Monday, 27 October 2008

Lace and sunlight

This tale is dedicated to the weaver, Peter Collingwood who died on October 9th 2008. A master weaver, whom I first heard about from another weaver, Ann Sutton, who fortunately is still with us.

It was a large house. Inside the old couple sat working on fabrics. He wove and she made lace. She would also sew. After a few years as she sat at the old Singer sewing machine that had been her grandmother's before her, she began to notice the sunlight casting lacy shadows on the floor. She got up and went to her old diaries. She had written in them since she was a little girl and still of an evening she wrote. She recalled her grandmother telling her about an encounter with the faeries in the garden. Having heard of the Cottingley fairies, she was somewhat sceptical, but her grandmother was not given to saying things she knew not to be true.

The old woman read the diary entry with some satisfaction and went back to the sewing machine. She eased herself gently to the floor and began to murmur as she made the motions of lace-making. After a while, her husband came into the room and found her sitting on the floor with a faint fabric of lace over her knees. She was making lace from sunlight and shadows and she seemed to have made quite a lot. He handed her a pair of scissors and asked her how she'd done it. She took up the scissors and pointed to the open diary on the chair. He picked it up, read it and chuckled.

"Well, let's see how far we get with it shall we, love?" he said quietly.

She nodded and took up the fine lace, carefully murmuring a few words to hold the lace together. Then she folded it and turned to her husband with a smile. He embraced her and they stood with the sunlight in the room for a moment, the world going on around them. Then they parted and she sat at the sewing machine and he, memorising the words, went back to the loom and opened a window. Little by little he wove clouds and pale blue sky; falling feathers and leaves, flowers too - all these became a part of the fabric.

Four months later with all the fabrics and lace folded and ready to go to the galleries, the old couple died. The Fates, having been told of the old couple's work by the faeries, sent Atropos, the last of the three. There are three Fates you see, Klotho who spins the thread of life,
Lachesis who decides the length of that thread and Atropos the Inevitable. She waited, compassionately until the old couple were asleep and gently cut the two threads together.

When their children came to sort things out, they took the packaged fabrics to the galleries and continued to sort through the lives measured out in papers and such like. The galleries opened up the packages to find the finest fabrics and lace and following good curatorial practice, placed the fabrics out of direct sunlight. People who saw the fabrics mourned the passing of the skilled artists. Even a tall severe looking woman with an owl brooch and a warrior's stride thought them very fine,

"Much better than Arachne's work," she was heard to say before leaving the last of the galleries.


jennyflower said...

That is really rather lovely.

docwitch said...

Hello Griffin!
This is just beautiful. Gorgeous, and very moving. For me, this felt very personal because it reminds me of my grandmother, (somehow - can't explain).
And, well, a faery-tale that involves textiles? You had me immediately. Two of my Very Favourite Things.

Btw - things wot you like in your previous post: all of these things - yes, oh yes! I love your priorities!

Griffin said...


Thank you. For a writer to be able to move a reader is one of the great rewards of the craft.

Yes, I do love me textiles! Especially in costume... and especially historic costume!

I am already accumulating yet more 'books I absolutely have to buy'. I am not telling my bank manager... just in case.

Kim McBirnie said...

I've just stumbled upon your blog whilst touring blogland, and what an amazing find. Words beautifully stitched together to make your own patchwork fabric! (I too am a fabric addict.) Bravo.

Griffin said...

Welcome Kim, glad you liked it. Do come again, we'll get the tea and cakes out!

madameshawshank said...

She was making lace from sunlight and shadows..

OK Storyteller let me tell you this...the image from a room in my brother's house I looked I was sweetly drawn to the sweet delicate..'n there you see it with your story :-)

The Singer was my Nana's.

As for Arachne..a reminder to enjoy one's work..rather than boast about it!