Needlework: Bridging Generations

A note from Kathleen: The November/December 2012 issue of PieceWork magazine is almost ready to go, and it's a great one. For this history buff, it's a treasure of lost stories brought back to life through needlework connections to the past. Here's editor Jeane Hutchins to tell you more.

The gorgeous cutwork tablecloth started by Nell Znamierowski in Poland and finished after she arrived in the United States. Photo by Joe Coca.
Hazel Carter's delightful Essy Pattle Stole that tells the story of Shetland's Cinderella. Photo by Joe Coca.

A New Issue of PieceWork

For the September/October 1996 issue of PieceWork, eleven contributors shared the personal stories of relatives who had arrived in the United States via Ellis Island. They also shared the treasures that arrived with those relatives: a cutwork tablecloth, a boy's outfit, quilts, a teddy bear, family photographs, trousseau articles, a table runner with filet-lace inserts. Both of PieceWork's previous editors, Veronica Patterson and Deborah Cannarella, worked on that special issue.

Like that one, this issue turns to the stories of people from many cultures who immigrated to the United States and brought their needlework traditions with them. Veronica Patterson sums up the experiences of many of them in her article "A Beloved Part of a Life That Was Lost": "[F]or many who came to this country as immigrants, the few pieces of cloth that they brought with them became a bridge between the old life and the new."

Nancy Bush's lace sampler incorporates ten different patterns used in the lace knitting of Haapsalu, Estonia. The magazines in the background were published by and for Estonians in exile following World War II. Photo by Joe Coca.

Several of the articles touch on something that I had never really thought about before, the importance of dime stores in the lives of some immigrant women. In "After Ellis Island", Nell Znamierowski writes, "In the 1930s, my mother was going to English-language classes. As she began to read and comprehend English, a whole new world of exploration opened up, and it started in that marvelous American innovation, the five-and-dime store. The concept of walking around unattended, looking at merchandise, perhaps picking up an object to examine it more closely, was not common in Europe. . . . Mother knew every inch of each store, starting with the displays of dishes and kitchen utensils that she bought for her new home, but it was the embroidery and sewing counters that became her favorites."

From the early decades of the twentieth century to the 1990s, Woolworth's, Newberry's, Kresge's, and the rest were a fixture in American life. All are gone now.

Discover glorious textiles from Norway, Africa, Ukraine, Poland, and Wales. Meet master lace knitter Hazel Carter and the women who started an Estonian-language magazine for Estonian women and families in exile. Hazel shares her instructions for the delightful Essy Pattle (Cinderella) Stole. All lovers of Estonian lace knitting will be enthralled with Nancy Bush's Lace Sampler with ten motifs used in lace knitting from Haapsalu.

Delve into the needlework your ancestors may have brought to this country in PieceWork's November/December 2013 issue!

Every issue of PieceWork magazine is full of intriguing knitting techniques and fascinating  articles. Subscribe now so you don't miss anything!

Best wishes,

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