My maternal aunt recently passed away after a long fight with Alzheimer's. She was a special, gentle woman - my mother's only sister. I was honored to spend about a half hour alone with her just prior to her passing. During that time, while I stood rubbing her forehead, I spoke to her about the activities she had enjoyed through her life. Among other topics, I spun images of the many needle crafts she used to do - particularly knitting, needlepoint and quilting. I spoke about our shared interest in needle crafts - my own developed as a result of her mother's (my grandmother's) tutelage. If you have read my profile then you know the importance of both of my grandmothers in the development of my interest and love of needlework. I asked my silent aunt if she could recall how many times her mother flipped her piece over to inspect the quality of her handiwork. I was pretty sure she heard me and imagined the chuckle that would normally have been shared. As I reflect back on this moment today, I am struck by how the threads of needle crafting have woven themselves through my family - connecting us and binding us, creating a shared history of pieces, stories, imagery and times spent together.
Needlework has been a pastime of women (and many men too, but primarily women) for many years. Many times the finished pieces far outlast their maker, leaving behind remembrances of the people who created them. In fact, a sweater that my aunt knit many years ago was one of the items proudly displayed among the many photos of her and her family at her memorial service.
There are related needlework exhibits currently going on that celebrate and explore historic needlework by Connecticut women and girls. I have not yet had the opportunity to visit any of them but I plan to. I think it would be a fitting way to honor my aunt.
Here are the details and links for the exhibits and the museums who are sponsoring them (click on the exhibit for more information or on the name of the museum for specifics):
"Connecticut Needlework: Women, Art and Family: 1740-1840" is on display at the Connecticut Historical Society, One Elizabeth St., Hartford, through March 26, 2011.
"With Needle & Brush: Schoolgirl Embroidery from the Connecticut River Valley" is an exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum, 96 Lyme St., Old Lyme, through January 30, 2011.
A third exhibit is going on outside of Connecticut, but relatively nearby in historic Deerfield, MA: "Celebrating the Fiber Arts: The Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery" can be seen at the Flynt Center of Early New England Life - Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery. The blurb indicates it is a permanent exhibit with changing elements, the current exhibit runs through November 28, 2010 except November 25, 2010.
The busy holiday season is quickly descending upon us. Quiet needle crafting can be a healthy way to settle our stresses, and provide restorative moments in which we might contemplate the people and things we hold dear. Check through your library's holdings - you will find many materials on the traditional needle arts such as crewel, embroidery, needlepoint, cross stitch, quilting, and of course, crochet and knitting.