Friday, October 5, 2012

Belgian lace

This lovely piece of lace from Belgium was given to me as a wedding gift in 1965.

Its gracious giver was a long-time friend of my mothers, and was sent to me from New York City.

My mother and her friend, Leonia, had become the best of friends while both were working at National City Bank on Wall Street in New York City. From their training days to their various promotions, they, along with another co-worker, Margie, became a close threesome.

Many stories were recalled  by my mother of those happy days as a young woman in her first professional job. When my mother married and moved to Minnesota for a business opportunity for Dad, she and Lee, as Mom called her, remained in touch.

Never losing contact, they called each other often, right up until Mom's passing. They enjoyed sharing various clippings, bulletins, announcements, or snippets of news from their corners of the world. Mom especially loved getting articles or human interest stories from the New York Times that Lee would send from time to time.

And on any special occasion, be it Mother's Day, Easter, Mom's birthday and so on, I knew Mom would be telling me she had talked to Lee. They had a very special bond and both had sealed this wonderful friendship long ago.

I have tried to stay in contact with Lee since Mom's passing since I realize how difficult it must be to lose a dear friend. Lee also helps me to keep a piece of my mother's past.

I called her recently to ask about this piece of lace. I never knew its history.

Lee was happy to talk about it and was a bit surprised, but pleased, that I had kept it all these years. She told me my gift of long ago was among the pieces brought by Lee's mother and brothers when they came to America from Belgium in 1958.

Belgium is renowned as the leading maker of fine lace, still practiced to this day exclusively by hand. You won't find any lace factories in Belgium.

Belgian lace making, like many other needle arts, shares the story of European winters that were cold and dark. Days were long; folks were indoors. Working with bobbins and a pillow, hooks and needles, fabric and threads, they passed the time creating fine things. These were things that could adorn their homes but could never be bought.

Her brothers, Lee noted, also did lace making. I shouldn't have been surprised by this. The dexterity required to work with wooden bobbins might better fit a man's hand than perhaps stitching using a fine needle. And so my piece could have been made by any one of her family members.

Lee still has a collection of pieces with such cherished memories attached to each one.

Many fiber art forms have made a comeback. People are turning to simple things, perhaps with the changing economy. Yarns, fabrics and threads do not need to be expensive and beautiful creations result in people just sitting still and allowing their creative instincts to blossom.

Classes in knitting, stitching, weaving, bobbin lace making and other techniques are thriving, many offered through a community education program for a low cost. Knitting stores are happy to have you come and sit while you knit, and learn some new stitches.

The satisfaction gained from a finished piece is worth the time the effort. And who knows what piece you create today might be a cherished heirloom in years to come?