MY MOTHER could knit, crochet, sew and mend. Her special love though belonged to embroidery. She was of a generation when it was normal to deny girls a proper school education equal to boys. Throughout her life she told me how exciting it was to spend six months at a language school in Lausanne (Switzerland) before she was called home again to take care of the growing number of younger siblings, and this would end her schooling for good. Very often she would recite French poems and repeat grammar rules like a mantra of a very happy and special but all too brief a time in her life. Telling this story, her eyes would focus on a time long ago and in her mind she was that young girl again, for once carefree, without responsibilities and duties. I want to show her work to the readers of this blog in appreciation of her very special talent and I will always treasure that she shared her passion for textile work with me.
At the time she grew up, her many talents were ignored, the few considered worthy and useful were mostly channeled into what was expected of her and would benefit others, so her own creative outlet blossomed only in later years and it was centered on embroidery, although she could also knit the most delicate outfits for babies and was quite famous for her delicate baby booties. She was taught how to do cross-stitches by her grandmother and as the years went by she would have huge repertoire of different embroidery stitches and became an expert in doing heraldic cross-stitch patterns,
table cloths, table runners, ‘drap de millieu’ which is a square ‘Mitteldecke’, a special and often embroidered center cloth placed over a regular linen or cotton table cloth for which she often used Aida cloth and added a beautiful edge finish with elaborate buttonhole stitches with picots (scroll down on page of link). She made many samplers, small doilies with motifs for spring and fall, and eventually even created her special own bookmark, embroidering on it the name or monogram and year it was made in elaborate cross-stitch letters.
Many of her most beautiful table cloths with special motifs for Christmas or Easter were lost when, at the end of his life, my father started giving things away to people he didn’t even know, such as magazine peddlers or other people who came to his door, and then could not remember to whom he gave the items. To this day I wonder how people could take advantage of a confused and befuddled old man. All the more I treasure the work I still have and which she gifted to me and my family and will post more pictures of her work in some of my next blog entries.
Of course, I know that all of her embroidered work does need to be gently washed and ironed and I should hang it up without creases – mea culpa – but who has such space?! I always put the smaller items in between very fine blue tissue paper to prevent yellowing. I think this helps because even her earliest work (see cross-stitch doily below) which she did as a small child, is now 84 years old and it held the colors so well they almost look like new. So on the very top of my list of things to do (once the usual chores are done) is washing and ironing these heirloom items to keep them as a much treasured and beautiful testimony to my mother’s many skills.
While I was looking for my mother’s embroidered Easter Milieu I came across a stack of Hardanger lace ornaments I had bought one day at an auction to use as coasters or hang as a Christmas decoration – but never did, as they were just too precious! And as I was looking at my embroidery treasures it suddenly occurred to me that my present project, a granny square kimono (on Ravelry), is based on a design not too far away from these lovely lace ornaments. Connecting the squares with some freeform Tunesian lace stitches would set the Hardanger lace off nicely.