PieceWork July/August 2016
I seriously cannot imagine traversing the country in a covered wagon. That so many intrepid people did just that, particularly in nineteenth-century America, is simply amazing. What is even more amazing, however, is that so many of the women who embarked on these adventures did so with as much style as they could muster.
One striking image that captures this determination is depicted in the opening photograph of Mary Bush’s article “Making a Home on the Range and Elsewhere along the Pioneer Trail.” Mary relates, “The burden of civilizing the new territory fell mostly to women, who fulfilled the responsibility one tablecloth at a time. A black-and-white photograph in the archives of the Kansas State Historical Society supports this assertion. . . . [a] wife setting the table in preparation for serving her husband his ‘nooner,’ a midday meal of cold breakfast leftovers. . . . In the center of the composition, one small, seemingly insignificant element—a pristine white tablecloth, somewhat askew on the table—bears witness to the woman’s side of the story.” Wow.
There are other stories in this issue devoted to “country living” that illustrate the importance of needlework to those who settled the American West. Yes, much of it produced items of necessity—clothing, bedding, and rugs—but much of it also helped beautify a hard life in a harsh environment. Mary Bush quotes one settler, who poignantly described the making of quilts: “We made them [quilts] as fast as we could so our families wouldn’t freeze and as beautiful as we could so our hearts wouldn’t break.”
This issue also features a trip down memory lane with Diane Kennedy’s article on the hope chest. Will this object from the past make a comeback? I inherited my great-aunt’s hope chest. Although I don’t have items packed away for my trousseau (that ship sailed long ago!), I do use it to store my family embroidered and knitted treasures, including many made by that great-aunt. And on many occasions, I’ve used the chest as a coffee table— works perfectly.
Our cover project, Eileen Lee’s beautiful Rosebud Fingerless Gloves, has a hope chest connection, too. Eileen explains, “When a future bride was collecting items for her hope chest, what other pieces would have been included? Her special dress, of course, and perhaps handknitted rosebud gloves like these that I designed as wedding-day gloves for a bride.” I can just see a bride opening her hope chest and lovingly taking out her gloves in preparation for her wedding day. Sweet.
Tapestry: New and Noteworthy, This issue—A Treasure Trove: The Textiles at Muncaster Castle, Phillipa and Laura Turnbull
The Last Word, Books of interest
A Case of Three Patents: Women and the Decorative Arts, Marilynn Cowgill
Making a Home on the Range and Elsewhere along the Pioneer Trail, Mary Polityka Bush
Hope Chest: The Gift That Starts a Home, Diane Kennedy
A Farmer Crochets: Making Lace with Hands as Big as His Heart, Katherine Durack
Mary Ann Beinecke and the Nantucket Needlery, Anne Vitell
Country Home Textiles in Huron County, Sharlene Young-Bolen
A Hungarian Kalocsa Needle-Lace Heart to Make, Eniko Farkas
Abbreviations & Techniques