I have been a very lucky recipient this year, with several fun things to share here.
First was a holiday present from The Resident Male. Noting our stellar lack of success growing a kitchen garden outdoors; our constant consumption rate for of parseley, thyme, dill, cilantro, and other herbs; and the fact that our house has a rather dark interior, he gave me an indoor, self-illuminated hydroponic garden. Which being terminally nerdy, I promptly named “Keiko” after the Star Trek xenobotanist and long suffering wife of Chief Miles O’Brien.
As you can see, Keiko is nearly foolproof. This is a photo of growth at three weeks. Dill is the tall boi. Basil is in the right hand rear grow pod, with Thai basil in front of it. I will report back when we begin to harvest. But so far, so good…
Far less technological but of equal and long lasting delight was a surprise present from Sytske, my Long Distance Needlework Pal (of Antique Pattern Library fame), who lives in The Netherlands. The mail carrier trotted up to my door with the box and rang the bell because it was an International Delivery and he didn’t want to just leave it on the steps. He’s a sweetie who goes above and beyond.
Sytske and I had an email pen pal chat a while ago about an inlaid backgammon board I had bought in Jerusalem while I was in Israel on a summer-long archaeology program between high school and college. She said she had a collection of various items of similar style. We also discussed old needlework tools, and a zillion other things. I was totally surprised at the goodie box I received. And overwhelmingly grateful as well.
First, there was a splendid backgammon board. The one I bought in the summer of 1974 is the smaller of the two. It was the least expensive in the shop, and even so being on a student budget, I bargained for it for the better part of week.
The larger, more ornate and resplendent one is from Sytske. Both are obviously of the same regional and iconic style, very common and extremely popular throughout the whole Middle East region.
The workmanship on Sytske’s board is far more elaborate, with finer inlaid decorations on every surface. Even top edges inside the box and the pieces are embellished. Mine is heavier and thicker, with fewer colors and less detail, and my pieces are plain olive wood rounds.
Now for holiday gatherings, should the yen to play strike us, we can run two games at once. And I think I’ll take some good furniture oil to mine. It’s looking a bit dry and upstaged by the new magnificence.
Wrapped inside the game was a mystery bundle. I unwrapped it carefully and found an entire collection of antique needlework tools!
First there were several bone crochet hooks, three long enough for Tunisian crochet. The tiny hook at the end, even though it’s extremely fine (think crocheting hand-sewing thread fine), I do believe is for crochet and not tambour embroidery because its point is quit rounded.
In addition to hooks, I now have a collection of small needlework assist tools. From the top, a laying tool that by its graduated thickness might also do double duty for enlarging lacing holes or forming thread circles to over-crochet; another smaller laying tool; one with a hole in the end that might have had a secondary use as a bodkin to assist in passing a drawstring cord through its casing; and two laying tools/sewing awls with metal points. Below the measuring tape are two other items – a flat “needle” that could also be used as a bodkin for a round or flat tape, but that is going to become my naalbinding needle; and a sweet little bone needle case, probably from the late 1920s/1930s. It’s the only item I can date, and I do so by its Art Deco shape and proportions. It still has a couple of well worn long plain sewing needles in it.
I’m not done yet. There is more! This is a collection of handles that were probably for tambour embroidery needles (aka aari) or for thread crochet hooks. These are truly impressive because (at least here in the US) they are rather uncommon. A couple of the metal ones may be silver, but they are too small for hallmarks or stamps.
The ones above the measuring tape all have little screw-on ends, hiding a storage compartment where the hooks or needles would have been kept. The top one – the white agate also has a screw-on stone finial protecting the attachment’s “business end”. The ones below the measuring tape do not have a storage compartment. The tiny clamp keys on all of them except the red agate one are still functional and turn easily. I need to fetch out my modern tambour hook set and see if I can use the points in any of these.
One other observation – a couple of these antique implements may in fact be ivory and not bone. There is a marked difference in weight and texture in some of them. For example, the dotted tambour holder, the most ornate of the crochet hooks, the largest laying tool and the laying tool with the hole in the end are all much heavier and finer textured by comparison than other items of similar size. If they are ivory, they would be subject to restrictions in sale without firm documentation proving their age. Which is for me at least a moot consideration, since I do not plan on parting with any of these.
Color me gobsmacked. And grateful. Thank you again Sytske! I am totally thrilled to take on duties as curator of this awesome collection!