Posts Tagged Poetry Mittens

One Thing Leads to Another

Last weekend we had a garage sale.  I wanted to get rid of items that have taken up space in the garage for years – bicycles, skis, birdfeeders, cans of oil, pots and trellises – things that will never be used again by us.  There also were clothes that no longer fit, household items that are no longer interesting and cameras and equipment that have been replaced by digital.  I also wanted to sell some magazines I have collected over the years.

The first day was slow and rainy, so I spent the time looking at back issues of Piecework, a magazine about the history of textiles.  I loved Piecework when it first came out and then not so much when the editors changed … what?  Honestly, I do not know what changed that I no longer liked.  My collection of Piecework went back to the beginning in 1993.  Flipping hrough eighteen years of magazines, I ran across a couple of surprises, not surprising since many issues arrived when I had too little time to read them.

One surprise was learning about needlepoint artist Stephen Beal, who wrote 24 poems to his embroidery floss.  For the uninitiated, embroidery floss colors are identified by number and there are hundreds of colors and numbers.  Beal uses floss manufactured by Dollfus-Mieg & Co. (DMC), Paris, France.  His poems are collected in a book, The Very Stuff.   The five poems reprinted  in the January/February 1995 issue of Piecework are each accompanied by a small stitched book mark-shaped piece.

The poems are charming, and include lines like, “This chrome is a yellow you could walk to China on.”  And this, dedicated to the 350’s shades of coral:  “350 the eldest, a big strong girl…351 and 352 are the sisters who get called each other’s names…”  There are more samples of his poetry on the DMC website at ttp://

The other surprise was an article about Poetry Mittens from the 1995 November/December issue.  The article discusses the history of a single mitten from 1780 that is stitched with letters and words from a poem titled “Trouble.”  The Smithsonian has a pair of mittens with the complete poem.  The words start at the wrist and wind down the hand.  The article includes directions for knitting a pair of poetry mittens with the following poem by Veronica Patterson: When snow swirls / we begin to dream / of dancing firelight / and hasten gaily home, / clapping hands / and words to / warm them.

I pulled a couple dozen of the best issues of Piecework to save for myself and passed the rest along to my Textile Study Group.  All the back issues will be passed along and along and I feel good about that.


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