Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Tribute

Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor those who have passed on, to think of them and their contributions to our lives, our world. Many people automatically think of the war dead, but that's what Veteran's Day is about, to honor the military. Memorial Day is about everyone.

I've been wanting to do this for a long time and even had most of the photos downloaded last week but needed to take one more - which I've finally accomplished. Today, I'm honoring a tatter.

Hi Gina, ..... My mother at 94 yrs. old just passed away last week. She was into sewing most of her life and started with making a quilt, with her mother, at a very young age. Through the years she was always sewing something. She tatted, cross stitched, embroidery, quilting, knitting, crochet and what ever else there was, she did. Her work was outstanding. Now I have boxes of supplies that I just can't throw away and I know someone who is into this would love to have it all.

I got this email in early January and nearly deleted it before reading because I didn't know the name and the subject line said, "can't throw away". I'm glad I chose to open it instead.

A. Jane Smith was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but her daughter didn't know I was in Indiana when she wrote to me. The picture above was her retirement party after working in a New Jersey jewelry store for 20 years.

I wonder if she ever tatted jewelry?

This is a photo of mother and daughter in 1949. I was born in 1949 too and this old black and white photo reminded me of my own family history and the people in it. I have these photos because I asked Roganne for some history on her mother. So often we get piece of tatting or shuttles or thread from unknown sources and wonder about the hands that worked them. The beautiful apron I posted about recently is an example. I wanted to know who this dear woman was who spent so many years enjoying her craft.

She also sent me many scans and photographs of her mother's work. I think you'll recognize some of the patterns as you look at them.

While Roganne had no memory of her mother actually selling her tatted work, there were samples like this that suggested she did at some point. There was a sheet of black scrapbook paper with other samples and prices that were included in the items she sent me. I posted about it here.

Here are more samples of tatting on fabric. These are quite elaborate so I wondered if they were actually for hankies.

Roganne said her mother tatted a tablecloth too but it had been sold at an auction long before.

It was apparent she tatted on a lot of hankies. There were nearly 2 dozen hankies in the box I received waiting to be tatted on. She was extremely organized. The hankies were in baggies and marked by size, 9 1/2 inches, 10 inches, 10 1/2 inches.

She marked her shuttles too. She taped a label on the shuttle with whatever size thread was wound on it. One shuttle has a tiny tiny ring taped on it. I don't know what size thread it is but it's very fine.

Her daughter sent me several scans of pieces she found as she was going through her mother's things. It looks like she tatted samples up and attached them to paper for reference.

Most of the thread was small size 70/80 thread and she used a lot of color, but largely pinks and lavendars and blues, pastels.

The bigger balls of thread however were the traditional white and ecru and I suspect she used the color mostly for hanky edgings and the ecru and white for everything else.

Roganne kept things made for her and that had special meaning to her. She was not interested in learning how to do needlework herself and leaned towards gardening and landscaping but she has a healthy appreciation for all things handmade.

Jane Smith sewed extensively too, making slipcovers, household items, family clothing, and novelties. She made this doll for her daughter in 1982. I remember similar patterns in Woman's Day and made a baby doll like this for my daughter in 1970.
This clown was made in 1992 when she was in her late 70's. Roganne said she never stopped tatting so I think needlework must be very good for the health.

Roganne asked me if I knew what these were. I know it is chicken scratch embroidery and I'm guessing these are samples or possibly UFO's that were never completed - like an apron or runner or bag.
She certainly wasn't afraid of color!

Here's a cross stitch project exquisitely stitched. Jane also quilted and I know I had a photo of a jacket she completed but I cannot find it in my emails. It was also beautiful work and I wish I knew where I saved it.

And this is what I got from her. The box actually used to hold Jane's sewing supplies but Roganne put the tatting in it for me. It's quite old but I can't find any identifying marks to give me an idea of where it's from.

Jane was born early enough in the century that tatting was just becoming very popular when she started. I imagine her as a contemporary of Myrtle Hamilton, Monica Hahn, and Dora Young. Think of how exciting it was to learn of those new techniques then that we have taken and run with, creating even more new ways to tat. I don't know if Jane knew the split ring or split chain, but she was a polished tatter and her needlework skills in all areas are those of a master.

I am especially grateful to her daughter, Roganne, for offering me these memories and caring enough about her mother's work that she couldn't "just throw away" or put it in a garage sale or give to goodwill. I'm grateful she took the time to find someone who cares and respects tatting enough to take her belongings and care for them as if they were her own.


  1. That is a wonderful gift.

  2. That box is beautiful! I'm so glad all that tatting stuff went to such a good home. What a lovely post.

    I remember each memorial day my Mother (who has passed on) would load up her beautiful Iris bouquets from the garden and we would take them up to her parents' graves. It was a sweet memory that I have. She did this faithfully!

  3. This is a beautiful story and a fitting tribute. I am thankful that Jane's daughter recognized someone who would truly appreciate her mother's things.

    By the way, I am enjoying reading your blog. I am in southern Indiana.

  4. Roganne certainly gave you a lovely gift of her mother's tatting things, but you have just given her a precious gift, too -- honoring and spreading the word about her talented mother. What a wonderful post, and so enjoyable, too!

  5. What an interesting post. Thanks for telling us all the story.

  6. What a lovely story! So many lovely memories these pieces of tatting hold. I'm happy Jane found you. What a special gift she has given you.

  7. What a nice daughter to take the time to find a caring home for her mom's things! And what a nice post about her mom! Thanks for sharing what you've learned about Jane.

  8. How wonderful to receive this stash. What a great daughter to find a good home for her mother's stuff.

  9. This post was heartwarming. Thank you, Gina, for sharing this story with us all. Fox : )

  10. What an AWESOME post! How special to have received these items and even more special to honor Jane in this way. I love all the photos and the work...this is just amazing! I am so glad this all went to you and didn't end up in a garage sale.


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