Surround Yourself with History

Long before I studied history or worked in a museum, I loved not only history but also “old things.” My parents would take my brother and me to flea markets, yard sales, thrift shops and country auctions in search of treasures. Sometimes we’d keep these prizes, other times my dad—who auctioneered on the weekends—would sell them. From a young age I was trained to look for certain types of items and patterns. To this day when I go into a thrift shop I do a cursory glance for Fire King mugs and Jewel Tea Autumn Leaf dishes without even thinking about it.

As an adult with my own home, I love to surround myself with history. We have some family heirlooms around the house including a set of buffalo gloves from my husband’s side and old editions of The Wizard of Oz series from mine. We also have items we’ve accumulated over the years from vintage Pyrex in the kitchen to 19th-century surveying equipment on my shelves (I married a mapping enthusiast) and, of course, I have antique weaving and other fiber art/craft equipment throughout my home. My collection includes (but is not limited to) old shuttles, a vintage Singer sewing machine that doubles as my desk, and a Betsey Ross rug shuttle needle, style No. 5. (Why the extra “e” I’m not sure—perhaps the manufacturers thought it made it seem more colonial, like when a restaurant is called Ye Olde Taverne.)

There’s a wonderful feeling of joy whenever I discover some bit of forgotten fiber history for sale. I feel like I’m rescuing these items from a life of neglect or—even worse—a date with the garbage bin. To me it’s more than just the joy of owning a thing, it’s also about preserving these little bits of fiber history. I feel the same sort of joy whenever an out-of-print weaving book comes back on the market. The physical book itself might not be vintage, but the content is very much a part of our collective history.


Cover of Needlecraft magazine from 1930 showing an idealized Czech girl doing embroidery on a hillside.

It should then come as no surprise that I am absolutely in love with these Needlecraft magazine prints featuring covers from 1928, 1928, and 1930. Back before photography on the cover of magazines was the norm, these beautiful illustrations give glimpses into the time when they were published. My favorite is the one from October 1930 which shows a woman in a colorful dress on a hillside with a basket of thread by her side and framed embroidery in her hands. The caption “Czechoslovakia Embroidery” tells us all we need to know about the illustration and lets our imagination make up the rest.


Needlecraft magazine prints

The other covers are equally beautiful and tell their own stories of tradition. Two feature happy little girls doing embroidery alongside their mothers, showing the hope of the editors that the art of embroidery would be just as loved by the next generation. The theme is especially poignant given that those of us doing embroidery today are the next generation of the next generation featured on the cover (or even a generation or two after that). It’s a reminder that when we teach weaving, sewing, knitting, embroidery, and any and all of the fiber arts and crafts we’re helping to create a world where these practices live on.

We celebrate the past to help ensure our future—such a beautiful sentiment. One I’d love to hang on my wall.

Happy Weaving!

Featured Image: Christina’s vintage Betsey Ross shuttle box.

Surround yourself with history!


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