Sunday, October 14, 2012

Opening a Treasure Chest

A friend gave me a plastic tote filled with stuff that had belonged to her mother-in-law. "It will be a treasure chest for you", she said, and she was right. The mother-in-law was Dutch, and an exemplary needleworker.
There were a number of embroideries, mostly counted cross stitched. scenes of traditional Dutch life.
Some were not quite finished, but reveal the meticulous way she worked. In the picture above, you can see the overcast edges and marking of the centre lines.
This one is a very large, colouful winter scene.
And this is the reverse, showing the neatly finished thread ends. I am old school enough to admire such carefully finished stitching, as I so rarely achieve it in my own work.
This is an example of a typical style of design found in the stacks of patterns in the chest; scattered motifs of landmarks, family, flags and industry. I particularly liked this one, as I am descended from Frieslanders on my mother's side. Alas, I don't know what the motto says.
How could I not be entranced by an envelope filled with bits of embroidery floss attached to their original DMC tags? 
She kept careful notes on the colours needed for each pattern.
These two DMC booklets are real beauties. I plan to share more of them later.
There was a shoebox filled with an orderly array of embroidery floss and pearl cotton.
A stack of fascinating pattern books from the 1980's. I was struck by the intricacy of the embroidery designs in particular, and wonder if the standard of skill in needlework was higher in Europe as compared to North America (probably), or if people just favoured more elaborate patterns. 
 There wasn't just embroidery, either. These three doilies show she also knitted and crocheted. In the bottom of the chest were dozens of straight knitting needles and crochet hooks.
And, surprisingly, tucked away in a small paper bag was a mass of odd bits of thread. Maybe she saved them out of thrift, which could be expected from a lady who lived through WWII, but I like to imagine that perhaps she secretly enjoyed the chaos of colour as a counterpoint to the perfection of her finished work.



6 comments:

  1. what a trove. my grandma did the same thing..she wound the dms threads on empty matchbooks tucking the brand band under the threads and writing the number on the outside of the matchbook just in case..but in a small tin was that same next of chaos..bits 6" and under.

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  2. indeed a treasure trove!! that reverse-side is gorgeous;
    as I am Dutch I'll attempt a translation for you: 'He who does not honor his ancestry is not worthy of his own name.'
    So now you know what to do!

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  3. I am moved by this sudden link between you and the unknown old lady.
    I am moved by the love and the respect that you show for her work and her treasures.

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  4. Treasures, indeed. I, too, am happy for your well-deserved good fortune---as made apparent by your immense appreciation of all of this, including your sharing with us! Thank you.

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  5. onesmallstitch10:54 AM

    wonderful treasures - but I have to wonder about a family that would give away such loving work of an ancestor? so happy that it came to you.

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  6. Anonymous4:15 PM

    WOW what a gift you have been given, I was foolishly following the freeform abstract art work fad for a while and all I have to show for it is wasted money and a pile of poorly constructed junk, I have moved back to the traditional needcrafts and slowly getting my skills back, yes you can lose them, I am fully embracing the Granny Chic movement and loving it.

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