“Use Your Best, and You’ll Always Have Your Best Left”

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When I married, my mother-in-law made me a sheet set with beautiful handmade lace edgings and inserts across the sheets and pillowcases. We’ve been married 21 years, and this year, I had to finally concede that the lace wasn’t going to last another year.

For those who might say, “What? You USED real handmade lace pillowcases?” Yes they are heirlooms, and Yes. I did.

My mother-in-law told me her philosophy was given to her by her grandmother– “Use your best, and always have your best left!”  She didn’t put all those hours into them to just sit in a box waiting for a moth or age spot to mar them. She wanted them used! or she’d take them back and use them herself.

And she would too.

So, yes. I did.

And now they’re too far gone to use any more.  The thread wore out fairly evenly with few repairs over the years.  Once they decided to go, they really went.  There were little holes all through it.  I’ve saved a section of the best for posterity— but it’s not much.  However!  These beautiful lace gifts gave us 21 marvelous years of love and memories, and it was worth it.  I learned a lot from Mary about how to keep lace nice, and she’s right.  Use it or lose it.  Cotton wants to be used, and washed or it turns horribly yellow and loses its beauty.

Mary is currently making altar cloths, and loving it, so it’s my turn.  I had my husband choose a new pattern, and we’ll see how this one holds up for the next 20-odd years or so.

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Mary’s Linen Shelf– As new as if she’d made them all yesterday.

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Crochet Lace Technique: Cluny Six Petal Join

The cluny six petal join is a good sturdy way to link sometimes fragile motifs together. In traditional joins, where picots that touch are joined with a single stitch, those joins are the weakest part of the lace fabric. With cluny joins, the lace is stronger, has fewer large holes for things to get caught on, and gives a nice Irish flavor to any lace pattern you’re working with.

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This cluny join was made with five triple crochets per petal.

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Joining my third motif to the lace left a bigger hole to fill, so I created a large cluny join with six double-triple crochets per petal.

Cluny joins are made as the last row of the motif you want to join is being stitched.

This joining method is advanced level lace crochet, but it’s worth learning. As you see, it’s truly a beautiful joining method, and adds greatly to the integrity of the piece.

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Blessing Dress: Snowflake Edging and Cluny Insertion

Lace for Grace: Edging

Blessing Dress for Grace: Snowflake edging with extended header

This blessing dress was made for my niece, Grace. It’s an straightforward intermediate pattern, but dressed up with a few pintucks, ribbon, and an insert, the lace becomes a very fancy heirloom. The lace edging is called “Snowflake Edging”. I extended the length of the lace with a matching header across the top of the lace to make it extra dressy, and to include some of the cluny clusters so the insert would match the edging.  I really like the effect.

Lace for Grace: Blessing Dress Border

Lace for Grace: Blessing Dress Border

The insert adds a row of pretty detail.  This insert pattern is from an old pattern from the early 1900’s called “Cluny Insertion” from the Priscilla Crochet Book, Edgings and Insertions No. 2. It’s not a difficult pattern, but has a unique, old fashioned look I like.

My grandmother made lace with only a handful of patterns, but she created endless variations of those patterns.  I like that about her laces.  This was the first lace I modified from the original pattern.  Modifying a pattern makes it uniquely your own, and transforms a skill into an art.

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.