Sunday, November 6, 2011

Emily Harrell: Still Weaving at 102

Last year I met Emily Harrell at Albemarle Craftsmans Fair. She makes knotted Armenian needle lace. I meant to make a blog post about her then, just got away from me. This is us, last year (2010.)

Emily Harrell was, at the time, 101 years old. She and her daughter and grandchildren and great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren were at this craft fair. Just about everyone who was capable of holding a needle in her family had learned her craft. Needle lace is sort of like looping, but there is a "hard knot" involved.

Emily took the time to show anyone and everyone who wanted to learn how-to...right there. I knelt by her chair for an hour, i'll bet. I did not put my hands on the lace, but she must have thought i was getting it, because she kept showing me variations on the stitches.

Her finished pieces were doilies and collar trims, for the most part. Also hankie trims, napkins, etc. She was still using a fine cotton thread, though one older piece of weaving that she brought out was as fine and soft as a spider's web, it was woven in such thin thread! She said she could no longer do it with the very fine thread. At 101, i was impressed she could still do it at all, it requires good vision and dexterous fingers.

While I knelt by her seat, a woman who she had taught last year brought a little piece of lace she had been practicing on, on the edge of a piece of linen, for feedback. Emily was encouraging and delighted to see the practice work her disciple had dutifully brought for her.

In the car, on the way home, i started trying it. (someone else was driving...thanks, Ellie!) By the time i had gotten home, i knew what i wanted to do with my new skill...and thus my little angels were born.

These are twined waxed linen over little hardwood bobs. After the twining, i add wings and skirts of needle lace. Not quite what Emily was doing, but okay.

So this year, i just had to go back. Emily was still there, of course now she is 102. (or "Almost 103," as she says...sort of like when you were a kid and always had to get in your 1/2 year. Of course she does, what an remarkable thing it is, to have lived that long!)

Of course i brought her a little angel, and she was happy to wear it. A guardian angel, i hope. Her great granddaughters, twins, took turns taking pictures of us. (They call her GG.) Cute!

I hear tell that Emily has work in the Smithsonian. I am glad she has made her mark. I am so glad to have met her!

1 comment:

J. Anthony Stubblefield said...

What a cool post. Very inspiring. I only hope to be going as strong if I live that long.