Where to begin with this? So many possibilities. As some of you will know from reading this blog, I only learnt to crochet just over a year ago. And the source of inspiration for that was Lucy of Attic24 about whom I have written already elsewhere on this blog and whose extraordinary talents for lighting the world up with colourful hooky I guess very many of you will already be familiar with. If you are not among that number, go and check out her blog here and, on what is a very grey, wet day here in the UK, prepare to have your spirits lifted and your day brightened!
Lucy's patterns and tutorials are still the starting point for many of my hooky forays but today I want to write about two people whose hooky talents probably lie in a very real, if invisible, way behind my own efforts and my own interest in all things needle-related. One of them was still alive when I was born although I don't really remember her, the other had died some time before I arrived on the scene and I know her only through family story and what she left behind. Because of what they both made however I feel I know both of them quite well.
The first, the one who died before I was born, is my great-great-aunt Mabel, the twin sister of my great-grandmother. She was a very gifted needlewoman and a musician who played the viola. Here she is in a photograph taken some time in the early 1900s:
Some years ago my grandmother gave me for my birthday a tablecloth made by Great Aunt Mabel. It is embroidered with baskets of flowers and has a deep filet crochet edging in white, depicting tulips. It must have taken her absolutely ages to do the crochet, which, like the snow in the Christmas carol, is "deep and crisp and even" throughout. Here is a corner of the cloth:
|A close up of the embroidery.|
|A close up of the filet crochet tulip border.|
The cloth was probably made as a gift for her sister's wedding in the early 1900s although the family is not sure. It certainly dates from around that time. It's not that easy to photograph for you to see the overall effect of the whole thing. I need a bigger round table for a start. Here is a pic of the cloth on a table that is a bit too small for it with some china of the same period given to my great-grandmother almost exactly a hundred years ago. (The cakes, I hasten to add, are not a hundred years old!)
Filet crochet of this sort was of course all the vogue in the very early part of the 20th C and on the other side of the family another great-great aunt was doing the same sort of thing. Aunty Mu (short for Muriel) was also a great needle-woman and also a maker of tablecloths and although I don't remember her, she didn't die until I was three.
Here she is around the turn of the century with one of her sisters, Renee, and their mother, my great-great grandmother. Aunty Mu is the one on the right.
Here is Aunty Mu's tablecloth that she made for another sister, Carrie, when she married my great-grandfather in June 1914 which makes the tablecloth just a fraction under a century old. It too has filet crochet all round the edge and white embroidery and intricate, cut-thread work panels in the centre.
|You can see here the intertwined initials she embroidered for my great-grandparents, some of the cut-thread work and the filet crochet border. This one is more geometric in design than Great Aunt Mabel's tulips.|
|A close up of the beautiful filet lace border.|
|A pic to give a bit more of the overall effect.|
|Both tablecloths with some of my grandmother's china and some early 20th C crochet-related bits and pieces.|
It almost makes my eyes ache just to contemplate working with something so fine. Along with the tablecloths, this solitary hook has made its way down the generations together with two volumes of patterns and instructions published just before the First World War, around 1912. History does not relate who their original owner was but they could have been used by either of the makers of these tablecloths although they may of course have produced their own designs. The two volumes, both edited by a prolific author by the name of "Flora Klickmann", make fascinating reading a century on! Mostly the patterns are for crocheted lace like the edging on my tablecloths.
But there are one or two "woollier" projects, like this:
|Ingenious isn't it? |
And in the right yarn and colour may be even wearable 100 years on!
The fascination of these books lies not least in the period advertisements like these:
"Peri-Lusta" Crochet thread seems to have been the crochet thread to use doesn't it?! As for "Fry's Breakfast Cocoa", well, may be you needed that to get fired up to start one of the intricate, eye-aching projects within the covers!! Even if I had "Fry's Breakfast Cocoa" with the authentic "yellow and red label" to make me "astonishingly fit" I am afraid I am not drawn to replicating this sort of work! It's too fine and fiddly and I know I don't have the patience for it but these great-great aunts of mine are nonetheless inspirational for me.
I know that my own delight in all things creative, especially needle-driven things creative, comes from a long line of creative needle-women. Considerably more skilled needle-women than I am or probably ever will be. But that doesn't matter. Periodically one finds comments in blogland that suggest that sometimes people are intimidated by the virtuosity of the enormous array of talent out there. I don't think one should be intimidated. I know my skills are far below those of my precursors and indeed many of my contemporaries - look at what's out there this week in this 3rd Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! But what a joy it is to see the work of others and to have one's horizons stretched and new possibilities opened up even if in order to realise something approaching what one has seen, one has to simplify it, sometimes drastically so, to one's own skill or budget level. We all start somewhere and knowing that reaching for the stars is possible can be enough to make one dare at least to reach for the light switch, if you see what I mean! And once one has done that who knows where it will end?!
I have a hunch that both my great-great-aunts, Aunty Mu and Great Aunt Mabel, would be pleased that their beautiful handiwork is still used and enjoyed and that today it is my chosen source of inspiration and an encouragement to get busy with hook and yarn myself.
Just to finish, here are three post cards sent by Aunty Mu to my mother when she was a little girl in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I found them among the file of photographs supplied by my mother when I explained about this post and who is herself no mean needle-woman. They are not strictly related but I couldn't resist including them because they are so sweet and because they say something about the kindliness and warmth of the lady who made the beautiful heirloom I now have and use on special occasions.
Thank you for reading this and sharing my little dip into the past!