Little Miracles: MJ Stegeby’s “Pond Lily” Altar Cloth Lace

This lace was made by a good friend of mine, MJ Stegeby.  She’d never made lace before, but knew how to crochet.  She and I decided we would make temple altar cloth laces together, our gift to the Lord.  I taught her what thread and hook to use, and she got started on hers while I looked for a pattern for mine.  Her pattern is from the Crocheter’s Treasure Chest, and it’s called “Pond Lily”.

Not long after she started her project, Mary Jo got a bad case of morning sickness. We were elated that she would be expecting, but the side effects were painful as she spent the next nine months fairly seriously under the weather. Still, in the quiet moments, she managed to work on her lace.

Things got harder for them. Her husband lost his job, and they were eventually forced to move to another state as life continued to hit her little family in a big way.

Pond Lily with border

Mary Jo Stegeby’s vintage altar cloth lace pattern: Pond Lily. Donated to the Los Angeles Temple, January 2014

When I renewed my lace efforts with the Los Angeles Temple, and realized what a need there was for new laces to fit their altars, I talked to all the lacemakers I knew in my family and extended family, and I talked to Mary Jo.

Mary Jo reminded me about the altar lace she’d started during those long months of struggle. So many things had gone unexpectedly wrong since then. Despite her best efforts, her gift to the Lord hadn’t gone quite as she’d planned. In addition, sometime in the chaos of moving, the pattern had been lost, and with it the string and the hook.  But, she said, she still had the lace.

She worried that her effort wouldn’t be very useful because it was so small, but we talked it over, and she decided she’d send me what she had. Even though she now lived out of state and had other temples she could send it to, places she could go to see her work on the altar, Mary Jo was firm. She wanted her lace to go in the Los Angeles Temple. She felt it belonged there.

We decided I would take her started lace and go from there, making additional motifs until it was big enough to be usable. I had a copy of her pattern, “Pond Lily” in my pattern collection, but I didn’t know if my stitch size would be different than hers. No two crocheters have the same tension. If my stitching was very different, any new motifs I made would not match. Given the situation, and the need the temple had, I decided to give it a try anyway.

When the lace arrived in the mail, it was beautiful,  very small, and definitely unfinished.  I measured it roughly and checked my list of altar sizes– I was amazed. Her “Pond Lily” lace appeared to be the right size for the smallest altar in the Los Angeles Temple, an altar that needed a piece of lace, badly.

The lace hadn’t been washed yet.  Washing shrinks the cotton thread by one inch in twenty.  It also hadn’t been blocked.  Blocking stretches the lace to make the holes uniform and gives the piece a finished, completed look, that holds its shape and allows the lace to drape nicely.

I began the process of preparing the lace for the altar, first shrinking, then blocking, hoping it would really fit. When it was done, I measured it again. The lace matched the altar to the inch in both directions– without a single additional motif.

I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to tell her about how perfect it was, and thank her. What a wonderful gift!  I edged the piece with a simple Irish edging to honor Mary Jo’s Scotch-Irish heritage, snapped a few pictures for her family, and brought her beautiful lace to the temple. Her gift to the Lord now sits on that delicate altar.

Little miracles.

"Pond Lily" lace: blocked with border

Little miracles. “Pond Lily” lace: blocked with border, just the right size.

Denver Temple Altar Cloth Lace

Lace for the Lord: Donated to the Denver Temple

Lace for the Lord: Handmade lace donated to the Denver Temple

I like to feature the laces of other LDS lacemakers.  This altar cloth lace was made by my mother-in-law, Mary Rockwood. It’s from a vintage pattern called “Grand Reception”.  These are the pictures she sent me of it just before she gave it to her temple in Denver, Colorado. It turned out beautifully.

Lace worked in size 20 thread from vintage pattern title:  Grand Reception

Altar Cloth Lace worked in size 20 thread from vintage pattern title: Grand Reception

 

Here I Raise My Ebenezer– Hither by thy help I’m come

My Ebenezer project was named after I became fascinated a few years ago with the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, sung by the BYU Choir during the time I was at BYU.  Many of the singers in this choir were classmates and members of my ward during that time.  This is my all time favorite performance of this hymn, but I never understood the line:

“Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come”

until I read about it in Samuel.

1 Samuel 4-7

The Israelites went against the Philistines in battle, but because some of the Israelites had fallen into wickedness and begun following false gods, the Lord was not with them. With only their own strength, the battle was sorely lost. Thirty thousand Israelites were slaughtered and the Philistines took their land and many cities as well as the ark of the covenant.

Twenty years later with the prophet Samuel, the Israelites were once again fully repentant and ready to come again against the Philistines, this time in the strength of the Lord. The Israelites were victorious over the Philistines with the miraculous help of the Lord, and won back their lands and cities in the same place they had lost them twenty years earlier. As a reminder of the great victory God gave to Israel, Samuel took a great stone and raised it as a memorial “between Mizpeh and Shen.” As he raised it he “called the name of it Ebenezer [or stone of help], saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). Whenever the Israelites looked at the stone, they would remember that strength of the Lord in their lives. (for more, see Music and the Spoken Word,)

In my life, I traveled a similar road as Samuel and his people, only I wasn’t going to war, I was building my family.  Like Samuel, I came upon a difficult place, and lost, tragically.  This time, as I’ve come upon the same place, I have the strength of the Lord, helping me through.  What better name for lace, symbolic of such great blessings?  I put my faith, my trust, my all, on that altar.  This gift of the heart is a monument to remember His help in my life.

 

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
I’ll praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home

Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above

Designing the Ebenezer Project

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The Ebenezer project.  It’s probably the most complicated, and the most beautiful lace I’ve ever made.  It also has a lot of meaning to me.  The four blossoms in the center of each motif are for my children, and the path that brought them to me.

The blossoms are Linnaea Borealis (twinflower) blossoms, named by Carl Linnaeus.  They are tiny white and pink ground flowers that grow in alpine areas.  Carl Linnaeus often had his portrait painted with a sprig of Linnaea Borealis somewhere in the painting.  It is a symbol of humility because of the quiet unassuming way it grows along the ground.  As I designed this lace for the Los Angeles Temple, I thought a lot about my life, and the blessings I’ve had.  This lace symbolizes those blessings, and the path that got me through some of the hardest things of my life.

It is my second altar cloth for the Los Angeles temple, but the first that I designed myself, based loosely on a vintage pattern called “Valentine”.  It took me four months to complete, working sometimes 8 hours a day.  It’s truly a labor of love, and a gift from me to the Lord.

Ebenezer Lace Corner Detail

 

IMG_20140403_120412568This is the corner detail of my Ebenezer Lace project. It is an original design, in size 40 thread. I worked the border blossoms with the roll stitch across the center of each blossom, and clones knots sprinkled throughout like baby’s breath.

The roll stitch is famous in my husband’s family because his grandmother Lillie Lang Robison used it extensively in her original lace designs that were passed to her posterity.

The clones knots are to honor my grandma Celinda Jane Olson’s Irish heritage. She was the first lacemaker I knew in my line.

These heavier stitches and knots also serve to weigh the border down a bit as the lace hangs over the altar.  The thread weight is so light, I didn’t want it to curl.

 

Reviving a Lost Art

IMG_20140408_163933“I consider lace to be one of the prettiest imitations ever made of the fantasy of nature; lace always evokes for me those incomparable designs which the branches and leaves of trees embroider across the sky, and I do not think that any invention of the human spirit could have a more graceful or precise origin.”
–Coco Chanel, April 29, 1939