Wednesday, August 18, 2010

As the needle of the compass

The latest Victoria magazine arrived today and I immediately thought of Mary.

For two people who have never met in person, Mary and I carry on a very regular correspondence and one commonality we discovered early on was our love of Victoria magazine.

I didn't wait long to tear off the plastic covering when I found the new issue in the mailbox. I am ready for a look at autumn and tweeds and tartans. Bring it on. I'll close the blinds against this relentless summer sun and heat and hear instead the ripple of a stream in the Lake District and catch a glimpse of sheep in the shade of an old tree at Hill Top.

I was delighted to also discover within a two-page article "As One Grace To Another" by Claire Whitcomb detailing the three-decades-long correspondence between two needlewomen, Grace Medinus of Chicago, IL and First Lady Grace Coolidge. How coincidental that the article opens on August 18 - but in 1930. Here I am exactly 80 years later reading the opening of a letter Mrs. Coolidge wrote to a woman she had yet to meet. The passage quoted from the letter concerns geraniums, but the two women frequently discuss their needlework. Sound familiar Mary?

"Will you tell me the material you are using? I like it better than mine because it is softer."

Naturally as soon as I finished reading that I had to go pull out my July/August 1999 "Piecework". (Oh, how I love my Pieceworks!)

According to Mrs. Coolidge, "Every girl should be taught to sew, not merely for the sake of of making something but as an accomplishment which may prove a stabilizer in time of perplexity or distress. Many a time when I have needed to hold myself firmly, I have taken my needle, it might be a sewing needle, some knitting needles, or a crochet hook; whatever its form or purpose it often proved to be as the needle of the compass, keeping me to the course."

After the death of their sixteen-year-old son, Calvin Jr., in 1924 (blood poisoning from an infected blister made after playing tennis on the White House lawn), Mrs. Coolidge undertook a large project. She designed and made a filet crochet coverlet for the Lincoln bed, experimenting and working it bit by bit until she was happy with her work, completing it in 1927.

The next year the other Grace, Grace Medinus, duplicated the coverlet and, with Mrs. Coolidge's assistance, wrote out the instructions for publication in the New York Herald Tribune.

The two Graces finally met in 1937, twenty years before Mrs. Coolidge's death in 1957 at the age of 78.


Mary said...

Lucky you having both magazines! Mine haven't arrived yet.

Sheri said...

Beautiful story! For all 4 of you.