cape. A child at some time made these wonderfully detailed doll clothes, a lucky and loved little girl. I thought I would show you. The pink dress Esme' is wearing feels like silk and it is rather delicate and has separated at the seams in one or two places. There is a heavier cotton fabric constructing the long dress, in perfect condition, with a tiny little brooch at the neck, and there is a two piece wool outfit I am showing you the stitching on first. I have opened the little jacket so you can see the details and the stitching so large in the complex cramped construction it makes me realize the little girl made these under the eye of an experienced needlewoman. This was a child's sewing project and that much was learned in the sewing room of some bygone day when a little girl worked at the knee of some patient mother or grandmother or aunt. I like to think that Esme' and her wardrobe were once part of the needlework tradition and taught the art of sewing to some little girl in my family tree. Esme' will hold a place of honor in my textile studio. 

The stitching on the inside must be a wonderful story

Wool with a silk blouse and jet beads

A day dress of sturdy cotton

See the tiny brooch? Notice the smocking stitches?

Endearingly childish little handmade button holes and hem stitching. Is that perhaps a drop of blood from a pricked finger in the corner?
Hem stitching

Friday, January 11, 2013

A New Direction

The tools and supplies. 
Happy Birthday to me. Look what I got! The cloth and pattern were a gift. Thank you to my husband, son and daughter. Do I dare attempt to sew a dress? I made a skirt last summer. Is it time to step it up? Some people thinks so, and they have been listening to me ooh and ahh over the dresses on Downton Abby which is a big reason I watch the show, among many other reasons. My family have been listening to me make comments such as. . . "Oh I would love to be able to make clothes like that!" HA!! Well, I suppose my family is encouraging me to start and I appreciate their faith. So I have some very pretty cotton in blue and white and a fairly simple (I hope) dress pattern, and I have resources and help near by. Okay, preparing to take the plunge. First step today, wash, dry and iron the fabric. I remember my mother sewing clothes by the hour for all of us while my sisters and I were growing up. I wish she lived next door right now instead of across state! Stay tuned. I will up date as I the adventure progresses. . . . however, don't expect to see my name listed in the credits for costume department for Downton Abby any time soon!

Fairly simple, right? According to somebody somewhere it is. Let's hope I find it to be so. Wish me luck!

I love this print. It reminds me of china dishes. I hope I can do it justice!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Crocheted Love

My grandfather, Robert Glengary Smith at 8 months in 1913. This baby grew up to marry, have three daughters and was on board a ship in Pearl Harbor the day it was attacked. He survived and served out the rest of the war as a commander on a troop transport escorting troops from New York to France. He worked for Shell Oil after the war and until retirement. He died in 1980.

This next piece of Great Grandmother's needlework from my inherited treasure chest of family needlework comes not from Ragna, but from Great Grandmother Bessie (Little) Smith who was my grandfather Robert's mother and a very accomplished needleworker as well. Bessie only had one child and I believe her love for that baby shows dynamically in the skill used and time taken to make the lace trim for this mystery garment. 
A newborn baby skirt??

This item looks like a long baby skirt, made of soft cotton flannel with a plain cotton band. It comes with no button, hook or tie attached to show how it would have been fastened on Baby, nor is there any sign of there ever having been one. It's tapered and measures fourteen inches in width and twenty two inches long and the cotton band at the top when closed measures six inches in diameter. So small and soft, so meticulously and neatly stitched, I imagine Bessie pregnant and waiting for the arrival of her baby while making beautiful little clothes like this. Bessie was highly skilled with a crotchet hook and this lace with its complex design embellished with embroidery on parts of it speaks to the level of her skill, her love of thread and pattern, lace and textiles, and it speaks to me of what's possible in myself. It's as if my Great Grandmother is talking directly to me as I hold this and marvel up close at her work. She is saying two things to me, "I loved my little child," and, "You could do needlework like this too. It is in your blood". 

Bessie and Frank Smith in 1938

My grandmothers must have lived always with a small crochet hook and a little ball of string in their pocket. Their fingers must have constantly been busy while waiting in line, visiting friends or expecting babies. They must have begun when they were very young, as little girls in pinafores and continued on without stopping all through the years of their long lives. Indeed, my past is so lavishly dripping in a froth of crochet I wonder why I don't do it too and as constantly as my grandmothers as tribute to my heritage and my forbears. It should be like the family business or family farm, passed on through the generations as a way of life. Is that going to stop at me? Well! Alright then! Onward! I hereby vow this January, this dawn of 2013, to carry a bit of needlework constantly with me every where, some knitting or embroidery or a small bit of quilting perhaps, but more precisely I am thinking I shall steadfastly and constantly carry a little crochet hook and ball of string in honor of Bessie and Ragna, and Ragna's daughter Esther who also crocheted (but more on that at a later date) and I too shall crochet lace. After all, as both my grandmothers have so eloquently stated in this trove I have of theirs, it is part of genes on both sides, it is part of my marrow, part of my blood and it is in a very special part of my heart.

Cotton thread crochet with embroidery on the ribbon band 

The back side of the band which seems to have been a waist band but without any fasteners

A penny to show the tiny scale

This is the back side of the baby photo. I am touched by the poem Bessie had clipped out and glued there. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Vintage Beaded Bag

It's the little things in life. In this case the tiny-tiny things. These beads are the smallest beads I have ever seen. They are about the size of a poppy seed. Here we have a hand made bag done in hundreds of tiny glass beads. I wish I had a date on this, but the resources I've read said this kind of bag was made roughly between 1700-1920.  I have always loved little things, miniatures fascinated me as a child. I love that tiny stitches made over and over make a tapestry, minutes after minutes make a life. Again, I can see the moments in the life of the woman who made this purse. It was found in the chest of treasure I inherited of my Great Grandmother Ragna's needlework. Did she make it? I can see the stitcher's patience in the creation of this bag and its encrustation of such miniature beads. There are no seams visible on the inside. The beading is even, the stitches in the pink satin lining are tiny and even, and carefully done. I find it interesting that the little chain that gathers this purse closed through little mettle rings is rather functional with no real decorative characteristics. Perhaps little chains were not made any finer at the time of this bag's creation. The floral and geometric design however is rich and beautiful and is done in green, yellow, blue, pink, yellow and purple beads surrounded by beige beads.  Dangling off the end is a small ball covered with beadwork in green and white stripes. The bag measures 9 inches by 6 and a quarter inches. It is in excellent shape and feels heavy in my hand. Was it made when time weighed heavy on the makers hands and this is how she filled it? I believe it was made for the love of beauty. There is a sparkle to the beading and it flows when I hold is, like water over the sides of my hands. Like time through my fingers.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What We Carry Things In

5 inches x 8 inches
Sides crocheted together
What do you carry with you when you move from the Old World to the New? What did Ragna carry with her on board the ship from Denmark? Precious items we hold dear are carried with us in velvet lined boxes or in acid free paper or special frames under ultra violet protective glass. The way we package things attests to the significance we place on them. Musical instruments lay snug in their cases. Your grandmother's brooch is placed in a jewelry box. Your best china has a cabinet all its own. I would love to ask Ragna what she kept in this touching little bag so lovely cross stitched, edged in crochet and lined with a carefully made lining secured by tiny, careful little stitches. Both sides are identically crossstitched with embroidery threads on a cotton background. Small eyelets were crocheted with tiny stitches out of the same embroidery thread used in the cross stitching, and a single chain of crochet thread is pulled through the eyelets to form a drawstring. The striking Scandinavian motif attests to the maker's Danish heritage and is of an age old traditional design of stylized flower flanked on either side by two small diamonds down low. This little bag, made with great care, most surely was meant to keep something special and safe in, what was it? A prayer book? A photo of someone she loved? Silver perhaps? Or, was it made by somebody else and given to Ragna as a gift? Somebody aware of, or perhaps sharing in, her Danish background? Was it made to say. . ."Remember me. Do not forget me here left behind in Denmark." If that was the truth then love was put into this bag, and hope was put into this bag, and friendship too, all kept safe in the tiny stitches and careful work that was expressed in its construction. Those emotions of the heart were carried safely that way to the New World and through the years of a lifetime and on into several generations still safe, still treasured. And isn't that what protective cases are meant to do? 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

In Defense of Doilies

Spider Webs of Lace

Like most of us, the period in which I grew up shaped my sensibilities. My coming of age took place in the years comprised of the 1970's and 80's a period when women were having to prove something, fight for respect and shoulder their way into environments with a predominately male topography. Things traditionally thought of as feminine were shed. Clothing developed straighter more angular lines to replace curves, ruffles and lace. Women's time became precious as they strove to "have it all" and things purely decorative were considered inefficient and a waste of one's time and talent. Doilies, those intricate, time consuming circles of looped thread seemed especially to epitomize the waste of woman's time and talents as she sat for hours making nothing more useful than an pretty web. Indeed, go into most any second hand or  
Detail of Above
thrift shop and there you can pick up half a dozen handmade doilies for no more than a few dollars each. The time it took a woman to fashion these small wonders is given little thought or respect. And yet each one of them is a mathematical wonder in which several motifs begin with a single starting point and evolve outward into their final circumference. In the later half of the 1800's and on into the mid 1900's were used to beautify the home. Early on they were thought of as napkins meant to wipe fingers on, then they became antimacassars meant to protect furniture from the greasy hair product men wore in those days. It was clear upon delving into the treasure trove of needlework inherited from Great Grandma Ragna, that her house was a veritable froth of frill as delicate, intricate webs of crochet doilies overflowed the contents of what I found inside the chest amongst her other needlework. As I drew each one out and gently smoothed it flat I realized what true works of art each one was, the kaleidoscope of stitch variations, the delicate motifs and intricate arabesques of mathematics Ragna's needle had lead the fine cotton thread through. Each one of her doilies, as well as all the other doilies ever made, became for me like one of the lilies of the field that bloom unremarked and undervalued. What spider of unbelievable beauty spun such elegant webs of art and why oh why don't they grace our homes still or show up on gallery walls as they deserve? For this reason many doilies will appear on this blog site interwoven with the other posts about the other needlework found in my inherited chest of Ragna's treasure. I hope as you look closely you too will become entwined with these elegant lacework webs, created as surely as the Greeks tell us the spider herself was originally created . . .  by a spell of enchantment. 

9"x 16"