1993

Aug 20, 2013

PieceWork, March/April 1993
We launched PieceWork magazine 500+1 years after Columbus discovered the New World. We weren’t thinking about that at the time, but we certainly were thinking about textile traditions that spanned the ages. In fact, the first road trip we took in putting that first issue together was to Deerfield, Massachusetts, an early English outpost with a bloody history (and plenty of textiles).

Bangwell Putt, the oldest surviving rag doll in the United States. Photo courtesy of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield, Massachusetts.

It was a lovely trip. We were given free rein to explore the historical buildings and collections – so much to see! We skipped over the Battle of Bloody Brook (1675) and Queen Anne’s War (1704), and homed in on the story of The Deerfield Society of Blue and White Needlework. This was an effort of four young women who were caught up in the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century. They studied the lovely old crewel-embroidered upholsteries, draperies, and household linens that came to Deerfield from England or were created on the spot after settlement, and proceeded to recreate them.

They experimented with natural dyes and drafted out traditional patterns, and created a cottage industry.  We were able to study and take photographs of some of their pieces, and the much older historical pieces that had inspired them. I particularly remember the little skeins of crewel yarn dyed in soft shades of indigo, madder, and butternut.

Linda Ligon's Delicate Irish Crocheted Pincushion, from PieceWork March/April 1993.
A highlight for me, personally, was a visit with Mistress Bangwell Putt, possibly the ugliest rag doll on the planet, and the oldest known one in the continental United States. She lives in Deerfield, and is the heroine of a story book that I must have read a thousand times to my daughter when she was little. We told Mistress Bangwell’s personal story in the November/December issue of PieceWork.

The first two years of the magazine, 1993 and 1994, are now available on CD. There’s so much more in them—the Knitting Madonnas of medieval art, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire story, the early history of Irish crochet, on and on. All on a couple of little disks that you can stick in a computer to watch and read to your heart’s content. History and needlework, hand in hand.

P.S. Stay tuned for information on how to win big in PieceWork’s 20th anniversary celebration contest.  Learn all the details in next week’s Needlework Traditions.


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