Somewhere in the corner, there’s usually a box sitting undisturbed. Neatly folded, ironed and starched, pieces of linen, clothwork and lace are housed in plastic zip lock bags. When opened, a whisper of air rushes out making a sound vaguely like the words “use me”.
Like most others, when browsing through antique stores we would casually walk right past these boxes. But a recent gift changed all of that.
For the past year, Jackie Purcell and Lois Mapes have been working on a table covering for The Table (click here to see it naked)
The Beekman Mansion Crocheted Tablecloth–the stats
Total woman hours 1,173 hours
Total thread used 17,280 yards (9.82 miles!)
Total stitches 1,165,270 stitches
For over a year, this mantra went through their heads (and likely their dreams):
Round 1: Chain 8. Join with slip stitch to first chain to form ring. Chain 5 . double crochet in next chain. Chain 2. Repeat
When she presented the cloth, Jackie wrote:
“Lay the cloth, there is company coming.” Lay the cloth………why? The table cloth covered table scars, muted the clatter of utensils, protected the table top from more wounds, and perhaps even enhanced the china to be used. “Lay the cloth”…..not an easy task when the table top is 6 1/2’ x 8’.
Where to begin………how about searching for months for a design that would help showcase an already beautiful space……the dinning room at Beekman. Of course this cloth would be hand crafted like the mansion itself. Small squares that could be carried with ease and ready to work on at any time. Square to match the sharp, clean Federal lines of the woodwork and mantle in the dinning room. Ahh………yes, add a spiral centered within each square to mimic the wavy lines in the wall paper……confined, graceful motion.
These squares were crocheted by three women; some never having met. Not even living near each other. There were some days a square was a balm to loneliness, grief or just disquiet. There were times when crocheting a square hastened travel time to a foreign place, or seemed to lessen the wait time before a physicians appointment and diagnosis. Fingers learned pattern by repetition. No need to carry directions. They had learned the dance. Merely a ball of thread and a hook; a hook to hold onto.
Even after carefully washing hands before picking up “the work”, the memory of a faint scent might linger. Perhaps sun tan lotion, or a salve for sore joints, or onions and garlic paired with freshly stripped rosemary. Maybe a lavender lotion for chapped hands or baby lotion from a visiting grandchild. On a few days……a tear or two from the frustration of being a woman! All the scents of a woman’s day.
This cloth is done. So many new hands will now wander along the stitches as they seek to join in a circle to pray for the bounty placed before them and give thanksgiving for every living thing at Beekman. They will reach to share a dish to pass and slide a glass to be refilled.
So “lay the cloth” to welcome the future of Beekman hospitality. Amen.
The saddest thing about many “heirlooms” is that we find them so precious that we never use them…the china, the crystal, the silver…but to what end? So they can sit in a pristine “as new” state…in the corner of an old storefront a century from now?
If you have them tucked away in a cabinet, go get them this instant. So what if their fate is a stain, a chip or a scratch? Who are you saving them for?
When we look at our table now, it is evident. Each knot holds together not just a piece of fabric. It binds and protects one generation’s love for the next. And love should not be unrequited.
So the next time, you are in an antique store, look for that box in the corner. Thumb through the parcels. And if you come across one with a design that speaks to you or that displays your family’s monogram, buy it.
Which family heirloom do you vow to use more often?