Families are Forever: In honor of Baby Elizabeth

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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.

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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.

Mary working the last square of the blanket lace.

Mary working the last square of the blanket lace.

Lizzie's Lace, almost done.

Lizzie’s Lace, almost done.

Lace for Elizabeth. 2011

Lace for Elizabeth. 2011

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Denver Temple Sister Lace– by Mary Rockwood

Linnaea Lace

This lace was made by my Mother-in-law, Mary Rockwood, using a pattern I designed with Linnaea Borealis blossoms in the center.  She made this altar lace for the Denver Temple in Colorado.  It was completed a few months ago and is now in use there.  It is a unique pattern, only two exist, hers and mine.  Sister laces.

Jordan Anderson’s Daisy Lace for the Payson Utah Temple

Daisy Altar Lace

Sister Jordan Anderson, a new lacemaker from Payson, Utah,  just completed an altar lace for the Payson Temple to be dedicated soon.  She told me of her experience with her first altar lace:

“Just over a year and a half ago my Relief Society president announced the call for altar cloths for the new Payson Temple, which is just on the other side of our ward boundaries. I have a strong pioneer heritage on both sides of my family and many of them contributed to the work of building temples, so I jumped at the chance to make my own offering for the house of the Lord. Little did I know what a huge and wonderful undertaking it would be.

Before starting this altar cloth I had limited experience with crochet. I’d made a few hats and scarves, but that was it. The Relief Society President gave me a packet of seven approved patterns and I chose the one I thought was best suited to my abilities, the Daisy Lunch Cloth. Because I was so new at this endeavor it was essential that I follow the pattern exactly. There were times I thought I knew better than the pattern…but I didn’t. It wasn’t until I humbled myself enough to really study the instructions that I gained an understanding of how to be successful with each motif. I had a moment of inspiration and felt the Spirit reminding me that the scriptures and the words of the prophets are the pattern for our lives. Disregarding the pattern only brings frustration, especially as one who is learning and growing. Even more touching to me than that lesson was the renewed testimony of the Atonement. I made many, many mistakes in the process of completing the altar cloth. With every mistake I ripped out the work I’d done and changed my stitches to fix the problem. Now there is no evidence that those mistakes were ever made but there is a complete and flawless whole. The Savior does the same for us when we turn our mistakes over to Him for healing and grace. I did not expect my testimony to be strengthened by crocheting an altar cloth but I am grateful for the experience.

Work on the cloth has come and gone in spurts. For the past several weeks I have felt the fire under me to complete it. I have a baby on the way and I came to the realization that if I were to wait any longer I may not have to time to finish before the temple is dedicated. This past week I have both finished the cloth and come across many stories of my pioneer ancestors. As I finished work on the border I thought about so many in my family line, from pilgrims who came on the Mayflower to pioneers who crossed the plains, who dedicated their lives to the service of God. I’ve been blessed to feel their influence on the generations of my family down to my own children. I have two ancestors in particular, one from my father’s side and one from the line into which my mother’s father was adopted, who worked on the Nauvoo temple. The first, John Carling, did carvings on the doors and woodwork throughout the temple and the other, Peter Shirts, made the keys and locks for the doors. They knew full well they would abandon their beloved temple and their work would be lost to them, but they gave the best they had to give. As a tribute to them and as a gift to the Lord I can now give something that is the best of myself. I am still learning and my work is not perfect, but it is my very best and any mistakes I made have been removed. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to give my offering to the Lord and to give it with the confidence that I gave my all. It is amazing to me that what I have already received from the learning process is far greater than what I gave.”  –Sister Jordan Anderson, Payson, UT

In Progress: “Deseret Rose” Altar Lace by Marla

Rose Cloth

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:

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This is an unfinished lace, when it is washed and blocked, it will be stunning.  It’s already gorgeous.  Beautiful!

Finishing Techniques: Blocking Lace

Blocking a piece of lace really changes the way it looks. This is my recent lace project, unfinished.

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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.

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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.

Birds in Flight first lace

Birds in Flight: From Chicken Scratch to Fruition

ImageI’ve been working on this design for several weeks now. I am really pleased with it. I’ve just had the design cleared to be used for an altar cloth in the Los Angeles temple. Progress!

There are few things as rewarding as sheer creation. It must be human nature, the bit of God in embryo in all of us.

This one is for my children. They all are. Each lace tells a story.  “Birds in Flight” is the next chapter in the story of our lives and our walk with the Lord. So much heartache brought each of our children to us. Each of them is learning to fly.  Free.  Safe.  It is joy to me. So many miracles.

My Loves. My Life.

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Faith, history, family and lace. I captured this shot today after nearly a month of lacelessness. I am finishing up a sample from my last altar cloth to remember the pattern. The Ebenezer Lace project had no written pattern, and I don’t want it to be lost. I’ll put it in a frame eventually with the story that goes with it for my children to read. The story is theirs.

Our family has been going through a growth spurt this last month with the addition of a son. He’s seven years old, and precious. His adoption will be finalized this fall, and we look forward to having him sealed to our family. This will make four adoptions and four sealings this fall if all goes well– three girls and a boy, to add to our existing three boys and a girl. Eight! And Carolyn. Nine.

This time has been nearly five years in the making. So many beautiful blessings.

We took this picture for Father’s day:IMG_469016526402605

Each spirit has a story. Each child is unique. Their paths to our family are all different, but each twist and turn is known to the Lord. How great a blessing! He has remembered his promises to us. My cup truly runneth o’er.

Time to get going on a new altar cloth.

Chicago Temple: Story of Dedication and Sacrifice

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Altar Lace: A gift to the Lord

I came across this story in my search for historical accounts of other LDS lace makers. The story of this 78 year old sister was just beautiful:

“The dedication was a day of fulfillment for many of the temple district’s 160,000 members in Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. In addition to contributing toward building of the temple, many had labored to help furnish it or make it ready for the dedication.

A couple from the Wilmette Illinois Stake, for example, helped unload and place furniture in the temple, then clean it prior to the open house, which began July 15. “It was such a privilege to be asked to help,” the wife recalled. “We wept as we vacuumed and dusted.”

Women from throughout the temple district who are skilled in crocheting and tatting made altar cloths for the ordinance and sealing rooms. One 78-year-old sister from Indiana wrote that though the infirmities of age might make it difficult for her to go to the temple, she was thrilled to be able to participate in this way. An 82-year-old sister from the Dayton Ohio East Stake sent with her finished altar cloth a note offering to make a second one if it were needed; she wept when she received a telephone call accepting her offer.

A group of girls in the St. Paul Third Ward, St. Paul Minnesota Stake, made a dozen dolls for the nursery in the temple, each named for the girl who made it, with the names embroidered on the back. The dolls were presented as the girls toured the temple during the open house. Afterward, their leaders wrote to temple matron Betty Cahoon: “It was an exceptionally good experience for the girls to do something that would be meaningful for the young people. It will be a wonderful memory for them.”

The temple not only touched Latter-day Saints, but also many non-LDS visitors. Some 100,065 visited the temple before the open house ended August 3. They expressed sentiments such as “an obvious place of devotion,” “I felt the hand of God,” “everyone should feel closer to God in this special place.”

Read the entire article in the October 1985 Ensign.

Repair Project: Beautiful 100 Year Old Antique Irish Lace

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This lace belongs to a friend of mine who has had it for many years.  It’s hand made Irish crochet lace.  A few of the floral motifs have been torn out here and there, and the picot netting is torn in several more places. 

She asked me if I would be able to repair it, and help her preserve it.  I have to admit that repairing a hundred+ year old piece of handmade Irish lace is a nerdy kind of wonderful. I readily agreed.  So much history here.

In examining the lace, it was easy to see how the damage had happened.  These little hook closures across the front of the jacket have caught on the lace and inadvertently been pulled, ripping through the aging thread.

The culprit: sharp little hook and eye closures

The culprit: sharp little hook and eye closures

My first job was to whiten the lace. I had no thread that would match the deep antique yellow it had become over the years, so I consulted with my mother-in-law who has a lot of experience laundering old lace.  She suggested Clorox II.  It has no chlorine bleach in it, so it won’t damage the fibers, but it does an amazing job of whitening.  It has a bit of bluing in it also, which helps the thread appear whiter.

The washing process took an entire evening, soaking, agitating, and rinsing.  The gentle process did a great job of taking a lot of the aged color from the thread.  Once the lace was a lighter color, not quite pristine white, but tolerably close– my thread was a sufficient match and the repair could begin.

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Irish floral crochet motifs embedded in picot ground.

I’m not done with this project yet, but making good progress.  I just love studying all the old motifs.  I can copy most of them from experience and observation.  The stitch tension is tighter than my tension, so I’m using my very smallest hook, Tulip, size 23.

A good variety of flowers

A good variety of flowers

Such a pretty piece.

Such a pretty piece.

I’m looking forward to posting finished pictures.