Heritage of Lace and Faith

charles and celinda with car 1946

 

These are my great great grandparents, Charles Fredrick and Celinda Jane Twitchell Olson.  Celinda is my grandmother who made lace and helped inspire me to do so also. She lived until she was 103.  Her life overlapped mine by one glorious year.  My daughter, Anna Celinda, is named for her.

Celinda and Charles were faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and left their posterity a great heritage of lace, and faith.

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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.

CARE OF CELINDA’S LACE

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