"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

Sunday, May 22, 2011


While we were in Boston, my aunt gave me a lovely gift. When she was a teenager (late 60's or early 70's), she cleaned house for an older lady whom my aunt describes as "very Victorian". When the lady died, her granddaughter gave my aunt a box of lace that she had collected over the years. Eventually my aunt realized that she was never going to use it, so she gave it to her daughter (the cousin who got married). My cousin realized that she wasn't going to use it either, so she suggested passing it on to me. I'm not sure what I'll do with it either, but I have a few ideas. Before anything, it all needs to be cleaned up and pressed. I think most of it will be OK to just throw in the wash; the pressing will be more of a pain.

I photographed it in the hotel room in Boston, because I knew that if I tried to do it at home, a certain feline would attempt to take over the process. Sorry some of the pictures are so blurry. My camera's screen is not that great, so I can't always tell when a shot is really awful. I didn't transfer the photos to the computer till I got home, and at that point I didn't feel like dragging everything out again to re-shoot. You can get the idea, though.

As you can see, the box is crammed pretty full. There are edgings, corners, and things to wear. Some are handmade and some are not. I don't really know anything about them, so I'll mostly just show the pictures without much commentary.

As you can see, several of the laces have been cut for one purpose or another, and others have been torn. Mostly they're in pretty good condition, though.

All of the black laces are machine-made, but I really like all of them.

And yes, there is some tatting.

The one at the top is hen and chicks. All of the tatted pieces are rather crumpled, but they are in good condition. I wish it were possible to trace who the tatter was.

Here is a wider fabric, followed by a close-up of the same piece.

Here are a few more wide panels, corners, and fragments.

Someone started to make this one into a collar.

A wide edging and a jabot:

This is a cap made by gathering the wide edging above and sewing the ends together.

There are several more collars and yokes in varying states of disrepair.

Some of these collars are really beautiful and could still be worn if they were cleaned. I especially like this bottom one.

The last one is very large and elaborate and has snaps in various places to hold it in its proper shape. I could only photograph it in small sections at a time, so it's hard to give you a clear idea of how it looks.

This is the front.

This is the back. I don't know about that thing hanging down. It is quite long and seems like it would be pretty annoying, as well as looking, IMHO, very silly.

I honestly don't understand how this bit fits in with the rest of the collar, even having laid the whole thing out and fastened all the snaps. Maybe someday I'll try it on just to see if I can figure it out.

That's it. I didn't photograph every piece, because there are a lot of duplicates. Even in these photos you can see a few duplicates, as well as a couple of pieces that are the same pattern but different sizes. Maybe sometime when Squijum is feeling very sleepy I might take these out again and try to get better photos.

I haven't felt much like tatting lately. I'm starting to get the urge again, so I will hopefully have a tatting post for you sometime soon.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vacation Part 3: Gardens and History

Evidently, by "tomorrow" I really meant "next week". Sorry, I got distracted. Here's the rest of my vacation. It's long.

Tuesday morning, I drove out to Framingham, about half an hour from the northwestern suburb where my cousin lives. There I visited the beautiful Garden in the Woods. This is a lovely place run by the New England Wildflower Society, and is exactly what the name says it is. The plants are cultivated to appear wild; if it weren't for the information signs, you would think you were in a natural wood. Parts of it actually are completely natural, too. The primary goal is to preserve native species of plants that are in danger from habitat loss, over-harvesting, and invasive species. I got there just in time for a guided tour, which I hadn't been planning on but I'm glad I did.

As you can see, the terrain is quite hilly. This is partly due to glacial activity, and partly due to the railroads mining the gravel created by the glaciers. Having such a varied topography allows for a lot of different habitats in a relatively small space.

This place was interesting to me partly because I've never lived in that part of the country (or at least not since age 3), so a lot of the plants that are common in New England are unusual to me. Things as simple as anemones, trilliums, and bleeding hearts, for instance.

Then there were things I was familiar with having grown up in Georgia, but the growing season is of course very different.

At my parents' house the week before, the azaleas and dogwoods were already over, while here they were barely getting started. Not surprising, of course. But the thing that really made me do a double take was the magnolia.

In Georgia, the magnolias are evergreens. I grew up believing that they all were, but it turns out in northern latitudes they shed their leaves like other trees. It was actually a bit of a shock to me to see a perfectly healthy magnolia with no leaves.

In the lower parts of the garden are wetlands, some natural, some created.

 A created lily pond...

... complete with fiddlehead ferns and frogs. There are several other wetlands as well, but I don't have room to show all the pictures.

This tiny little flower is called a trailing arbutus.

It's the state flower of Massachussetts, and is also known as the mayflower. They told me the boat was named after a similar flower back in Europe, and when the pilgrims got to Massachussetts and found this flower, they called it a mayflower as well.

A few more pictures from the garden, and then on to then next thing.

Much as I would have liked to stay and play in the woods all day, there was one other thing I wanted to do. So I drove back to Boston, realized I had left my camera at the gift shop at Garden in the Woods, drove all the way back out to Framingham to get it, and back to Boston again. By this time I had to skip lunch, but at least it was a pretty drive.

Back in Boston, I took a tour of the major historical sites, complete with a guide in 18th century costume. The guide was highly entertaining as well as being very knowledgeable. He kept saying things like, "The British Army's encampment was right about where that Bank of America building is. As you should have gathered by now, the British Army was seen as a hated and oppressive force-- much like the Bank of America today, come to think of it." I don't have time or space to tell you everything, but I'll try to hit the highlights.

The Granary Burying Ground contains the graves of several revolutionaries.

Here lies all of John Hancock except his right hand. You would think that John Hancock, of all people, ought to have managed to sign his will, but somehow he didn't and his widow got nothing. A widow wouldn't have automatically inherited back then unless her husband actually made a will in her favor; I guess he had to vouch for the fact that she was capable of handling money on her own or something. Well, she was so furious that she got her revenge by spreading the word that Hancock had been buried in all of his finest clothes; in short order the grave robbers broke in and stole everything. But (I hope you're not eating), he was so bloated in death that the thieves couldn't get the ring off his right hand, so they cut the whole hand off and carried it away. Presumably they did manage to get the ring off eventually, but the hand was never recovered.

Robert Treat Paine, another signer of the Declaration of Independence and grandfather of the man who owned the house where my cousin got married, is also buried here. Paine was such a gifted lawyer that he rarely ever lost a case. One of the few cases he did lose was when he was prosecuting the soldiers who committed the Boston Massacre. The defense lawyers (one of whom was John Adams) were inexperienced and unknown, and there was really no reason why Paine should have lost this case. Since all the lawyers involved were members of the Sons of Liberty, there is some speculation that they might have conspired to throw the case. If the soldiers had been convicted, the people of Boston would likely have been satisfied; but with an acquittal, they became furious enough to spark the Revolution sooner than it might otherwise have happened. Some people think that this was Paine's plan, though of course this can never be proven one way or the other.

In addition to being the Old City Hall, this is also the original site of the Boston Latin School, the first public school in North America. It was free and anyone could go there; by "anyone", of course, they meant white males whose fathers were landowners. Seems to me that at that time landowners would have been well-to-do enough that they could have sent their sons to private school, so I don't really know what the point was if they weren't really going to educate everybody. Different times. The statue in front is the school's most famous drop-out, Benjamin Franklin. The Latin School still exists, in a new location; today of course it really is open to anybody.

This building was the home of religious leader Ann Hutchinson, who got herself in trouble with the Puritans for thinking independently and encouraging others to do the same. Later it became the site of the Corner Bookstore, which was also a publishing house, publishing the works of Longfellow, Hawthorne, and the American editions of Dickens, among others. It's empty now, but hey, who needs a unique historical bookshop when you have this place right across the street?

Here's the Old North Church, where many pre-Revolution meetings were held, including the one that led to the Boston Tea Party.

This is the first Massachussetts State House building. The balcony is the site of the first reading of the Declaration in Independence in Massachussetts.

The Declaration is still read from the balcony every July 4th. One year, Queen Elizabeth II was in the audience. The state of Massachussetts presented her with a check to cover the cost of the tea that was dumped into the harbor; that check is now in the British Museum. Our guide said, "And I hope they never try to cash it, because we don't have the money now."

Finally, if you're ever in Boston and they ask you, "What flies over Faneuil Hall?" you'd better know the answer, or you could get arrested as a spy and a traitor. It's not a flag.

Grasshopper. Of course.

I would have loved to stay a couple more days, but Wednesday I had to fly home. As soon as I got home, I called to Squijum. After a minute or two, he came out from under the bed, yowled at me, ran over to be petted, yowled, rubbed against my legs and face, yowled some more, and licked my hand while still yowling. When I went to bed that night, he planted himself firmly on top of me to make sure that I would not leave again.

Whew. Thanks for sticking with me this far. The next post will be lacy.