Favourite things...

My grandmother’s blanket, chair and thimble …

Things I love… No. 99

Last week I was very fortunate to meet one of the most acknowledged North American Indian specialists and museum curators in all of Europe (who also contributes to the British Museum’s data-base) and to have had the pleasure of inviting him to my home for dinner with a young Indian artist from the Raven clan. After the meal we retired to the conservatory and listened to Alan Parson’s Project as I wanted to introduce the artist to ‘The Raven’. We all sat there till the early morning hours sharing stories. The young artist showed me the blanket he received from his grandmother which belonged to his great grandfather – a blanket that was worn at ceremonies to denote status, and I ended up bringing out my grandmother’s blanket too.

When I was very small my grandmother taught me to sew. She was an amazing woman – tall and slender, strong and very beautiful. She lived in a cosy cottage in the mountains with a big open fire and a salmon river passing under the meadow below the house. She had a pump with the tastiest water from her own source.

I am not quite sure why she gave me, not only the thimble, but the chair I was sitting on at the fire when she taught me to sew and ‘dolly’ edgings, but I am so grateful that she did. (‘Dollying’ is a method whereby one tears four to six consecutive threads in the weft to open a linen border, cutting a few threads on the warp and sewing the others together to create a decorative edging with the tiniest of stitches). The chair has now pride of place in my study and I often sit on its polished dark wood surface and re-connect.

Some years ago, when I was back visiting, my mother gave me a heavy luxurious dark green woven blanket that was made by Gerd Hey-Edie using my grandmother’s hand-spun wool, died with lichens.

I realized once again that it is not the actual objects that mean something in their own right, but moreso the stories they hold. This is why I was very interested in studying material culture and what led me to want to study anthropology in more depth.


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And: http://mournetextiles.com/posts/journal/

* despite having worn a tweed school uniform and a moss-green Burberry mackintosh, set off with a beret carrying the school’s coat of arms, for six whole years at St. Louis (from age 11 – 18) – I still love TWEED…



  • A very interesting and enjoyable article, Frances. I didn’t know you had Granny’s chair. Would you put a photo of it and the green blanket on this site? I would love to see them.
    Love from Maura.

  • Of course Maura, will do!
    The blanket was hand-woven by Gerd Hey-Edie (http://mournetextiles.com/posts/gallery/) in Killowen near Rostrevor and is gigantic! I love it – the girls often had a pic-nic on it. The chair is one from Macalinden’s that Granny gave me when I was about twelve and which I always treasured. When Mammy died, Sean took off the legs and packed it into my case – and a Swiss carpenter expertly put it all back together again. It now has pride of place in my study and I love it. The thimble I keep in my studio, with other tiny treasures.

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