the Forgotten Hope Chest

The curiosity factor of a locked box is one of the nostalgic, girly-giggly elements that I love about opening a hope chest.  One of my girlhood daydreams was to find an old, forgotten hope chest full of vintage linens and quilts…

If this scenario is also one of your dreams, make it become a reality!  Just stuff a cedar box full of this and that and shove it out of sight and out of mind for a few decades.  I set myself up for that to sorta happen, except my hope chest doesn’t have a whole bunch of vintage linens in it – but it has a few!  It also has really silly 18-year-old girl stuff in it, like Avon floating candles from 1983, only used once.  Not exactly an exciting find.

Recently my nephews climbed up into my parent’s attic and wrangled my previously abandoned cedar hope chest down the narrow steps.  I hadn’t looked inside of it in almost thirty years!  Imagine my surprise to find this pretty pillow, all neatly folded up.  Okay, it wasn’t all that surprising, because I recognized it immediately.  Still, I had completely forgotten about making it.  It’s made with washable taffeta.  Taffeta Dreams, taffeta pillow…  It’s too wonderful for my Very First Post and I am basking in the happy glow of word association.

hardanger cutwork pillowcover

Here’s the scoop on this pillow cover.  In 1985 I discovered Hardanger embroidery, which is a form of geometric counted thread stitchery from Norway.  It can include pulled threads, eyelets, and cutwork.  I fell in love with pearl cotton in all of it’s pastel glory.  It’s cool stuff, if you are into that sort of thing, which I assume you are since you are reading this blog.  There are so many wonderful patterns available now!  Save the Stitches! has many resources for needlework of all kinds.

This pillow cover wasn’t originally for my hope chest but was a gift for my husband’s grandmother, made by yours truly in 1986.  She was a professional seamstress and sewed many wedding gowns on a treadle sewing machine during her lifetime.  A TREADLE SEWING MACHINE!!  She kept the pillow in her sewing room, in the rocking chair she brought from The Old Country, which in her case was Germany.  I must say that it pleased me very much that she thought the stitchery was special enough for her favorite room.  My pillow in the cathedral of the treadle sewing machine!  After her death the pillow cover was given back to me and has been entombed in my hope chest all of this time, hoping to become… a New Vintage Find!  That is similar to Pinocchio wanting to become a real boy.

If you desire to check the accuracy of my terminology, it would make me ecstatically happy for you to read this article describing the use of the terms Antique, Vintage, and Retro.

What to put in a Hope Chest

hardanger doily pattern 1986

I love the little picots inside of the cutwork squares.  They are like little special snowflakes, each one so precise.  Picots are one of the cool things about Hardanger.  The other cool thing about Hardanger is the tiny scissors.  I have loved scissors my entire life.  Thank you, mother.

Hardanger is not difficult to work.  Accuracy in counting is vital as the cut threads must be exactly matched on either end to prevent fraying.  YOU DON’T WANT FRAYING.  FRAYING IS BAD.  Because it is stitched with pearl cotton on evenweave fabric, the embroidery is fairly stable and washable.  But it won’t hold up super well to toddlers with a fetish for poking jelly-sticky fingers into tiny fabric holes.  If you decide to embellish kitchen towels to put in your hope chest I recommend choosing hardanger patterns without much cut work.

Hardanger Stitching Tip: Steam pressing the embroidery piece from the back, on top of a folded towel, makes the stitches puff up and stand out from the fabric background.  That is the best part after all the stitching that goes into a piece this big!

This pillow cover is in excellent condition for being 30 years old.  The fabric is a bit dirty and there is a small stain on one corner but I think it will wash completely clean.  It may need a custom pillow form sewn for it.  I charge extra for custom work.  But I’d be charging me.  So maybe I will give myself a discount.  Or hope that I can find one at JoAnn’s Crafts because sewing pillow forms is boring and mine are sometimes lumpy.  Suggestions for exciting non-lumpy pillow stuffing techniques welcomed in the comments.

I am so excited to have this especial adorned cushion and use it.  When it is washed and blocked I will post more pictures of it adding elegance and beauty to my home.  Stay tuned for an update on the finished project!  Until then, I am afraid it will be heading back into the hope chest/cardboard box.  I can hear it’s tiny cry of “Noooo….. please don’t make me go back in there with those crazy candles…”  Yes, my real hope chest is still languishing on the back deck of my parent’s house, waiting for my husband to have enough time to run out there with his truck and get it.

It’s been a very snowy couple of days.  I have a fire going this afternoon and the two-year-old toddler just unraveled the hot pad I was attempting to crochet.  It wasn’t turning out well anyway.

What is in your hope chest?  Please do tell!


    • Tetonia says:

      Perhaps your sister will help you finish them, if you bring them to her house. But you may not get them back afterwards.

      BTW, if my gravatar image shows me with a mustache, it’s because for some reason it is pulling JB’s profile. I have not recently developed hirsutism.

    • Kiyoko Ball says:

      Hardanger is as simple as cross stitch. If you enjoy using evenweave fabric and following a pattern, you can learn to do Hardanger.

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