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. 

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