Monday, August 6, 2012

Trousseau and doilies

I associate a lot of things with the old west and not just the cowboys that first come to mind. While I'm all about reading tales regarding the cowboy and his many antics, I also find other occupations and traditions fascinating. Today, I'd like to visit weddings. Almost all of the weddings I've written into my stories have been preformed under duress or very hastily. I love the tension created by those circumstances. However, most weddings were planned and orchestrated. They were festive events that brought a large community together.

In preparation for this glorious celebration, the bride often had a trousseau, a collection of items for when she married. Gathering items for a trousseau began long before there was a potential groom. Girls placed their prized items in a hope chest that was often placed at the end of the bed. While I never really mentioned a trousseau, two weddings take place during Once Jilted. Actually three if you count the one in which the groom never showed.

Regardless, back in the day, it was customary for the girls in a household to begin early on their trousseaux. They would learn to crochet, knit, tat, quilt and embroider. As part of the process, they would create items to decorate a home that would someday be theirs. Pillow cases, dresser scarves, table clothes and dish towels would all go into a hope chest for the future. These prized possessions were then stored in a hope chest so named for the hope that they would one day have their own household.

Above is a sample from my grandmother's hope chest, a dresser scarf that she crocheted as a child. The close up reveals the double stitch she used in the pattern. And while the heroine of Once Jilted, might not have had a hope chest because of her circumstances, her friend Lora Lee would have.

Ciara Gold


Unknown said...

Hi Gals,

Lol. I still have doilies my grandmother made. Her fingers would whiz so fast, I couldn't keep up to them. Fascinating art. I wonder how many women know how to do that today.

Meg said...

Don't forget the QUILTS! LOL - my mom had embroidered pillow cases and towels, sheets, but sewed her own quilts later in life, one for each kid. My husband's family, however, had a TON more of everything from quilts to rugs to doilies and linens. Great post!

Devon Matthews said...

I always knew I was born about a hundred years too late. Two of my favorites hobbies are quilting and crocheting doilies. So far, I've only done four quilts. One each for my two children, my mom, and my latest was a double wedding ring for my hubby. I made it queen size so we could actually use it on our bed and it literally took me forever to quilt because the stitches had to be as tiny as possible. My grandmother gave me her quilting frame many years ago and that's what I still use. I've done bunches of doilies and always have one stuck back that I'm working on and I use them in my house (yes, I do and I've been called old-timey on several occasions but that doesn't bother me one bit ;)

Terrific post, Ciara!

Ellen O'Connell said...

My mother was a knitter and my grandmother crocheted. Between them they could make most anything. But here I am, modern and useless, able to do neither. Technically I can knit (if squares count) but that's all. My mother could even darn stockings and did when I was little. Mom also had a hope chest that was still at the end of her bed all the years I was growing up (cedar lined).

I had a reader ask about American Old West weddings recently. All my research says that there were no legal requirements like licenses back then, that people could literally just troop to the local preacher and that was it. Does anyone have anything contradictory?

Jacquie Rogers said...

I love doilies and quilts! But alas and alack, I could echo Ellen's comment. Technically I can crochet (if squares count) but that's all.

As for weddings, preachers didn't come to remote areas all that often. Most generally, a couple would have a big party (usually they'd say vows but not always) and that was it. Lots of times, when a preacher did get to the area, there'd be several couples to marry, most of them having a family already. Sometimes you just have to be practical. If a couple said they were married, then they were.