Doing Some Fancy Work

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, June 15, 1912:  Well this is Saturday. Saturday, that’s the way my brain must be of the dull sort. Did some fancy work this afternoon.

Detachable Collar (Source: Ladies Home Journal: October, 1911)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What type of “fancy work” was Grandma doing? . . . . embroidery . . .  tatting. . .  crocheting . . .?

Was she making something that would decorate her clothes? . . . or was she making it to give as a gift? . . . or to put in her hope chest?

I want to picture her sitting in the living room doing fancy embroidery on pillow cases and sheets in anticipation of finding the right guy and getting married someday—but maybe it was for more immediate needs such as decorating a dress collar.

4 thoughts on “Doing Some Fancy Work

  1. I was always told on Saterday everyone had to help “red” up the house for Sunday and strip beds. The whites was put in tubs Sunday night to soak all night with bleach for Monday’s wash. It does have my imagination going…maybe she was embellishing what she was going to wear Sunday.

    1. Your comment is synchronistic. British linguist Michael Quinion’s June 9 edition of his on-line newsletter World Wide Words featured the origin and meaning of the phrase “redd up.” You can google it. It was new to me, but my friend from Lancaster, PA was quite familiar with it. Have you ever learned a “new thing” only to reencounter it repeatedly in the days and weeks to follow?

      1. I’ve had similar experiences–and each time it seems like such an amazing coincidence.

        I always red up the house–Until I read your comment, I’d never thought about how this term isn’t standard English.

  2. Sheryl, thank you. Since I started reading your blog, I’ve learned many new things from you and Grandma too!

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