Learn how to crawl: the New York City Yarn Crawlย is on through Sunday, September 25.

We’ve Got Mail

Dear Ann,
Here’s something I wonder about, almost every day: Why do we do this? Knitting, I mean. Handknitting in the Age of J. Crew. Today, for my Why Do We Do This file, Carolyn sent me the image above and the following note:
“My great, great grandmother (1821-1904) knit lace using tiny steel knitting needles. She kept her ball of cotton thread in a large pocket of a long black skirt [Ed. Note: Carolyn is not that old! She must know about the long black skirt from pictures and/or family lore.] She created a variety of patterns and intricate designs to be used for decorative edgings for bureau scarves [Ed. Note: Remember bureau scarves?! At what point in the 1960s did everybody in the country agree, ‘OK, we’re done with the bureau scarf thing.’], hand towels, pillow cases, and underwear garments (all the while raising 5 children and managing a dairy farm and doing ‘charity’ work!). The lace was always removed and saved. About 10 years ago, my mother carefully stitched sections to black velvet, and framed these masterpieces for relatives. It is one of my treasured heirlooms. xox Carolyn”
[Note to Carolyn: Ann is having a Major Covetous Moment right now. Ann trolls the Tailgate Antiques Show for ‘mending samplers’. Just imagine, if you will, how a framed set of hand-knit lace samples — removed from 19th century undergarments, even–would send her absolutely out of her everlovin’ gourd. Send smelling salts.]
Thanks, Carolyn. As always you made my day.
More Mail With Good Gossip
Lookie here—another Cindy afghan!
Apparently those lil’ ol’ Florida hurricanes did not bother Cindy one bit. She kept on a-sewing, in any event. She also sent this. It’s a wonderful aran pullover Cindy made for her daughter’s fiance, who subsequently became an ex-fiance. Good get to repossess the handknits, Cindy! Cindy generously sent it (it’s a bit warm for Florida apparently) with the request that I find a good home for it. In light of its rugged beauty and toasty warmth, I have selected it a good home in Afghanistan. It is a bit large for a child, but a teenage boy or girl could surely use it.
Thanks so much Cindy!
And now I must go shopping for a long black skirt! Happy weekend, y’all.
Love, Kay



  1. Oh my GARSH! I think I see one of my squares in that lovely afghan! How exciting is THAT?

  2. Hey, I have bureau scarves…It’s another place to display textiles! I don’t know why I insist we have them–perhaps because my furniture was my grandmother’s and they just seem naked without them?
    Rock on Cindy with the afghans!

  3. I always wonder how they could SEE to do such fine work – with oil lamps? Beautiful work – museum quality.

  4. whoa!…. kay!….thanks!… it’s incredible to see the lace on the “big screen!” i’m still a bit flummoxed to think that she was able to keep all those patterns stored in her head. gosh…. it makes me wonder whatever happened to the famous antimacassars on the back of old velvety chairs? thank heavens the male species ceased using that glop in their hair!
    the latest afghan is a joyous affair…. i’m suddenly feeling colorfully cheerful…. cindy is a star!…….XOX

  5. Wow
    got here via knitorious and have spent the last 45 minutes reading the archives and marvelling at the Photos.
    I really like the site. AND the fact that you mention the men who knit occasionally.
    WIll have to get some afghan blocks knit quickly, and join in.
    The lace is fantastic, reminds me of rools i have at home that my grandmother and great grandmother made.

  6. Devin, welcome! We almost named our blog “Women Who Love the Men Who Love To Knit”, but that seemed to be asking for trouble with Hubby and Hubbo. What do you knit? I sent you the address for those squares. Thanks for stopping by! xoxo Kay

  7. I love bureau scarves. I have a bunch of them, along with doilies that my great-grandmother tatted. It’s pretty incredible to me that she did that with such tiny little needles. Insane really. And of course, no one else in the family knows how. At least I have the results. It’s like having my family history on the bureau–a nice reminder.

  8. Carolyn–that lace is purely spectacular. Kay is right: I have a sick fondness for old pieces of handwork, preferably unfinished, preferably samplers that demonstrate a limping competence in sewing techniques that have vanished to faraway lands. Your great-great grandmother’s lace is far more perfect and lovely than anything in my collection. I love the idea of her carrying a small bit of work with her, creating that perfect work amid a busy life.
    And Cindy!!! That afghan is SO beautiful! Thank you for such patient, wonderful work.

  9. Ann – if your trolling ever takes you to the middle east you’ll find many samples to covet! No self-respecting Arab woman would let her bureau go naked … or her coffee table … or side table … or any piece of furniture for that matter.
    I still remember learning to crochet from my grandmother – and am amazed now at all the patterns she could create from memory. I still have some intricately crocheted doilies in the shape of fish that she made for me. Thanks for the trip down memory lane ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. oh.. ann…. i wish i had xtra knitted lace for swooning purposes! in the 60’s, “greater” vermont and new hampshire used to have a glorious assortment of lacey adornments and samplers and heavenscent quilts (made from old kitchen aprons and men’s neckties) of yesteryear…. for an absolute song! who knew? 20/20 hindsight!

  11. Ann & Kay, did my needles arrive in time? If not, can you use them for the next sew-up?

  12. Amy! THANKS! Your needles did arrive, and they will surely be useful at the Nashville bash. (I have a terrible time keeping track of yarn needles. They often end up clanging around the bottom of the washing machine, which might not be so good for the washing machine.) I tried to email you but wasn’t sure your new site was really ‘you’.
    Ann et al.: the backstory on why Amy’s needles (and COOL Clover thread-cutting-pendants), which were mailed almost a week before the sew-up, were delayed, was because the package was addressed to ‘Kay & Ann Shayne’ at my address. Yay! Now we’re officially sisters! (Sisters in law? Whatever!) Apparently this befuddled either the Post Office or my building, and then I guess they must have decided to give it a try to see if I answered to Kay Shayne, or at least took her packages!!! Which, of course, I do. I take anybody’s packages…..
    THANKS AMY!!!!!! Wish you could join us in Nashville. Love from Kay Shayne

  13. Those lines of lace are so perfect. And so delicate – I can’t imagine the size of needles that were used! I remember bureau scarves from when I was a kid. For a while we lived in this house rented from 2 old ladies. Every surface had lacey adornments. I even had one of those kidney shaped dressing tables where a kidney shaped lace cloth is covered by a kidney shaped piece of glass. Fab! I used to imagine I was a heroine in a 1930’s Agatha Christie novel. Of course my mum, being sensible, removed all the lacey items and stored them safely away until we moved out!


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