Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dream-Catchers and Old Lace

A lace handkerchief once belonging to the Nicholsons of  Threshold Girl. The dark pin is Margaret's mothers, as it contains a picture of John McLeod. The other two pins, I have been told, are pins for kilts. The framed picture is Young Margaret, and the silver item at right is an ink well and pen. Yikes! I saw an advert in the 1909 Gazette for Christmas Handkerchiefs, costing from 2.00 to 25.00 for Irish lace. Nothing to sneeze at! Hmm. Maybe this one is worth a fortune. Antiques Roadshow, here I come.

Yesterday I went through a pile of 'old lace' and table linens once belonging to the Nicholsons, and put many on display in my home. My mother-in-law, who likely inherited them at Edith and Flora's death (or perhaps her own mother's death) kept them rolled up and hidden away for decades.

A few months ago, I took a long lace collar and draped it over an antique mirror in my bedroom. A few weeks later, I watched the movie Young Victoria for the first time and there's a scene in her boudoir where you can see a piece of lace is draped over her dressing table mirror. "How clever of me," I thought, to have done the same.

Yesterday, I took some lace doilies, in many different patterns and safety-pinned them together and pinned them up on a wall over the bed in the spare bedrooom which is turning into my 'office' as it is the only room in my house that has direct sunlight.

I write on my laptop, lying on my bed, listening to BBC Radio Four on the other computer my husband set up for me.

My mother- in-law kept this particular handkerchief in a separate box from the other antique linens, in her dressing table drawer, (also a Nicholson 'memento' and also in my office, here) so I suspect it is a special piece.

Now, on this blog  I often talk about the Nicholson girls of Threshold Girl as being deskilled, and compared to their mother, born in 1854, they certainly were.

But they could still do embroidery and lacework. I believe I read that Edith, the intellectual, was the best at this homely art. So these doilies, pictured at bottom, were likely stitched (what is the term for lace, pieced?) by the Nicholson girls.

BCC Radio Four featured a mini series of a few years ago the History of Private Life which I found fascinating. The narrator/author of the series, Amanda Vickery, said that women learned embroidery as a mate-catching tool....Now we all know that few men appreciate the beauty of lace (my husband has been very quiet about my recent home-decorating splurge) And embroidery isn't a practical skill.

So why did lace-making maidens attract the men? Well, any woman with the time to make lace or embroidery was obviously well-to-do. And any rich woman with the inclination to waste her hours in this manner (my words) was going to be a passive easy-to-please mate.

Tomorrow, I think, I am going to take the old Nicholson hot iron I am using as doorstop and heat it on the BBQ (if my husband will fire it up for me, as I don't do that kind of thing) and try to press one of the linen table mats (a not very good one)as an experiment.

And then I'll cook something from Marion's 1912 copy of the Fannie Farmer Cook Book. Scones, I think. Maybe on the BBQ too.

Since I cannot sew at all, I'll never be able to make a shirtwaist, although patterns exist on the web. But I can do something very 1910's. I can WALK to the mailbox 1/2 kilometer away. (No, not THAT! Anything but that. I'll even learn to sew.)

The lace on the wall. It's dark and rainy outside, so this lace doesn't show up well, But these are very very delicate pieces, of little practical use. I probably should mount them on a bright background. You know, the native people have 'dream-catchers' that are very similar. 

So these are dream-catchers of another kind, embroidered by women hoping for husbands... They are also mandala-like. Hmm. Maybe there's more to this 'frivolous' female activity than meets the eye.
Must ask Clarissa Pinkolas Estes. (I wonder what Edith would have thought of Women who Run with the Wolves.)