This altar cloth was handmade by my Aunt Janetta. Crocheted with size 20 DMC Cordonnet lace thread and her grandmother’s heritage hook, it was a labor of love and took nearly two years to finish. It is beautiful! It has the clones knot from our family heritage sprinkled throughout the design. Janetta was able to finish this altar cloth just before the dedication of the Payson Temple, June 7th, 2015.
My daughter Lily is learning to make lace. She has made a few things with yarn in crochet, but she was new to thread. I started up a lacemaker class here locally this week, and she began attending. This is her first lace attempt, a snowflake! This snowflake took two tries to get right. The second time through the pattern only took an hour. She used size 10 thread and a size one Boye steel hook. When it was washed, shrunken, stretched and dry, it really looked beautiful. Lily wants to eventually make altar lace. She’s only 14 right now, but the amazing thing is that altar lace isn’t much different than a bunch of snowflakes, attached together. Once her stitching becomes even, she’ll be ready to make altar lace. Patterns don’t have to be complicated to be beautiful and meaningful.
This roll-stitch snowflake is an original design and incorporates Irish clones knots between the branches. It was made in size 100 thread with a size 24 Tulip brand hook. I made this just to see if I could make the roll-stitch in this size thread, and have used it in my classes to show the skill the old lacemakers had. Size 100 thread is the smallest I’ve found. It worked! Each roll has 21 wraps. The finished snowflake is 3.5 inches across.
There are three rows:
First row, chain stitch a length a few inches longer than the pillowcase you want to edge.
Second row, skip 7 chains of the row you just finished. Double crochet in the next chain. Chain two, skip two chains of the foundation row, double crochet. Repeat across to the end.
Third row, chain one, turn. Seven double crochets in the next double crochet from the previous row. Single crochet in the next double crochet, scallop made. Repeat to the end.
There is a slight difference between the scallop style of the pillowcase picture and the scallop picture above. If you prefer more of a pointed scallop, try this simple alternative:
Alternative pointed scallop for third row– three double crochets in the next double crochet from the previous row, chain two, three more double crochets in the same stitch. Single crochet in the next double crochet, scallop made. Repeat to the end.
I had an opportunity recently to visit with my aunt, Janetta Wells. She is a lacemaker from Payson, Utah, and is currently making an altar lace for the new Payson Temple that will be dedicated June 7, 2015. She told me the story of her lace and why it was special to her.
My Aunt Janetta has lived her whole married life in Payson, Utah, in the same modest house, and raised all 12 of her beautiful children there. When she heard the announcement that they were going to build a temple, just down the street from her house, she was thrilled.
My mother had seen me making lace for various temples, and knew Janetta had made numerous doilies in her life. She asked, “So Janetta, are you going to make an altar cloth for the Payson Temple?” The thought had never occurred to my aunt, but as soon as the words were said, she knew she would, wanted to, she had to. And, she knew she would use great-grandma Ada’s hook to do it.
One of the things Aunt Janetta has from her great grandmother, Ada Christensen Almond, is her lace hook. It’s a vintage Hero brand hook, size nine, made in England. We aren’t sure how old the hook is, or where grandma got it, but it was passed down to her after grandma Ada died, and Janetta treasures it.
Grandma Ada lived a lot of her life in Downey, Idaho. My mother visited her in 1973. She told my mother stories and recited poetry from memory:
“Grandma Ada Christensen Almond had a sharp memory and was kind and patient even though she was confined to her bed and probably had aches and pains. We had a memorable visit and I am glad I got to know her. She later crocheted a baby blanket for me when Angela was born.”
That baby blanket was for me, she died before I knew her, but I still have it. It’s one of the things I treasure from my heritage. In the beautiful white yarn are woven her sparkling silver hairs every so often. It’s a treasure.
These are some memories from her life history–
“The earliest I remember was living on the homestead in Newton, Utah, and seeing my father walk out into the grain field with the grain as tall as he was. And then the Indians coming to glean the grain after the harvest. They would camp down by the stacks and glean every head of wheat that the binder or the thresher left and they were always friendly and father and mother treated them kindly.”
“Then I remember the fields of flowers. The field below the house would be golden yellow with buttercups and tulips and some parts blue with bluebells and larkspurs, and red with Indian Paintbrush. I remember how we loved to gather the beautiful flowers and fill every possible container. It was spring and flowers were blooming and we would each have our favorite stick to dig the segos and take them home to have creamy milk on them. We thought they were delicious.”
“On the farm it was a constant battle with rabbits, squirrels and frost. Then came the depression and we finally turned it to the Mortgage Company. It was a battle, and we lost, or did we? We gained experience. Then we lived in our house west of Downey where our family grew up, it was a long walk to school for the children and for us to get to church, but usually we made it. After walking a mile or so to the church carrying a baby, it was not so easy to stand and teach a class, but those were good years, struggling to meet the problems as they came. There have been some struggles and problems, as most folks have in raising a large family. The joys in their joys and then accomplishments, which we think are many. The sorrows we have had when tragedy came. I am thankful for the many blessings that come each day.” (they had ten children)
Grandma Almond lived to the age of 95.
My aunt chose a pattern from my library featuring a design reminiscent of blooming wildflowers, perhaps sunflowers, or four sprigs of the wild Indian Paintbrush of grandma Ada’s youth. It’s a visual pattern from Ondori. The text is in Japanese, but you don’t need to read Japanese to use it, the crochet symbols on the pattern are universal.
An interesting thing about this design was the modification we made to set the square on diagonal. The original pattern calls for the motifs to be set flat on an edge:
We liked it better set on diagonal, so we modified it just a bit. I like the modification. When she adds the edge, it will be a slightly different edge as well. I’m looking forward to seeing the final project. So beautiful!
From the Ada Christensen Almond History:
MEMORIES OF GRANDMA ALMOND
Grandma Ada Almond was loved very much by her children and grandchildren. She was always fun to visit. Everyone loved to hear her recite her poetry that she had memorized. It seems she had reams of poetry all memorized–very long standard and classical poems. However, one of them we all liked best, especially after SHE was old was:
YOU SAY THAT I AM GROWING OLD
You say that I am growing old; I tell you that’s not so.
The house I live in is worn out, this, of course, I know.
It’s been in use a long, long while; it’s weathered many a gale
I’m not surprised that you think it’s getting rather frail.
The color of the roof is changing, the windows are growing dim,
The walls are sort of transparent, and getting kind of thin.
The foundation is not as steady as once it used to be.
My house is getting shaky, but my house is not me.
These few long years can’t make me old; I feel I’m in my youth.
Eternity lies just ahead–a life of joy and truth.
We’re going to live forever there, as life will go on–it’s grand.
You say that I am getting old? You just don’t understand.
The dweller in this little house is young and bright, I say,
Just waiting in this little house to last through every day.
You only see the outside, which is all that most folks do.
But listen, friend, to what I say, and you can understand too.
You say that I am growing old? Oh, no, I’m not, you see!
Just stop and think about it dear, You’ve mixed my house with me.
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
– William Martin
Yesterday the kids and I went to the stables where my daughter works with a few horses on a volunteer basis. She spent a good chunk of this summer training with my sister. For her, horses are freedom.
My two littlest kids love “the horse place”. They watched the goats, climbed on the rocks and had more fun in the dirt and sticks than you’d think possible.
The other day I had the joy of watching a child who is dear to us as he struggled to smile. It’s an effort that for most is simple, but for him has been a journey fit for a novel.
There is something true in the healing, nurturing power of simple things. All of us have a little trauma to overcome in some degree or another. That’s the nature of life in this imperfect space. It’s the simple things that give us wings. Flight is in our nature. Being who we are, we can’t help but fly.
And that, is extraordinary.
I found this in an old box in the garage, full of lacy bits and memories. I showed it to my husband. “Do you know what this is? It’s the handkerchief I made for the Mount Timpanogos Temple dedication.” So many memories attached to this lace.
The Timpanogos Temple was the first temple we’d ever had the opportunity to see built and dedicated. At the time, we were newly married, and students at BYU– barely scraping by on 500.00 a month part-time income. We lived next door to Mirla Thayne, who wrote the children’s hymn, “I Wonder When He Comes Again”. It was about a year before she died.
I also worked, but from home, caring for our upstairs neighbor with Alzheimer’s. Clyde. I’ll never forget Clyde, he was a character, and as innocent as the four year olds in my Sunbeam class. Oh the adventures we had with him– once we found all his clothes neatly hanging from the front door. He’d mistaken it for the bathroom door, and by the time he got out of the house, forgot he was going to take a shower, and figured it was time for a walk. Off he went, and after him I ran. That job carried our rent, and Troy’s income paid for everything else. My mind can hardly wrap around those meager figures looking back, but Troy, who keeps everything, still has the pay stubs to prove it.
There’s a part near the end of every temple dedication that requires a clean, white, handkerchief. I didn’t have one. I looked at the budget. No help there. I wanted to make something special for the temple dedication rather than just order something I didn’t have money for anyway, so I bought thread, a hook, and a book of lace edging patterns with my meager budget instead. I began working the simplest pattern possible. I was nervous, but too new at this sort of thing to be daunted. Though I had seen others do it, this was my very first experience making lace.
After a few false starts, I began to get the hang of the smaller thread, and the lace started looking like something. When I finished, I was so proud of my work, I had no idea how rough and primitive it was. I only saw beauty, and it was beautiful.Later, my mother-in-law sent me a few other temple handkerchiefs, finer in detail, and smaller in thread. The difference, rather than discouraging me, inspired me, and my interest in laces grew.
That was October 1996. Less than four years later, we’d graduated from BYU and moved to the east coast with Troy’s first job at BBN Technologies in Boston. We watched and participated with interest as the Boston Temple took shape. We lived in Waltham, Marlborough, and then Billerica, where I started and finished my first altar cloth. In October 2000, I attended my second temple dedication–this time for the Boston Temple.
There’s something of yourself that gets put in things that you work hard for. I don’t know which of my several lace handkerchiefs I used for that dedication, but I’ll never forget my first. I still can’t make a size 80 tatted handkerchief edging, but there’s always room to grow.
Of all the laces, bonnets, blankets, and edgings I’ve made over my life, I’m tickled to realize that even my very first, was for the love of the temple.
In November, 2011, my brother Shaun and his wife Katie were expecting a baby, their second. We were all excited to see their little family growing. Somewhere along the line something happened, and we got the news that Katie had gone into premature labor. She was 21 weeks along when baby Elizabeth was born. She was so small, she did not survive the birth.
Elizabeth’s birth caught all of us by surprise. Her passing was even more of a shock. My Carolyn had passed away just three years earlier. Elizabeth’s passing reminded me in so many ways of my own experiences not so long before. My heart went out to Katie especially. Though I don’t live near the rest of my family, I knew I had to do something to help.
I am one of ten brothers and sisters, and we are all close. As soon as word got around about what was happening, everyone sprang into action, meals, babysitting, anything and everything that could be done was done. Being isolated from everyone during this time was hard, but as I sat and pondered what I could do, I thought about my lace. Elizabeth’s funeral was to be in just a few days. I had less than a week. What was needed? What could I do? How could I help?
California law at that time categorized children who died before 20 weeks as miscarriages, and after 20 weeks as stillborn. Elizabeth was stillborn. The state issued a death certificate, and added a bit of formality to this little life. She was given a name and a blessing, but instead of preparing for her life, we prepared for her funeral.
My eyes rested on a baby bonnet I’d made recently. It was my second bonnet, and it was beautiful, but it turned out too small for any baby I knew. As I looked at it, I thought of Elizabeth, and how she, being so young, was very, very small. An idea began to form.
Troy’s mother was in town with me, and we came up with an idea. I showed Mary the baby bonnet, she had the same thought I did. It could be for Elizabeth.
I’d made blessing dresses and other things for larger, full term babies, but for this tiny preemie, I had no idea what size to make things. I decided to just start, and as I did, ideas came. My brother Shaun was making the tiny casket. My mother and sister worked on the inside, lining it with some of my sister’s wedding dress material. What would a baby that small wear for burial? My mother supposed they’d just wrap her in a blanket. She was so small, too small for anything else. Most doll clothes were too bright and rough cut to be appropriate for such a special purpose. There were resources online, but there was not enough time to order something. Besides, we wanted it to be more personal than that.
We had a bonnet, and we wanted a dress to match. After some searching, we found a simple white slip for a doll dress we hoped would work. I modified it with a large enclosure on the back and tailored the dress to the size described by one of my sisters who had seen Lizzie at birth– her head was the size of a woman’s closed fist, and her shoulders were smaller across than the width of her mother’s hand. My heart ached visualizing that scene. How could anyone be so tiny?
Everything we put together, we made adjustable for size. I’d never made baby clothes so delicate before, but the dress turned out beautifully. I added tiny thread crochet lace for the sleeves and collar to match the bonnet, and made the waist adjustable with a matching pink ribbon.
Mary and I cut two fingers from a child-size white knit glove, and edged them with lace for foot coverings. Mary and I both worked on Lizzie’s blanket. It was lacy, like an altar cloth, but with a pink flannel layer underneath to protect her delicate skin. We threaded a pink ribbon through the bonnet edge to make it adjustable for Lizzie’s little head.
Mary Jo Stegeby, another lacemaking friend of mine, came over and embroidered Elizabeth’s name and date on the corner of the blanket. Mary Jo and I had both suffered the pain of childlessness, we knew loss, and how much the care of others meant to us when we went through those times. This work had our hearts in it.
Everything was so small, and so beautiful. Because of other issues, the lace we made wasn’t used in the actual burial, but my sister has it wrapped in a special box, as a keepsake of hers. Elizabeth’s life was so short, and she came so unexpectedly, Katie has few things of hers to remember her by. Our work was a gift she treasures and keeps, until they meet again– a reminder of the promise that this baby is hers, loved, eternal, and death doesn’t last forever.
For Elizabeth’s graveside service, my mother wrote and sang this modified version of “I Wonder When He Comes Again” by Mirla Greenwood Thayne. She writes:
“When we were preparing for Katie’s and Shaun’s graveside service for baby Elizabeth, I looked and looked for a hymn or primary song that talked about the resurrection of little children. There are none, except for one hymn on page 299 that came close, but the tune and words were very unsatisfying to me. So Aunt Janetta suggested that I write a verse to use… which I did. Its an add-on to verse one of “I Wonder When He Comes Again”.
These are the words to the second verse I wrote for Elizabeth. We sang them at Elizabeth’s graveside:
I Wonder When He Comes Again– For Baby Elizabeth
I wonder when He come again, will herald angels sing?
Will earth be white with drifted snow, or will the world know spring?
I wonder if one star will shine far brighter than the rest.
Will daylight stay the whole night through? Will songbirds leave their nests?
I’m sure he’ll call his little ones together round his knee,
Because he said in days gone by, “Suffer them to come to me.”
Our Heav’nly Father knows and sees, the smallest sparrow fall.
His plan is for our happiness; He loves and cares for all.
I know when Jesus comes again, the righteous dead he’ll raise.
With joyful voice the glorious throng will shout and sing his praise.
And children sleeping in the grave will rise to live and then
Will parents joyfully embrace their small ones once again.
—Last verse by Denisa Myrick (Elizabeth’s Grandmother)
Everyone has times of hard trial in their lives. The Lord is good to each of us during these times. Elizabeth’s life was short but there was beauty in it. We all banded together and sorrowed together. How wonderful it is to know, that as hard as these things are to travel through, this time doesn’t last forever. Until we meet again little Elizabeth.
This gorgeous lace is from Marla, a tatting and crochet lacemaker in Boise, Idaho, who contacted me recently about patterns. She found a picture online of what she liked, and recreated it without a pattern. Saving an older pattern from extinction is a great idea! She’s calling it “Deseret Rose”, because it reminds her of rosettes.
With older lace patterns, you sometimes can’t find the original. Often lace patterns in the old days were passed from sister to sister with samples rather than written words. I have a sample binder in my lace collection that has notes and bits from my previous projects. It’s a great way to remember what you did before in case you want to do it again. Writing patterns out can be difficult. I always save a sample of my laces, that way if the pattern is lost, you still have it.
This pattern is a good one for altar lace because it is light and airy without being fragile. It has a lot of connections, not a lot of large holes, and it’s beautiful. It also has a nice gentle scalloped edge which I personally like quite a bit.
Marla’s Deseret Rose Lace is made in size 3o, white thread. This is her updated photo, now at 71 motifs:
This is an unfinished lace, when it is washed and blocked, it will be stunning. It’s already gorgeous. Beautiful!
Blocking a piece of lace really changes the way it looks. This is my recent lace project, unfinished.
Wash the lace in hot water. I wash my lace by hand, with a little liquid dish soap in running water for 2-3 minutes, then rinse in hot water. I wrap the wet lace in a clean dry towel and firmly squeeze the excess water from the lace. I never twist wet lace.
Next I lay a clean pillowcase over my ironing board to protect the lace and keep it clean while it is drying. I pin the edges, gently stretching the lace as I go, until the entire thing is molded to the shape I want and stretched out to snowflake precision.
When the lace is dry, remove the pins. Voila! The lace will hold its shape without pins once it is dry.