My mother is contributing some small items to a bazaar in Germany (which she heard about through one of her quilting forums — the world really is becoming a village, isn’t it?). I mentioned I might have a few crocheted doilies lying around that I could pass along, and she said the bazaar would probably be happy to have them.
I used to crochet doilies for the fairs I entered — the local county fairs and the Ohio State Fair — but I’m not competing any longer, so I make doilies when I don’t have any other projects I’m working on. I’m one of those people who cannot just sit and watch television. I have to have something in my hands, even when I’m watching “The Office” (although I tend to watch more and work less when I view this show so I don’t miss something subtle).
I had four small doilies to contribute, but I want to talk about the two colorful ones pictured in this post because they have kind of an interesting story behind them. They’re made mostly of odds and ends of really, really old tatting thread I received from a co-worker back in the 80s.
This very kind co-worker’s elderly mother had a massive amount of needlework materials she needed to pass along. The co-worker, who wasn’t even in my department, knew I was always doing needlework of various kinds (I was constantly working on something in the cafeteria or library during breaks and lunches and had become rather notorious for it). She asked me if I would like her mother’s things, and I said certainly.
What she brought me was a treasure trove: a delicious jumble of embroidery floss; endless vintage books of crochet and tatting patterns for doilies, edgings, novelties, collars, and more; and a bag filled with balls of solid colored and variegated tatting thread, which included long strips of double loops which I later realized were lengths of hairpin lace.
Over the years I used the tatting thread for a variety of projects, although sometimes there were just the ends of spools that couldn’t be made into much. A couple of years ago I decided to gather all those odds and ends into one polychromatic ball of thread, so I untangled the threads, unravelled the lengths of hairpin lace, knotted threads together and started winding. And winding.
Then I started crocheting. I love to crochet with tatting thread using a No. 13 or 14 hook, and I favor complicated patterns. I don’t usually crochet in color, though. I prefer ecru or cream, any off-white shade that shows the textures of the stitching to best effect.
So, with the colored threads, I started off trying to match like colors, even if they were variegated. I was able to finish a couple of small pieces in mottled pink or green. Eventually my stash was down to a kaleidescopic tumble of colors, though, sometimes with no more than half a row’s worth of one hue. I decided to abandon any attempt at control and let chaos be the driving force of my creativity.
These two doilies were the last I was able to crochet from that old tatting thread. In graniteware there are pieces called “end of day” that are swirled and mottled with color, the result of the manufacturer economically using the last of that day’s enamels to coat pots or plates.
I came to think of these doilies in the same way. They’re garish, but I’ve been surprised how well they can work with the right knick-knacks or vases arranged on them. I don’t know what the shoppers at the bazaar in Germany will think of these two.
However, this is what I would like them to know: These doilies were created from old thread passed down from a lady who obviously loved her needlework. I’d like those shoppers to know my co-worker had tears in her eyes as she handed me the threads and books she had seen her mother use over so many years. My co-worker had told me on a couple of occasions that I reminded her of the way her mother devoted herself to her needlecraft; and I know it broke my co-worker’s heart that her mother could no longer do what she loved.
I believe her mother passed away just a few years after I inherited her materials. I never met my friend’s mother, but I’ve continued to think of her whenever I’ve pulled out one of those vintage pattern booklets and definitely while I was stitching these doilies. I offer them in tribute to the woman who had used those materials before me with such devotion and pleasure. And I recall with gratitude that friend 20 years ago who gave me such a wonderful gift.