Monday, October 9, 2017

Season of the Witch

Now, some of you may think I am obsessed with the idea of witches.  And you would be correct...but it is natural and typical for me to thoroughly immerse myself in something I find interesting.  Just ask my husband, as he has witnessed my being involved in all manner of interests, including karate, kickboxing, yoga, Colonial history, herbs, gardening, spinning, embroidery, dyeing, knitting, well, you get the idea.

I have loved witches since I was a little girl...and refused to be anything else for Halloween all those years. No regrets! But now I am fascinated by the history of witches...or, so-called witches...the psychology behind those years of persecution, especially those pertaining to Colonial New England.

Several years ago my sister and I decided to travel to Ipswich, MA, as we both wanted to visit the now-closed Lowell Textile History Museum, which we did see.  And we saw Salem, too.  But I also was fascinated with Ipswich Lace, the only cottage industry lace unique to America, and hope to take a class with Karen Thompson next summer.  Karen is an expert in Ipswich Lace, having recreated all 22 samples that exist (working closely with the Smithsonian) and having recently published a book on this beautiful lace. That little trip to Massachusetts turned out to be a life-changing experience for me, as the concept of Goody Prymm was "born" there...and has led to my endless interest now in this earliest chapter of our country's history.  <l:)

As October is the "season of the witch," I thought I'd share a little pillow I designed and stitched, one for myself and one for my sister, the only difference being that her little knit-witch stands guard in the corner of her pillow, while mine is flying away on knitting needles.  We travel a lot together, and she is the one that keeps us on target (thank goodness), while I tend to be the kind who wanders and is likely to get us lost, lol!  I suppose, though, we balance each other out nicely that way, she keeping us safe and I pushing for adventure.

The ground is 40 count linen...I almost went blind stitching two of these little pillows, haha!  The threads are all silk, appropriately, given that Ipswich Lace is typically black silk. The boundaries are places we visited and the years they were founded: Ipswich 1634, Salem 1626, and Lowell 1826, while the Rogers and Brown House (where we stayed) was built ca. 1750, although the back part of the house, where we stayed, dated to the 1600s.  The broom and the little witch are from Lori of Notforgotten Farm, except that I made the little witch's "broom" into knitting needles which are unraveling the yarn from the full moon yarn ball as she flies away. The number 41, 979 yards on the broomstick refers to the amount of lace that was produced by hand in Ipswich in one year (1789-1790).  Now, if you don't know, that is a tremendous amount of bobbin lace, all created by women (and possibly some children) by hand using bobbins and pillows for lacemaking...perhaps 600 or so people contributing.

The backing is from a purple wool (and goose feather) Canadian blanket, while the blanket stitching around the edges are black wool.  Inside the pillow is stufft with strips of my father's old army blanket, wool, and a found object from each place we visited.  Mine contains a fallen leaf from the Burying Ground in Salem, an acorn along the Merrimack River in Lowell, and a small, crushed shell from the pathway at the Whipple House, which houses samples of Ipswich Lace. Goode stuffe, indeed.

I had a ball making our souvenirs from that trip! Every time I look at my pillow, I think about the fun we had and all that we learned...and I dream of returning to Ipswich one day...

© 2017 Nancy Duncan


  1. oh what fun......
    a perfect season to be...'bewitched'!

  2. Welcome home, Lori!! Indeed...........