Artistic Thread

Guest Blogger Michelle Mullin

“When we had moved back to Nebraska, after my Air Force time stationed in Tucson, I eventually worked at Nebraska Furniture Mart. There was an elderly lady who worked at the central info desk who I used to talk to all the time. Vivian, with bright red hair and twinkling eyes. One day at lunch, she was watching me make something and remarked that she saw very few young people these days who could crochet, or would take the time to make
things like that. Then I found out that she knew how to make tatted lace! I knew what that was because I used to make some crochet patterns I found in old Workbasket magazines, and I had seen some shuttle tatting patterns there. But no matter how I begged and pleaded, she wouldn’t agree to teach me. She said she just didn’t have the patience, but finally she told me she’d ask her husband to show me… Apparently, he was the one who’d taught her in the first place!

Such a nice old gentleman, Wendell must have been close to eighty…and when the weather was bad he still would drive her to work and wait all day to take her home safely. One of those days, during my lunch hour, he taught me to tatt. He had learned to tatt from his father, who’d been a fisherman in Canada, and they used it to make nets. Sewing, embroidery, knitting, crochet, tatting; in his day and age they weren’t only for women. Obviously, there wasn’t tv, and most people still had to make their clothes. If you wanted to have something nice, you needed to make it, and if you were bored, there was always something that needed made or mended. I was so grateful he thought I was worthy of the time.The only thing he asked of me in return was that some time in my life, I had to teach at least one other person to tatt. I promised him I would, and I also gave him my first tatted doily.


                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thread Art by  Michelle Mullin

Eventually, after having a string of jobs that each worked out worse than the last, I started my own small business teaching crochet and tatting classes through Hobby Lobby… and one of the times I was sitting there by the door handing out my fliers, in walked Vivian and Wendell! I was so happy to be able to tell him that I had lost count of how many people I’d taught to tatt by then. Since then, I’ve taught crocheting and tatting at various times thru Michaels, and even the Adult Continuing Education dept. at Metro Community College.

I volunteered at the elementary school my daughters were attending for Pre-K to teach small numbers of sixth graders to crochet as a reward. Twice a week for an hour we’d take a table in the library and work there. There was a girl who the librarian was tactless enough to comment that she doubted would ever finish anything… I made sure she darn well did. She crocheted a decorative scarf for her grandmother which she even went so far as to finish off with beaded fringe. So there! I took her picture wearing it and I still have it. Never assume what a kid can’t do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Holiday Ornament by Michelle Mullin

One other little girl there really touched me, because she was just so determined. The first project she made after learning chains and starting a small potholder, was a baby blanket for the little brother who was coming soon. And I don’t mean a little cutesy postage stamp sized baby blankie, no… she made a baby blue and ivory striped afghan big enough for a single bed. One day as she worked I was so tickled when she told me, “You know what Mrs.Mullin, crochet is all about math isn’t it?” Yes, Karla, it is… wasn’t that sneaky of me?

Next, she brought in a scarf someone had begun in shell stitch which she wanted to finish for her little sister. After that, she wanted to make a purse! She’d never had one, and she wanted to make one for herself. 3D crochet is quite a leap from just learning to do it flat… but we started one, using the fuzzy eyelash yarn that’s so popular, but a royal pain to work with. That was what she wanted, and she was determined to make it.

was impressed, she did a fantastic job. She crocheted around some hoop handles, and did gradual increases and decreases of stitches to form the shape – no pattern, simply by how it looked! – and then we sewed a liner in it. But before she finished it, she told me that she wasn’t going to get to keep it, her family was going to visit her Grandmother in Mexico, and she was told to give it to her as a gift. It never occurred to her to object, although she really had wanted to keep it and I didn’t say anything, but I almost cried and the minute I was out of her hearing I said some unfriendly things about her elders under my breath. It did seem unfair to me, but I’ve since come to understand that in her family, it was considered an honor.

Her counselor (who taught me to knit, BTW) and I decided, however, that would not stand. We got her the stuff to make another one, and this time, instead of making it from scraps, she got to pick the color. It ended up the pinkest, fuzziest purse I will probably ever see…and I was secretly thrilled because probably no one would want one that pink but her. She told me later that there were members of her family who had begun to ask her to make them one, and I was so proud that she remembered what I’d taught her about what to charge and how to conduct her small business. In a family where her older siblings were off doing their own thing and she was the one to watch the smaller ones than her, she’d developed a useful skill that got her respect.

We barely had time at the end of the year for me to quickly teach her granny squares and give her a big bag of yarn scraps to use over the summer to work on a blanket. I thought I’d probably never hear from her again, but the beginning of the next year, she called me at home to let me know she’d finished it. At the start, she didn’t think her family would be willing to spend money on yarn for her to learn… but by the end of the year, they took her to the craft store and got her what she asked for.

I create things; I am an artist with thread!”

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