in the 80s, i was hooked on that stuff

Posted on Posted in designing, lace/shawls, projects

as the sorting and moving continues (we’re almost done with the moving), i’m having to open boxes that i don’t look at much and make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. it’s not that hard—i’m in the mood to get rid of a lot of junk right now. someone asked if i have come across anything i forgot i had and i haven’t really, but i am discovering that i can’t remember why i’ve kept certain items (which is good—if they’ve lost their importance, i can easily get rid of them).

one of the things that i open and look at every so often is a big box of crochet supplies i have—a blast from the past that i just can’t give up. i noticed as i was photographing it today that it even has a rim which looks to be mimicking a crochet motif.

we don’t talk about crochet on this blog much (ok, we never do), but that doesn’t mean i don’t respect it greatly. my grandmother and her numerous sisters were amazing crocheters—they even had a crochet club (with dues and everything) that met weekly for years while i was growing up.

in the tradition of many italian women of the past, they produced large quantities of fine cotton lace items when they were younger for use in the home—gorgeous tablecloths and bedspreads as well as smaller items to protect dresser tops, tables, and upholstery.

later, they gravitated toward crocheted afghans, clothing, and accessories in woolen yarns to bestow upon us, their granddaughters—it was the 60s and 70s and they were riding a totally trendy wave.

one of my all-time favorite christmas gifts was the long, crocheted vest and short, coordinating pink-and-gray plaid pleated skirt i received from my grandma in 1969. she was always on top of what was in style for us girls.

i learned to crochet myself that year and became immersed through my pre-teens (when i wasnt knitting) in making granny square vests, six-foot filet scarfs, and single-crochet cloches from worsted weight acrylic yarn in bright colors—easy-care yarn was new and we embraced it, along with gratifyingly speedy results from not too much effort (even my grandma never went back to working fine cotton crochet . . .)

that stuff went out of style pretty fast, though, and by the time i reached college, my crochet hooks were all but forgotten. then, the world of needlework turned its eye back to traditional fibers and methods. we began re-exploring the more painstaking kind of projects, the ones that have more lasting appeal. we became “process” needleworkers.

somewhere during the early 80s, i picked up a book of crochet lace patterns and some fine cotton thread to try my hand at finer crochet work. before long i was addicted—i enjoyed creating the more intricate patterns. and it was relatively inexpensive and portable to do—perfect for me at the time. i think this ball actually came straight from my gram; the one above came from a box of crochet supplies i purchased in an antique shop in ithaca, NY, summer of ’86, along with a box filled with hundreds of shell buttons for $10.

i crocheted manically for a while through one lace project after another (in between knitting; i always did some knitting, too) before realizing, eventually, that i was creating a whole lotta beautiful stuff that i was unlikely to ever use.

and in do mean a LOT. i gave some of it away as gifts, and used a piece here or there, but mostly, it was piling up. my actual lifestyle (one that included several roommates at a time) was not one that was gentle toward finery laying about on the table. i like furniture that is very simple and surfaces that hold as little clutter as possible (current living circumstances notwithstanding).

though lace doilies and whatnot are in complete conflict with my “decorating sensibilities”, that stuff was fun to make, and i have yet to puzzle out a reconciliation between the two. until then, i keep the fruits of my crochet period are stored away, taking them out once in a while to sort through as i would a box of old photos.

because i do forget, between times, how really pretty they are and what nice work is invested in each one.

this white pineapple doily is one of the first complex pieces i made, around age 22 or so (i know it was after i finished college). these pieces are not difficult to work, but it is difficult to keep the correct tension so that they don’t cup in the middle—something i remember struggling with. the weight of the cotton, the tension, and the length of the chains all conspired against the perfect balance.

different brands of cotton varied a lot at that time and nothing was labeled properly as to gauge or thread weight—every company used a different system to describe the diameter of the thread. i wanted to use threads that i found in thrift stores, but you pretty much had to use the exact thread a particular pattern book called for to get a good result (or know exactly what you were dealing with, heh—not me at the time). that was frustrating.

filet crochet (pieces worked in rows, rather than in circles) proved a little easier going. from what i have in the box, it looks like i settled in with this type of pattern for quite a while to gain confidence and knowledge before moving on. somewhere with my packed-away table linens, i have a six or seven foot table runner done in filet which depicts very intricate celtic knots along its length (i couldn’t find it for a photo).

my favorite of the whole lot is gone now because i gave it to a friend a few years back, but my favorite remaining piece is that yellow one on the left—i did finally discover that less openwork and more motifs made it a little easier to stick to the right tension, resulting in a flatter piece.

all of the nicest ones i have given away; the remaining ones may just need a proper blocking to be transformed. as they are, they’re nice enough for the purpose they serve now—mostly, to remind me that i once did this work. i just realized that even my own work would be considered “vintage”, while my grandma’s cotton crochet and knitting work is now “antique”.

for now i’m keeping the box with the pieces and putting the threads aside for a stash sale or some other purpose—i don’t think i’ll be using those supplies any time soon.

meanwhile, the new room is shaping up—david made me a winding station using the cast iron base from an old drafting table i had. this will replace the big work table we took down from the front room. it’s just big and sturdy enough for carding wool when i want to do that, as well (but not any bigger than i need).

and the front room is nearly empty—within a day or so, david will begin demo-ing in there, yay. there are several thicknesses of wall to remove, painted-over wallpaper, old wiring, and a dropped ceiling; the floor will remain and everything else will be redone.

i’m knitting too—a lot of secret projects on the needles right now, though.

last night i started the orange sock for the january installment of the dye dreams four seasons sock club.

the color is actually juicier than this picture shows; i’m still fooling around with my camera a lot, hahaha. but there will be more photos once i get going and have some patterning to show.

another cite neckwarmer in a discontinued yarn—this may end up being a gift, but i’m not sure. i’m also wending my way down the leg of my second flaming desire sock, but have no recent photos, sorry.

mostly, i’ve been organizing, but it’s a bad time—after just a few days of that, i’m behind. we have pretty much everything cleared away so david can work now; i can probably save the rest of the sorting for christmas week, when there might be less demand on my time.

for the rest of the week, i need to concentrate on christmas gifts (especially his).
and right now, i gotta scoot—i need to visit a friend in the hospital this evening.

56 thoughts on “in the 80s, i was hooked on that stuff

  1. Anne, your crochet work is absolutely exquisite! This piece above you should have framed by a specialist. Please do start using the others, maybe rotating them in and out. I can understand that you don’t want your home covered in crocheted doilies and pieces; but, on the other hand, your work should be out and enjoyed. Life is too short to keep it all in a box, pretty as it is.

  2. I may have missed this…will you be making the cite neckwarmer pattern available or is it a special pattern to be sold elsewhere?

  3. You made me remember my 7th grade (hippy) art project – I crocheted a bedspread out of bedspread cotton along with my BFF at the time. Yep – crochet was taught to us in art class. Occasionally, I actually miss the 70’s!

  4. I have to admit that I have a passion for crocheted pieces like you have made….I use them all over my house here. Your pieces are lovely!

  5. Both of my grandmas crocheted, although my mom’s mom, who also knit a lot and is the one who taught me to knit and crochet, tended towards granny square afghans (nothing wrong with that – to me, they say “home”!) My dad’s mom, though, knit lace – lots of doilies, which I absolutely love. I have a couple of them. Even though I crocheted a lot of baby booties when I was younger – and one afghan – I never tried lace, but, seeing yours, now I think I want to….

  6. I’m with Kim, I LOVE those pieces. There’s something about a vintage crochet doily. Yours are lovely!

  7. These are so beautiful! I have done lots of crochet but nothing this fine. I inherited several things like these, though.

  8. I love crocheted doilies! I’ve made quite a few of my own but my mother and grandmother have crocheted so many for me and I just love them. I do use my doilies in my decorating but then again I love anything that’s got to do with needlework and fiber even cotton…lol.

    I also wanted to say how much I’m enjoying the sock pattern from the yarn4socks sock club. It’s my first sock club and I feel so privileged to get one of your patterns.
    Marilyn in Nm

  9. That is beautiful crochet work. I think they would look very pretty framed on dark fabric in square or round frames. You could use them as wall art, and then they wouldn’t make clutter. Plus they would be abstract enough to work well with more modern art. I received some crocheted doilies as wedding gifts from great aunts, although not so intricate, but I may have to take a look at them again.

  10. Thanks for sharing! I too learned crochet from my Grandmother; didn’t do much and then my best friend’s mother got me going again. Knitting was just a matter of time!! I knitted several doilies and my Mom framed them as one of the previous commenters mentioned – they do look nice and with your artistic flair, I’m sure you could make a wonderful wall display.

  11. I have to admit that although I revere the workmanship and lovely designs, I have never been a doily, anti-macassar or table-runner person. However, those pieces that YOU MADE reminded me of the under-the-bed-box chock full of
    lace that I found when cleaning out my mother’s apartment after her death.

    There were at least 2 dozen doilies and similar pieces, hand-made insertion, a cotton petticoat with a hand-made lace edge, and a filet tablecloth I kept the tablecloth, as well as an English lace piece made of very heavy cotton thread that I received as a wedding present.

    Those pieces of yours really took me back. Thanks.

  12. Would you believe me if I told you I am pretty sure that I have that same doily stashed away somewhere that I made many years ago. Except mine is in what they would have called Ecru. I started crocheting doilies when I was a wee little one and advanced into afghans and then finally knitting and spinning. You should have seen all the lovely doilies I made back then. Hmmmm maybe I should go digging and see what I have stashed away from all those years ago.

  13. I started out crocheting one potholder and then on to handkerchief edgings when I was 5 and 6. The afghans came much, much later! I do use some of the doilies and tablecloths my father’s mother and my mother crocheted, every now and then. It’s a legacy.

  14. I learned to crochet in 8th grade (that’s when I first learned to knit too). My big project was a classic 70’s granny square afghan kit in brown, yellow, orange and white. I never did finish it, but I’ve crocheted a few baby blankets over the years. Mem’ries, like the corners of my mind….lol

    Your projects are lovely-such fine work. My Grandma actually tried to teach me as a young girl on that fine thread with the dinky hook (the kind I use to bead my knit lace now!).

  15. The crochet is beautiful. I’ve done tatted doilies but not crochet ones. I think as long as I’m doing something (knitting, crocheting, tatting, stitching), I’m happy! 🙂

  16. Crochet deserves more attention in my opinion. My own interest in it was revived by contemporary Japanese patterns, they take the craft further than the making of doilies. Is the tin box a Belgian souvenir? It depicts views from Bruges.So the side motif is probably lace altough it looks more like macramé.Lovely blogpost!

  17. ooh, pretty! i’ve fooled around with crochet, but i’ve never been nearly as serious about it as i’ve been about knitting. have you ever lived in ithaca, or were you just passing through? i went to cornell and i miss that little town so much! i’m thinking about dragging my boyfriend there this summer.

  18. I have put some of my fine crochet pieces under glass, either in a frame for the wall or a box for the table or dresser. Your yellow one would look smashing in a frame on the wall, but not “smashed.” Rather framed so that the 3-D effect is evident. it’s SO beautiful!

  19. What a lovely, lovely post! I thoroughly enjoyed every word, picture, and memory. Your crocheted pieces are absolutely gorgeous and brought back many memories of my grandmother’s work. Since I’m just reading this this morning, it was a wonderful way to start my day as I sit here knitting a gift for my sister while everyone else in the house is sleeping.

    Thank you for sharing.

  20. I have been hanging around with the Tsock Tsarina and her antique wheel minions too much – when I saw all that crochet thread, all I could think of was DRIVE BANDS, having just bought a ball of Aunt Lydia’s #10 at Wally World yesterday for drive bands. Save some #10 for drive bands.

  21. I started out as a crocheter and made similar fine lace, but not as many pieces as you have there. Knitting found me and I never looked back. Keep them, it’s always nice to revisit their beauty.

  22. Oh my word. That yellow doily is unbelievably gorgeous! I crocheted for a time before taking a knitting class and I enjoyed it but I never did graduate to doilies. I love them though, and am right now feeling an itch to get to the craft store and pick up some thread and a tiny hook!

  23. Love the leaf design on that one piece you showed multiple times. Might that inspire a leaf themed shawl we could knit? You were blessed with a grandmother who had style.

  24. Beautiful crochet work! I do understand the problem it poses, though, as I have oodles of doilies made by my grandmother and great-aunt…and not much use for doilies.

  25. one idea would be to frame them in picture frames and hang them on the wall. i’ve done this with some lovely sachet bags I got in scotland. i’ve also seen lace pieces made stiff with some kind of starch and then hung on their own.

  26. My Mom’s Mom was right on top of fashion as well… I’ll never forget the red vinyl mini and bolero vest outfit she got me in 6th grade. So groovy! And she crocheted… I remember a wonderfully hip granny square long vest in the late 60’s… red, white and blue I believe.
    I also have an afghan that HER aunt made in the early thirties… in an interesting stitch pattern that Gram didn’t recognize.
    As for the crocheted lace pieces… I guess it depends on your decorating sensibilities and how precious they are to you. I think I’d be tempted to tack them together and use them as a piecework lace curtain in the windows. But I’m a little bit shabby and cluttered naturally!
    And if I was making them now I might expand the size and think of them as summer weight lace scarves or shawls. After all it’s hard to wear those gorgeous wool designs in the summer!

  27. What beautiful things! My Mom crocheted, and I have a few items remaining of her things. Especially a crocheted vest from the 70s she made for me.
    I won’t ever let that go.
    Your room is shaping up!

  28. Anne- It’s fun to look at older projects, they bring back memories of where you were at the time. My family has alot of crocheters- one who does a blanket in a day and sells them for her Seniors club.

    I personally, could never get the hang of it, so to speak.

  29. Wow, this brings it all back. I, too, had an Italian grandmother who crocheted a long skirt for me – various shades of pink and lined with a matching slip. And mine spent evenings crocheting fine doilies and tablecloths a she watched The Million Dollar Movie. I, too, learned to crochet at her knee, but to knit at my mother’s. And for some reason knitting won out. Thanks for bringing back memories.

  30. beautiful beautiful work. i am a quilter and my first thought when looking at all that crochet work was what a stunning quilt that would make. 🙂
    hand applique the pieces to a nice dark silk backing piece to show off the work ….
    my granny taught me to crochet back in the late 50’s and early 60’s. i remember i wanted to make some of those very hip crocheted vests.

  31. After reading through the comments I wanted to find another word to use when singing the praises of your doilies. “Beautiful” was used so much, but there you have it. (I asked Santa for the seasonal sock club this year. I’m hoping he complied!).

  32. Beautful work! The leafy yellow one is my favorite, too.

    I have lots of filet and fine crochet from my German mother and grandmother. I do not have lace lying around the house so the pieces are also bundled up somewhere in a tin just like yours. I pull it out too and look it over.

    I never lerned to do the fine crochet but I’d made my share of granny squares. I’m wroking on a Mod 70’s colored afghan from a Lion Brand pattern. It’s three different sized squares with a circle motif in the center.

    ANYway, the crochet is beautiful! I should learn to do the fine stuff, but my esthetic just doesn’t go there. Hmm maybe a shawl…

  33. Love your crochet work, Anne. Just as beautiful as your knitting. I think I made that same doily that is the last crocheted picture. I did doiles and a lot of croceting when I was a pre-teen and teen, too.

    And you and David have inspired me to clean out my yarn room and get organized – or what can pass for it around here. Your room is looking lovely and David is so handy. Your own winding station. How cool is that!

  34. very very beautiful. i mostly knit the pearl cottons these days, my eyes (while somewhat young) can’t handle the crochet very often. i love your winding station. when we purchased our home this past summer, and i planned my office/studio i didn’t plan how the swift and ball winder should be.. i’m still struggling with that one. your station is very nice. i look forward to seeing the finished space!

  35. My maternal grandmother crocheted beautiful cotton lace like that. I *kick* myself for never having her teach me, but I’m happy that I have her tiny lace hooks.

  36. Oh dear, I am so far behind on blog reading I’m not sure if you are moving house or remodeling … 🙂 anyway, did enjoy seeing your vintage (!) textiles. Sigh. I too have a couple of tubs of them, and drag them out every once in a while to moon over. But I don’t want them on my dressers, either. They do make lovely gifts in the end.

    Love your Matterhorn set below — after Xmas, I am treating myself to some decluterring, and some decluttering of the internet, but hope to get back to your blog regularly!
    Happy Holidays!

  37. Though my decorating sensibilities never really included doilies either, my mom has several hand crocheted ones framed over fabric (under glass) that look unexpectedly contemporary and not-fussy. Just an idea for utilizing your beautiful work…
    Thanks for your time spent on this blog – I have been reading for while and really appreciate the pattern and yarn eye-candy amidst my daily life.

  38. Gorgeous! It’s so funny, but the one I spotted and loved immediately is the one you said is your favorite — it’s just beautiful. I have a former advisor who used to sit in meetings around the holidays and crochet snowflakes for Christmas trees; they were always lovely, and I never could figure out how to crochet, but I love looking at them!

  39. thank you for sharing your crocheted past. it’s so much fun to see these little laces, and even the grouping of threads is an evocative picture. my grandma (the one who taught me to knit)used to do crochet like that–i’m not sure she ever hit the afghan phase, but i’ve never managed anything more than a small filet piece. seeing the lace though…it’s tempting! (although there’s always the what do you do with it problem…)

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