"But, really, why does anyone create? You feel a... a restlessness inside, a need to make something new, something no one has ever seen before. You want to add to the beauty and the richness of the world with a gift, an offering that is uniquely yours. It's an act of selfishness and generosity, all rolled into one."

-- Bruce Coville,
The Last Hunt

Friday, October 8, 2010

Needlecraft Magazine 1916-1921, Part I

The other day I remembered some old Needlecraft magazines my Grandma gave me when I first took up tatting.

She told me they had come from either her mother or her grandmother. However, one of the magazines has her Aunt Mertie's (my great-great-aunt) name written on it, so I'm going to guess that she was the one with the subscription. Regardless, they would undoubtedly have been shared around the family; and anyway, to hear Grandma tell it, anything that belonged to Mertie pretty much also belonged to Mertie's mother (Grandma's grandmother, are you keeping up with this?), at least in her own opinion.

There are about nine issues here. I say "about" because several of them are missing a few pages, while there are a few that only have a few pages left. My family keeps everything forever, but our archiving skills leave a bit to be desired. The earliest issue is April 1916 and the latest is January 1921, with a single page also from a 1925 issue.

Every issue has several tatted pieces in it, which I will start showing you just as soon as I quit rambling. There's also a fair amount of crochet, some knitting, embroidery, sewing/ fashion information, and a bit of the kind of heartwarming if somewhat silly short fiction that women's magazines used to publish. Some of the ads are amusing, too. As far as I know, none of my ancestors tatted (and Grandma would have told me if they did). They would have been more interested in the crochet and sewing.

These magazines are all falling apart, so I won't put them on the scanner. Instead, I have taken photos of the interesting bits. Most of it you won't be able to read, but it will show you what was there. There's a lot, so I'm going to break it up into tentatively five posts over the next several days. I'll take the issues in chronological order, though I'll sometimes skip around a bit within an issue.

 So, beginning with April 1916:

Vandyke Border

Baby Slippers. I guess the word "booties" hadn't been coined yet.

Collar. What I'm noticing (and have noticed with other older patterns) is that they had a lot more patience with hiding ends back then than many of us do today.

This is the first paragraph of the collar pattern. Each of the round motifs had some woven needlework in the center, and this paragraph tells you how to do it.

This has nothing to do with tatting. I just laughed at the idea of sewing bags for your lettuce and celery. Then I realized they didn't have crisper drawers back then, so they did what they could.

This snippet was sent in by a reader in the January 1917 issue. I think the first sentence is supposed to describe tatting over tails. The third sentence describes a precursor to the magic thread trick. You would have had to tat pretty loosely to get a crochet hook in there, though.

All of these are in the public domain now, so if you'd like a closer photo of any of the patterns, e-mail me and I'll do my best. It is hard to get a good photo of text, though. Tomorrow I'll post from the December 1918 issue.


  1. ...oooooooh I love treasures like those! How fun!!!

  2. Very interesting history.

    Do you know of Georgia Seitz's collection of public domain needlework books?
    Katie V in Creedmoor NC

  3. If I had to read this type of instruction, I think I would still be crocheting, not tatting! I just do not relate!

    The old magazines are a treat to look at though. Like the Priscillas, but yours have that added personal factor. Nice.
    Fox : )

  4. This magazine is the source of many of my vintage interpretations. I have about 40 issues. Check out "mystery motif" in my blog search box. I don't know how long you've been reading my blog but for nearly a year, I posted the original pattern, no photo, and invited readers to tat them. Then I showed the photo and offered a modern notation. I have several yet to work on and I want to start diagramming them too as so many tatters don't know how to read a pattern. It's a shame to let these go unused!

  5. Fox, yes, I agree. On the one hand, I can read these patterns without too much difficulty because my first patterns were from old Workbaskets, Anne Orr books, and the like. On the other hand, modern notation is so much easier, and I've gotten so used to it! I rarely tat vintage patterns anymore for that reason, and when I do, I usually re-write them in modern notation first.

    Gina, I must have come to your blog after you stopped doing that, but what a fun idea! That would definitely get people to practice reading the old-fashioned notation style.