The power and purpose of craft

This afternoon, shortly after four, I pulled into the driveway of my home, happy to have gone on my adventures and happy to have returned from them.

As my son and I unpacked the car and put things away, I came across a gift that an older cousin had brought for me when I was in Illinois:

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An embroidered and hemmed linen dish towel

While it is not crochet, it is a dishtowel my grandmother made for her older brother, Hilbert Buchta, and his young bride, Grace Deeter, in celebration of their marriage.

Ninety-one years later, their daughter, Jane, presented me with this crafting artifact; I could not have been more moved. (Jane and her daughter, Janell, were the two crafters who joined me at the crafting table at this past weekend’s Buchtafest 2012.)

Unlike my maternal grandmother with whom I spent at least some of every summer of my childhood and of whom I have my own memories, my father’s mother died well before I was born, and the only way I have of knowing her is through the objects and records left behind.

While I recognized the embroidery as belonging to the tradition known as redwork, I went to see my neighbor who teaches in the Textiles department at North Carolina State University to see if she could shed more light on this piece for me.

She got out a cotton flour sack dishcloth someone had just recently given her to use for comparison and then pulled out what remained of a magnifying glass that her now grown son had disassembled as a child.

What we were able to see with the magnifying glass (and which is somewhat visible in this photo of the fabric):

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The imprint of the embroidery on another layer of the towel

is that in addition to the imprint of the embroidery on the under layers of the towel, there are also slubs which are characteristic of linen

Using the same magnifying glass, we marveled at the incredibly small even stitches my grandmother had made along the hemmed edges:

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A detail of the hem

A look at the back:

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The back of the dishtowel

along with the front:

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The front of the dishtowel

revealed that my grandmother had used a stem stitch to embroider the dish that decorates this towel.

While it was probably not my grandmother’s intent, the dishtowel she embroidered in 1921 has transcended time and found its way from her home to mine, and like my grandmother, I am living life one stitch at a time.

As for embroidery, this video of Mary Corbet’s that explains how to make the stem stitch should have you able to decorate your own dishcloths in no time.

2 thoughts on “The power and purpose of craft

  1. What a lovely piece of the past! I love the history that is bound into handmade things like this and cherish the idea that as they see the light of day again and are wondered at and handled by subsequent connected generations there is a secret silent bond between the us and the maker. A bond expressed in the understanding and appreciation of one stitcher by another working in the same or in a different medium. I am very sure that one day in the next century a woman will reverently unwrap something you have crocheted and as she holds it and marvels at its workmanship will wonder about you and how you made it and what you thought about while you did and another secret silent bond will have been made across time and space. Happy Heirloom-treasurung and Heirloom-making! E

  2. I love old things like this. I posted a post not long ago about my grandfather who used to make afghans and pot holders. I have one of his afghans that I need to dig out to take a pic of and show people. It’s in the deeps of my storage room. My hope is that some of my crochet will live on in my grandchildren also so that someday someone else will be inspired and awed.

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