Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Artful Linen

One by one I removed the linens from the old camelback trunk. The trunk has gotten fuller over the years. Some pieces have been given to me over the years, some are my mothers, some are my grandmothers and some are from other friends and neighbors. Each an heirloom. Each a piece of art.

The tablecloth is small. A primitive animal is embroidered on the corner and other forest designs are roughly stitched. Its origins are a mystery to me. Yet there is something in the sheer crudeness that I find endearing. Was it a small cloth for a child’s table? Did perhaps a young girl create this piece?

The womenfolk did their share of needle work when I was growing up. Not so far removed from the pioneers, it was art handed down from generation to generation, from dowry to dowry, from hope chest to hope chest. A bit of pretty linen was a joy to those who often lead drab lives and could not afford store-bought linens.

I learned to embroider at an early age. In the 60’s it came in handy when decorating my chambray shirt and jeans. When my children were babies, I taught myself to do crewel. It really was easy considering that it was just very large embroidery with very large yarn. Then even later, I learned to needlepoint making Christmas stockings for my children and grandchildren.

Mom loved to crochet frilly trim on handkerchiefs when I was little. She always carried them in her purse. I was always in charge of ironing the hankies. Each time I would admire Mother’s handiwork.

My granddaughter’s wouldn’t understand making doilies or embroidering a pillowcase. However, they love to knit with their mom and love gifts from her. Sometimes we talk about pieces of decorated linen and the artist who created them.

Who will want this artwork at another time? What memories will it hold for the later generations? What understanding of those who made each little stitch will they care to carry on with them?

I guess I don’t know the history of all the pieces. Yet I appreciate the handiwork and would find it hard to part with any of the linen. They are a history of a time, the people, a place called Neff Road.

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