Past is prologue

I’m working on a project right now …


I’d call it a commission, but as I have declined any monetary compensation, it is better considered a gift.
The full story will be told later, but this is the back story of its making (quite literally, as this is indeed the back) …


I am stitching eyelet initials on a vintage handkerchief, which is most likely linen. Originally I was attempting to stitch the initials in an imitation of the font on a wedding invitation, but the results looked amateurish. I tried and tried with every fiber in my cloth pantry: fine linen thread, cotton floss, plied silk untwisted into a single strand. I tried split backstitch and plain backstitch. I tried different fonts. Nada.
It had everything to do with the handkerchief. So after a design consult with my oldest daughter, I decided to go back to my colonial marking stitch roots and headed out to stock up on supplies. Seeking the finest silk possible, I asked for direction from a helpful employee at Needleworks in Austin. Peering at the proffered handkerchief she opined “70 count?”
“Probably,” I replied (while making a mental note to check the count later) and then went on to select four silks and three needles to try …


The John James needles, usually my go-to needles of choice, were quickly eliminated. Likewise the first three silks, of which one was too white, another too fuzzy, the third too heavy. The last silk tried was best, hugging the gossamer strands of the (confirmed) 80-count handkerchief. Even so, the crossed stitches sat too high on the cloth.
And so, eyelets … each composed of eight stitches … each stitch ideally worked over three gossamer strands of the handkerchief … or two, or four (it’s hard to tell sometimes) …


The camera focus shuddered on this last image, moving in and out, much as my eyes do while working. Thank goodness I’m as near-sighted as I am. Even so, I can’t work more than a few hours at a time. I’m on day four or five at this point.
All this (and the full story yet to be told) awakened me this morning with a thought. So I pulled out the wicker basket in the back of our closet, dug down to the bottom, and unfolded a sheet-wrapped bundle to try this on …


I can honestly say I weigh the same as in 1977, but these days the zipper couldn’t possibly be closed without tearing something. Sadly, gravity and childbearing seem to have moved significant portions of my anatomy south.

So I’ll leave you with this vintage image instead …

and a promise to tell more of how this project came to be … later, when it is done.

16 thoughts on “Past is prologue

  1. wow such lovely fine work, doesn't it make you marvel at all those historic pieces in museums made before electric light but by young eyes i think. A little at a time is a good eyedea! Take care.


  2. Louise – once upon a time I actually needle-worked at the living history museum in Williamsburg, so I have first-hand experience with the challenges of stitching without modern day electrical lighting. If you're intrigued, you can follow the marking stitch link in the post to learn a bit more.


  3. Good gravy, my eyes hurt just reading about this project. Your eye for and commitment to detail is amazing. Sweet photo of the two of you. Nothing about my dress would fit anymore, sigh.


  4. Oh, Liz, what a sweet post. You and Don have not changed a bit – SMILE! Looking forward to hearing the story connected with this precious cloth.


  5. Hazel – when I used to work at Colonial Williamsburg I would tell onlookers that it was as much about a sense of touch as a sense of sight Sue – well now, there is the minor matter of Don’s beard … ha!


  6. Wow! 80 count! There is no way my eyes, patience or 'feel' (as you say) could tackle that! I continue to wonder how Jude can split a single strand. A marvel. This photo is charming and brings back memories of my 1979 wedding day in what I call my \”Little House days\” calico wedding dress, which no part of me could fit into. Every now and then I wonder what the heck I should do with that dress!


  7. Nancy – whatever you do, please don't let your wedding dress go. There will be something it calls to be a part of someday. I do wish mine had been calico rather than the synthetic whatever that it is. And sadly, though I remember trying on my mom's wedding gown (which in no way fit), I have no idea what happened to it after that.


  8. Liz~ It is so funny…all I can see right now is STUFF and I want it gone. I was so tiny on 7-7-79, and no one in my family is anything close to Little House Days…I just don't need the dress. I would love to donate it to someplace that would use it, even though the collar is a bit faded after all these years. All of this makes me chuckle because now, in my later years I am loosing my sense of sentimentality for my need of simple. Perhaps I'll show a picture of it. xo


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