From Museums to Attics: Hidden Treasures

Detail of a beaded evening gown designed by Jean-Philippe Worth, son of prominent late-19th-century Paris designer Charles Fredrick Worth. From the Ellie Laubner Collection at the Allentown (Pennsylvania) Art Museum. Photo by Kathy Augustine.

I, like so many of you, have a small but highly treasured and personal collection of needlework done by my mother, grandmother, and great aunt. Because of this, the November/December issue of PieceWork was especially near and dear for me. It’s all about collecting and collections and about myriad treasure hidden everywhere, from museums to attics, whether located two blocks away or as far away as India. Here are a few highlights from the issue:

• Author Mary Lycan’s search on a historical society’s website resulted in the discovery of Clara Barrows’s mittens, knitted about 1875; she recounts her sleuthing in her article “The Roosters in the Gore: A Connecticut Mitten Mystery in Two Museums.” Her version of one pair of these gloves grace our cover.

• Lily Chin introduces her family’s traditional Chinese baby carrier (mei tai) and provides instructions for knitting your own in “Chinese Silk Baby Carrier to Knit.”

Lily Chin’s stunning knitted baby carrier based on one that was used to carry Lily and her sister Amy when they were infants. It’s shown with a watercolor rendering of one way to use the carrier. Photo by Joe Coca; watercolor drawing by Ann Swanson.

• A reader told us about a small museum on the Greek island of Lefkada that contains numerous embroidered pieces from the 1920s. We asked Mary Bush to find out more; what she discovered is in “Maria Stavraka and the Embroidery of Karya.”

First Lady Ida McKinley crocheted thousands of pairs of these sweet slippers and gave them away to friends, veterans, and orphans, or she sold them to raise money for charity. From the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, Canton, Ohio. Photograph courtesy of the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.

• Reading an out-of-date Lonely Planet travel guide to India set Cynthia Harvey Baker on a quest to locate the “oldest piece of cotton cloth in the world.” She describes her efforts in “The Archaeology of Cotton: A Quest.”

• A young couple of German descent living in the Volga region of the Soviet Union arrived at Ellis Island on August 22, 1922; they eventually settled in Colorado. Their daughter donated a shawl and a quilt to the Loveland Museum/Gallery; Veronica Patterson recounts the family story in “New World, Old Fear: The Story behind a Family’s Shawl and Quilt.”

Laurel Johnson stitching on her kitchen towel. She used the instructions from the October 1926 issue of Needlecraft Magazine. Photo by Joe Coca.

• Many people collect vintage needlework publications, and, through the generosity of some of our readers, PieceWork has its own very nice collection. Mary Dickinson Bird explores how two of these magazines encouraged young girls to learn needlework skills in “Big Lessons from Little Stitches: Needlework Magazines and the Education of Young Girls in the Early Twentieth Century.” And 12-year-old Laurel Johnson stitched a lovely kitchen tea towel, using the instructions in the October 1926 issue of Needlecraft Magazine; they’re included as well.

And there’s much more. I hope you enjoy our look at these “hidden treasures.” You can order your copy of the November/December issue here or subscribe to PieceWork and get a whole year of “hidden treasures.”