The Pin Cushion

I’m covering coat hangers and need pins so I go in search of more

Among my bits and bobs, I find a pin cushion I haven’t used for years

It bristles with pins, not the glass headed pins I favour these days but the dull brass pins I used when making Bobbin Lace

As I turn it over in my hands it almost comes alive with new significance

My dad was a lovely man; he died when I was just 17 years old.

So sad because I was becoming aware that he was a man, so much more than ‘just dad’; he was a person of interest with a past and a family I knew nothing about

His parents had both died before I came along and when he was gone, so were they

For whatever reason mum did not talk about any of them

Years later and thanks to the internet I discovered a great deal about my father’s family

It is so very interesting to see many of my interests reflected in the occupations of these people with whom I share a genetic code

My grandmother’s father was a silver smith, his father a gardener; however it’s the women on my grandfather’s side that brought the greatest sense of connection.

Listed in the 1841 census Elisabeth, a new wife and mother, proudly owns her occupation as a lace maker. Living in the cottage next to theirs, in a Buckinghamshire village, is a woman, possibly her mother, also a lace maker.

I can imagine the two of them sitting at their doorstep overlooking the village green with all the comings and goings, making lace together. I wonder how many generations have gone before using the same skills.

So turning this roll of fabric and pins in my hands I can’t help but wonder, what these women would think of it?


I made it from a fine cotton, a Liberty paisley print. In 1841 it was yet to become an icon of expensive taste, even so it doubtless would have been beyond their simple budget. I imagine the brass pins would represent a small fortune to them.

Elisabeth and her farming husband would go on to have 9 children.

The industrial revolution would cause them both to look for new occupations in paper making, soon moving with the times to fresher fields.

 I took up Bobbin Lace making in the late 70’s, 130 years later, in complete ignorance of this connection but…

God knows all.

Lace making for me was a hobby, a luxury, an escape.

For Elisabeth it would have been a necessity, the means by which together, she and William gained anything more than the most basic standard of living in those days.

These connections cannot be denied, I am mindful of so much that has gone before but…

All mystery to me

I am an open book to the Almighty!  (Psalm 139)

One family may have been lost, but…

God, who is my Ever-Present, has restored to me a connection with things past

I take pleasure in the pale gleam of silver

I find peace pottering in the garden,

I prefer the countryside over city life,

Turning the pages of a book excites me

All of this, added to an Eternal Timeline and my sense of belonging to the wider,


Richly different family of God


 Words and photographs © Denise Stanford 2010

~ by Denise Within the Vine on 18/03/2010.

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