Lace, part two

Well, I’ve just gotten off the phone with my mother, and I’ve got some information that changes the first Lace post.

Tragically, there is no more of “the real stuff.” It’s just…gone. My mother doesn’t have any. She says my uncle won’t have any either, but I’m still kind of hoping.

Ivy, you were right that “the real stuff” would be done in circles or cornered like a granny square, and they were mostly doilies and scarves. They were done without a pattern, as I said. All her afghans and crocheted garments also were done without patterns and often reverse-engineered from pieces she had seen others make. But that handkerchief was not one of them.

Everyone who identified the photographed lace as machined was correct. My mother said this wasn’t even the “nice” kind of handkerchief.

These were the ones made at The Shop, which I now know is the Liberty Handkerchief Co., on Union Street in Brooklyn. (It’s no longer there.) They did their work as contractors for White House and Stein Dobbin Lace Companies, and apparently the labels don’t even say Liberty. (You can google up a Liberty Handkerchief that exists in England; it’s not the same.)

My mom says that what you had to do to make these were to run up the seam right to the corner, then turn the handkerchief around and run back down the same seam. The trick was to do this without creating a tag in the back (ie, no extra fabric) and without leaving any holes. Then after that, you had to turn over the handkerchief and cut off the “wing” that would be left there. They called this a mitered corner. (?)

Then the handkerchiefs would be bundled up in packs of twelve, tied with a ribbon, and sold for eighty cents.

My grandmother’s shop also made scarves, baby dresses, mantillas, chaplets, satin sachets, and “doggies” during the slow season. (I wasn’t aware there was a slow season for handkerchiefs, by the way.) The “doggies” would be dogs and other animals made of terry cloth, then brought to another location where they’d be filled with foam rubber, and they’d be sold as kids’ sponges. My grandmother was good at finding work for the shop and that was one of the fun ones, my mom tells me.

Next time I’m at her house, I’ll photograph “the good handkerchiefs” and post those.

I’m utterly bummed that the Real Handmade Lace isn’t around any longer. That stinks. I mean, it’s nice to have these, but I wanted one of the ones she’d made for herself, right out of her own head. But my mom said those were from when grandma was younger, before she’d be staying up until three in the morning a few days a week trying to keep the shop afloat, and back when her hands didn’t hurt to be working with fine thread like that.

My mom said she didn’t know it was important to me, but I guess you don’t realize what’s important to you when you’re a kid and all this stuff just surrounds you. It’s just part of the past that vanishes away and then you wonder later on where it all went.


  1. CricketB

    Pardon the lack of precision here, but I remember looking at a lace book on, and seeing some great stuff. It’s probably one of these.

    Those tiny hooks are cool, aren’t they? I used to use them with quilting thread. Oh, for the eyes I used to have!

    When I was in England, my host was making bobbin or pillow lace as a school project. Very cool, but I never tried it myself.

    There’s also tatting, which is very slow; I do both needle and shuttle tatting.

    My MIL has a lace doily that was knitted by her sister, in rounds, from the inside out. (I know you know enough knitting to know how to tell.) I’ve done rounds like that outside in for hats, but never inside out. It would have to be 3+1 needles, but with so little thread to hold them in place?

    We have another piece at the cottage, with a synthetic thread, that’s neither; just do a bowline and leave a loop; the next round does bowlines in the previous round’s loops.