Thursday, September 29, 2011

More farm treasures

While in South Dakota recently to attend my Uncle Marvin's funeral, my Aunt Lois, Aunt Norma and I spent a day cleaning the old farmhouse.

We barely scratched the surface, but it gave us a chance to look through some old farm treasures in the house. Reminiscing as we went from room to room, we uncovered one object after another, each with wonderful memories attached.

I remember Grandma having a crocheted and starched teacup and saucer on her coffee table. I assumed she made it, since she did crocheting.

As a farm wife, Grandma awoke when the rooster crowed to announce a new day, and I am certain she didn't sit down until dinner was served, dishes were done, cows were milked, cream was separated, chickens were all in their coop, children were tended to, and the house was in order.

Then I can imagine her relishing a few moments of contentment to sit in her rocker, crocheting on her lap.

My aunts and I discovered the teacup and saucer I remembered, along with a delightful pair of crocheted high-heel shoes, upstairs, put away with other trinkets. A bit dusty, but oh, so charming.

But, said my aunts, Grandma did not crochet them.  Aunt Johanna, Grandma's sister, did.  Grandma crocheted more practical things like towels, pillowcases, and some decorative throw pillows.

They must have seen the look of longing on my face, and said I could have them.  I was thrilled!

When I returned home, I gave the high-heeled shoes to my sister, Joan, and decided to keep the cup and saucer, which were slightly out of shape from years of being put away or just being handled. I wondered if I could gently wash them and re-starch them.

I remembered Grandma telling me they were starched using sugar water. So I Googled.

Voile! I found a recipe:
Old-fashioned starch used for crocheted pieces
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Mix water and sugar in a small pan. Stir the mixture over low heat (do not boil) until clear and not sugary. Remove pan from heat, and let mixture cool.

Dip pieces into mixture. Gently squeeze out excess starch, then shape and allow to dry.
So, I used a lingerie wash and gently moved it through the water; then placed the cup over a small china cup, and the saucer over a small glass bowl to dry.

I then made the sugar mixture and let it cool.  Holding my breath, as I could well imagine this being the ruin of these cherished pieces, I cautiously dipped them into the mixture, and placed them back on the china cup and glass bowl to mold them back into shape.


After brushing off some of the excess dried sugar, I now have a much cleaner cup and saucer, a remembrance of my beloved Grandma, crocheted by my Great-Aunt Johanna.

Little could these two women know then how their pieces of art would become heirlooms, and how much these would mean to me someday. 

Treasures of the heart.