Karenne’s Heirloom Crochet Lace Dress

Several years ago I created this dress and patterns using French lace as a model.  It’s simple, but special.  Each of my daughters has worn it on their baptism day.  The lace work is all handmade using a variety of edging and insertion patterns.

The elements I borrowed from French lace are the pintucked front and edging, small ribbon accents in the pintucking, and the combining of lace patterns.  Any edging pattern can be added to an insertion pattern to create a more sophisticated look.  The thread size is 30.


Families are Forever: In honor of Baby Elizabeth


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.

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

Six Pointed Lace Motif

I’m experimenting with lace design. This original creation is my newest try. I’m looking for a good design for my next altar cloth project.

Altar cloth patterns need to be close woven designs so buttons don’t snag on them, but they still want them open enough to be lacy and beautiful. It is a constant tug of war between beauty and durability.

So far, I like it. I don’t know if it’s the one though.

This six pointed lace motif was worked in size 20 thread. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon.


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


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.


Celinda Jane Twitchell Olson– Lacemaker

Celinda Jane Twitchell Olson

Celinda Jane Twitchell Olson

My great great grandma Celinda was a lacemaker.  She made fine thread knitted lace.  When she died, she gave each of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren portions of her lace.  This is my piece:

Grandma Olson's lace

Grandma Celinda’s Knitted Lace

It is a pillowcase edging she made more than 70 years ago.  It is knitted with sewing thread and very fine needles.  With this lace came this  history and instruction:

Celinda’s Knitted Lace
This lace was knitted (not crocheted) by Celinda Jane Twitchell Olson, the mother of our Grandma Mary and Dixie’s, Jim’s and Mary-Lou’s “Grandma Olson.” It was given to Mary Melissa Olson Almond by Celinda for safe keeping and for giving to her grandchildren. In July 2005 the lace was divided out by Grandma Mary and Dixie and fine examples were given to each of Mary Melissa’s seventeen grandchildren.

Celinda lived from December 13, 1873 to September 30, 1977 and was born in the pioneer town of Beaver, Utah. Celinda’s parents were part of the San Bernardino, California Stake who Brigham Young called home to Utah in 1857 and assigned them, as a stake, to come and settle in Beaver to help strengthen the new little town not quite two years old. When Celinda was born, Beaver was only l7 years old. Dixie says she doesn’t know everything about how Grandma Olson learned to knit, but she knows for a fact that she learned to knit on goose quills. We are not sure why she didn’t have regular knitting needles. Dixie says it wasn’t because they were poor because Celinda used to say, “I wish I had the scraps my father threw away.” Maybe she was too young for real needles.

Dixie assumes that she was young, because most young pioneer girls at that time learned to knit. She learned to knit socks and mittens and because she was a good knitter, Celinda had the family job of knitting and mending all the socks for her brothers, which was no small task because she came from a very large family. We assume that by then she had real knitting needles. Dixie says she heard Grandma Olson say many times, “If you can’t knit a sock, you can’t knit anything.” Later, as a young woman sometime before she was married, we know for certain that Celinda was given knitting lessons as payment in kind for housework done for a neighbor. This is when she learned how to do the fine knitting of lace. Grandma loved knitting all her life and knitted lace like this as well as other items.

Grandma Olson left Beaver with her husband, Charles Frederick Olson, in 1900 to look for a better place to live. They went to the  northern-most part of Utah to the Lucerne Valley on the north side of the Uinta Mountains to a little town called Manila. Here Celinda and Charles acquired a ranch, built a log house, raised their family of five children and spent most of their Grandma and Grandpa years. The Manila area was a remote ranching and farming community because of the High Uinta Mountains on one side and the Wyoming Bad Lands on the other side. In order to get there from Utah it was necessary to drive way around the mountains into Evanston, Wyoming and then back south into Utah. Even now, in 2005, Manila is far away from any big cities. The Ranch is owned and ranched by an Olson grandson; Celinda’s log house is still standing.

Because of the remoteness of Manila, Celinda lived out in the  wilderness in pioneer conditions much longer than other places in Utah. There was no electricity on the Ranch until sometime in the early 1950’s and so for most of her life Celinda knitted by window light or coal oil (kerosene) lamp. In the cool of the summer evenings she would go out on the porch and knit in the twilight. She was such an experienced knitter that she could knit without much light. She knitted yards and yards of lace in many different patterns for her family’s petticoats, dresses, pillow cases, sheets, hankies, dresser cloths and such things. Grandma Mary commented that whenever her mother was nervous or worried about something, she would knit.

Dixie (b. 1931) remembers visiting her grandparents at the Ranch in the log house when she was a little girl. At that time there were no paved roads in any direction out from Manila. There was a good gravel road to Green River and Rock Springs, and Rock Springs is where Grandpa Olson would go with his wagon and team of horses, camping overnight along the way, to get supplies for the store in Linwood. (Linwood was a small town next to Manila where my grandfather worked in the store. The location of Linwood is now at the bottom of the lake created by Flaming Gorge Dam) But Dixie’s family came from Oregon and so they went through Evanston, Wyoming, getting off the main highway at Fort Bridger and Mountain View. Dixie remembers her father trying to get to Grandma’s house, driving their car across this dirt road that went southeast across the Wyoming Bad Lands into Manila. This was not a graded dirt road. It was only a trail of tire ruts frequently washed out by the rain and when it rained the clay mud was slick like soap. If they came in the spring they would encounter spring runoff several inches deep, flowing across the road near Lone Tree. This dirt road, as well as the road to Rock Springs and the road to Vernal over the Uinta Mountains, was finally paved in about 1964 in conjunction with building the dam at Flaming Gorge which was just up the road from Manila. By this time Grandma Olson was 91.

As a child Dixie remembers eating Grandma Olson’s homemade cottage cheese with lots of pepper and learning to love oatmeal with canned milk on it. Dixie also remembers how there was no running water in the house. In the winter Grandma Olson got clean snow in a bucket for drinking water; it tasted so good. In the summer they piped water from the spring in back of the house about a quarter of a mile. As the pipe came to the corner of the house it was elevated up on a sawhorse so that the water came out in a stream and fell into a big galvanized wash tub which overflowed into a ditch and then ran out into a field. She loved listening to that running water all night as she slept. Grandma Olson kept the cold, clean water for drinking and cooking in a bucket on the kitchen counter. The hot water was kept hot in the reservoir of the wood cook stove. There was a wash stand by the front door where when Grandpa came in from working he would pour a little fresh water into a basin, wash his hands, and then throw the water out the door into the yard. In the summer Grandma and Grandpa Olson grew a huge garden out of which they ate all summer and then preserved the rest for winter eating. This was how Celinda lived as she knitted most of this lace.

When Celinda was a young woman and her eyes were good she knitted the lace with very small thread and small needles. Dixie said that Grandma Olson told her she used to knit with size 70 sewing thread (the bigger the number, the smaller the thread). Most people knit/crochet lace and doilies using size 20 or 30 thread which is what most of the lace you have received is knitted with. This is the size Celinda used, along with bigger needles when she was older and her eyes couldn’t see small stitches anymore. (she developed cataracts in her older age and continued to knit even with that limited vision)

We do not know exact dates on any of the lace, but we know it is safe to say that she knitted from the 1890’s (she was married in 1897 at age 23) through the 1950’s. It is Grandma Mary’s and Dixie’s hope that this lace will remind you of the pioneer qualities that Celinda had. She created something beautiful for her home and family in her wilderness surroundings by her own talent and effort.


1. Cleaning. The lace is knitted with 100% cotton thread and so it is quite sturdy and can be washed. Washing in a washing machine probably won’t hurt it, but it will keep nicer longer if it is carefully hand washed using a squirt of dish soap in warm water. Gently swish and squish the soapy water through the lace. If some of your lace is extra dirty or is stained, try soaking it for a few hours in a small basin of cold water and about one tablespoon of chlorine bleach. If that does not remove the stain, such as the orange ones, try consulting someone at a dry cleaner who is expert at removing stains. After the lace dries it will be all shriveled up. You can block it with straight pins and starch while it is still wet, or you can iron it with a steam iron, stretching and ironing as you go which is how Grandma Mary did it. BE CAREFUL NOT TO SCORCH IT!! Iron on the lowest setting that will do the job and use a white cloth, such as a man’s handkerchief, between the iron and the lace to help prevent scorching. Using spray starch while ironing is optional.

2. Altering. The lace in many cases outlasted the garment or pillow case it was attached to and so Grandma just picked the lace off and hand sewed it onto something else. You may do the same. If you do not like the material your lace is attached to, carefully unpick the stitches. Look for little attaching stitches on the edge of the lace where it has been hand sewn on. Clip only these. Be careful not to break the threads of the lace because the whole piece will unravel as it is just one long, knitted piece of thread. If you are unsure of what you are looking at, get the advice of someone who sews. If you want to cut the lace into pieces, be sure to finish the edges BEFORE you cut so it will not unravel. If you really don’t know what you are doing, get good advice and help.

3. Preservation. Keep it clean. That means keep it away from dust and obvious dirt. Keep it out of the sun because sun fades and corrodes. Keep it away from bugs, moths especially. If you choose to use some of it for display in your home, such as a dresser cloth, it will last many years even with occasional washings. Having the lace sit out on a table or dresser is actually a good way to enjoy it because the regular moving for dusting and washing and ironing should keep the bugs away. Just keep your lace away from direct sunlight and little children who will want to cut it with scissors or stain it with food, dirty hands, markers, etc. If you wish to hide it away in a safe place, a cedar chest is best because it keeps the bugs and dust away. Grandma Mary has kept all this lace for these many years in her cedar chest. Displaying it in a frame is also a good idea. If you seal it into a frame, make sure it is perfectly clean and wear gloves while handling it. An oily fingerprint, while invisible at first, will, over time emerge into an ugly stain. Dixie suggests you might think about a professional framing it. Maybe they can seal the frame so that bugs (moths) can’t get in to eat it, which is a big concern.

4. Provenance. A paper like this with your lace is called “provenance.” It is what adds value to your antique possession because it tells all the circumstances surrounding your item. An antique with no provenance is much less valuable, even to the owner who maybe a great, great grandchild who might forget where it came from and who made it. So keep this paper with your lace, but don’t let the print get right up next to it as the ink could stain it. If you give some of this lace to your children, include a copy of this provenance with it and update it by making a note on the paper.

Example: “I, Janetta Wells am giving this example of Celinda Jane Olson’s lace to my daughter Ann-Marie Wells Curtis on December 25, 2006.”

The chain of ownership adds to the provenance; and we expect this lace to last several hundred years! If at some point you find you cannot use your lace, please do not throw it away or give it to a thrift store. Please give it to another member of the family. Dixie would be pleased to have any of the lace back. Dixie and Grandma Mary hope this family heirloom will be a beautiful link to your pioneer heritage.

Written by Dixie Almond Smith and Janetta Smith Wells, July 2005 and finished December 2006.

Celinda’s lace is mostly made from one basic pattern. We had Nanni Almond (Uncle Jim’s wife), who is an accomplished knitter, look at the lace and she figured out how to duplicate the pattern. This pattern can be knitted with yarn to create a beautiful lacy edge to a blanket, or it can be knitted with thread to create lace to edge clothing or pillow cases. Variations can be created by adding rows of holes you knit into the pattern.

To attach the lace, just use white thread (or yarn) and carefully hand stitch the lace onto the edge of the item, looping your needle and thread through the base stitches, not pushing the needle through the thread itself. Do not use a sewing machine as those stitches are difficult to remove later.

Knitted Lace from Grandma Celinda Olson
size 10 thread with 2.25 mm needles = 1.5 inch wide
size 20 thread with 2.00 mm needles = 1.25 inch wide
size 30 thread with 2.00 mm needles = 1 1/8 inch wide
worsted yarn with #8 American needles = 3 inches wide
cast on 8 sts
knit one row
row 1 – sl 1K, K1, (yo, K2 tog)2, yo, K2
row 2 – sl 1K, K to end (9 sts)
row 3 – sl 1K, K2, (yo,K2tog)2, yo, K2
row 4 – sl 1K, K to end (10 sts)
row 5 – sl 1K, K3, (yo, K2tog)2, yo, K2
row 6 – sl 1K, K to end (11 sts)
row 7 – sl 1K, K4, (yo,K2tog)2, yo, K2
row 8 – sl 1K, K to end (12 sts)
row 9 – sl 1, K11
row 10 – bind off 4 sts, K to end (8 sts)
repeat row 1 – 10
end with row 9, bind off

Grandma Celinda Olson knitted lace pattern
cast on 11 sts
Knit one row
row 1 – sl 1K, k1, yo, k2tog // K1, (yo, K2 tog)2, yo, k2
row 2 – sl 1K, K to end (12 sts)
row 3 – sl 1K, k1, yo, k2tog // K2, (yo,K2tog)2, yo, k2
row 4 – sl 1K, K to end (13 sts)
row 5 – sl 1K, k1, yo, k2tog // K3, (yo, K2tog)2, yo, k2
row 6 – sl 1K, K to end (14 sts)
Baby blanket edging (use yarn) with eyelet holes for ribbon
row 7 – sl 1K, k1, yo, k2tog // K4, (yo,K2tog)2, yo, k2
row 8 – sl 1K, K to end (15 sts)
row 9 – sl 1K, k1, yo, k2tog // k11 (to end)
row 10 – bind off 4 sts, K to end (11 sts)
repeat row 1 – 10
end with row 9, bind off