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.
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, just the right size.