Saturday, August 22, 2009

Crocheting with Elizabeth

Elizabeth Hiddleson-isn't she pretty!!!!
I am such a crochet nerd; I get all excited when I get some new thread, and I order old patterns off of Ebay that I know I will never make. I drive David crazy by pointing out afghans and doilies in the old western movies he loves to watch, and I will drive 50 miles for a ball of Royale size 10, #0424 Lt. Peach if I have to.
So, it will probably come as no surprise that I am a crochet designer "groupie," (for lack of a better word.) I love my favorite designers and I collect their patterns the way I once collected David Cassidy records (at least I don't have posters of them on my bedroom wall!)
I have a short list of my all time favorites: Annie Potter, Esther Parnell Hewlett, JoAnn Maxwell, and the superstar of the crochet world: Elizabeth Hiddleson. I don't know a lot about her personal life. She had many designs published in Workbasket Magazine in the 50's where she was often refered to as "Miss Elizabeth Hiddleson." I have heard stories that she was a hermit and lived alone out in the desert in California; that she became so wealthy from selling her patterns that she bought houses for all her children. Who knows what is fact and what is fiction? I do know she was a prolific and extremely talented designer. Her doilies are still popular today, and with good reason. They are simply beautiful.
Her patterns can sometimes be a little hard to understand. She relied heavily on the photos that accompanied her doilies, and the phrases "watch the picture," and "continue by picture," are used often. She sometimes sounds like a mother in the wording of many of her patterns (the following are quotes taken directly from Volume 10 of her designs):
"Rnd 22: (this may not sound right, but do as stated)...."
"Rnd 1: ch 3 for dc, I will not keep repeating this, just remember when rnd starts with dc to ch 3 for 1st one....."
Some of her abbreviations are a little hard to understand, too. What the heck is a "prr," (I think it means previous row/rnd)  and what does "sl st in top of 3 ch bgr" mean? (I believe this means "sl st in top of the ch-3 at the beginning of the round") The first time I made one of her doilies, it took me three days to figure out that "rf*" meant to "repeat from *"
What a dummy I was! But sometimes when I have been struggling with my own patterns like I have been lately, it makes me laugh to read some of the old patterns, and see what they used to be like.
"No Checks Please"- looks like some things never change! Elizabeth used lots of clip art in her books.

But the letter she included on page 32 of the book touched my heart, and I want to share it with you:
To my customers--
Whom I regard as unseen friends. I want to thank the many who sent greeting cards. I wish time would permit that I might reply separately to each of you, but the number is too great. Therefore, I hope you will accept the fact that each message is appreciated.
Also to the thousands who have written how very much they enjoy my creations in Crochet, I am most grateful. Of course I must make a living, but aside from the financial part of my business, it is a much more satisfactory life just knowing that through my creations I am providing pastime and enjoyment for others.
Again thank you each one.
Wow, Elizabeth, I couldn't agree more!!!!


crochethuahua said...

What a touching letter. I love her books and bought my first one nearly 30 years ago. It took me awhile, too to figure out some of the pattern wording.

I really like JoAnn Maxwell, too but have never heard of the other lady. I'll have to look her up.

Ann said...

Crochethuahua, Esther Hewlett was a designer for Lily Mills in the 40's and 50's. If you look in many of their books from that time, you will see her name given (in tiny print!) as the designer of the items. I plan to to a post about her soon. She was an amazing designer!

Unique2wh0 said...

What fun and how interesting :) I am like you with my yarn/thread and luckily My Prince loves it that I crochet, at least he is good at faking it if not LOL
I got my new book yesterday, Vintage is wonderful not sure what I will make first!!

Ana Luisa said...

well, now I know who she was! There are a LOT of her designs in those crochet magazines I talked about in my blog a few days ago, the ones calles "Puntorama Ganchillo" and "Ganchillo Artístico". (there are other designers in those magazines, as well). Her designs are beautiful, but they are extremely easy to understand in those magazines because they all come in graph form, and a short summary of each design.
Thanks for sharing, and will be looking forward to reading about more crochet designers! :)

Ruth Sandra said...

I love Elizabeth Hiddleson patterns. Have done multiple ones - from her own books and from Magic Crochet Magazines -- and the finished projects sell -- boy do they sell! Including some made with "bone rings" (these days they are plastic...). Right now, I have 3 works-in-progress that are her patterns -- including a Dragon in filet crochet (what fun!). One thing I learned from her books is that to do Filet Crochet so that the spaces come out square and the image doesn't come out flat -- use tr (triple crochet stitches), not dc (double crochet stitches). See, now I have shared a crochet tip, but if you look at the Filet Crochet in her own books, they are mostly in tr, if not all!!

Ann said...

Unique2wh0, it is good to have the support of our loved ones, isn't it? At least I have finally gotten David to stop calling it my "knitting!"
She was an amazing designer, wasn't she Ana Luisa? I know she did a lot of patterns for Magic Crochet, and you are right, the graphs make them much easier to follow!
Wow, thanks Ruth! I love filet and will try using tr stiches next time. Elizabeth's designs are timeless, and people just seem to love them.

Heather said...

I have started my first project by Elizabeth. I wrote about it in my blog today and linked to this post. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Ann, I have to thank you for your wonderful blog post about Elizabeth Hiddleson, my all time favorite designer! So very little information is available about her! I cannot think of more enjoyable "eye candy" than gazing through one of her pattern books – any one, it does not matter which!

Now that I have found your blog, I will have to go and check out your designs! Thanks again for a lovely read.

Unknown said...

I have crocheted Elizabeth Hiddleson designs for nearly 35 years! Her designs are amazing, and yes classic! I shared her on Starting Chain page on FB.

Heather said...

I am working on For the Bride, vol 14 and could not figure out how to read the design. I picked this book up at a thrift store in St Cloud, MN and really loved the round tablecloth. I tracked it to Ravelry and discovered she had this tablecloth also published in Magic Crochet no.8. With a little patience and a lot of waiting, I found the magazine and paid way too much from eBay but now I am zipping along.
I am so happy I found your blog. Thank you for the conversation and hope this helps someone else who had a hard time understanding Elisabeth's abbreviations too. 🙂

Peter Brueggeman said...

Here’s a biography I’ve written in Esther Parnell Hewlett