It’s a story for another day but we are currently building an extension to my parents house for our little family to live in. In the process we had to move the Welsh linen press which is one of the only antiques that we inherited from my grandmother (Mamgu to me) and which came originally from the family farm in the stunning Preseli Hills. Carefully stashed inside and rarely disturbed are boxes of wonderful photos of severe, black-clad welsh baptists in their sunday best and other precious things from a forgotten time including a hand-stitched baptismal gown, fine lawn handkerchiefs and…her box of unfinished crochet. Mamgu was a fine knitter and crocheter and made classic crochet lace table cloths, doilies and edged her best cotton pillow cases. I remember the table cloth vividly, it was always placed over the polished oak dining table and removed at meal times.
There is something very poignant about a craft item left unfinished. I don’t know what she was making but it looks like the centre of a doily or motif for a table runner or table cloth. It is also incredibly fine work in very fine mercerised cotton thread. I can’t imagine having the patience for anything so delicate. I often find similar doilies and antimacassars in charity shops in unloved fusty piles; the amount of skill and love that went into them long forgotten. She did try to teach me crochet once, I was probably about nine and I got as far as making a chain. I think that, although I was a keen sewer and cross-stitcher at that age, I didn’t really understand the point of crochet. After all, who wants to make old ladies doilies, and what is a doily for anyway? It took me more than 20 years to pick up a hook again and I like to think that she would have been proud of me. I don’t think I will ever make a doily though, I still don’t really know what they are for. Perhaps they have been reincarnated in the recent fashion for crochet mandalas, surely these are colourful, decorative doilies for our post-colonial times.