Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Suitcases / Margaret D. / Tour

Posted in History, Mental Health, Willard Asylum, Willard Suitcases by joncrispin on 29/04/2015

Yesterday Peg noticed some of Margaret D’s handiwork with a needle.  And here is one of those needles, still in place where she last used it.  I have no idea what this process is called, but it looks quite intricate.

The annual public tour of Willard is on for Saturday the 16th of May.  It is a fundraiser for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Children’s Center.  Here is a link to their Facebook page.  I would advise getting there very early, as this is a wildly popular event.  Tours are run at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm.  And if you have never experienced a central New York State chicken bbq, I would advise you to get some tickets for it.  Also that day, a memorial service will be held at the cemetery across the street honoring Lawrence Mocha, who as a patient dug many of the graves.  That event takes place at 11.00 am and should be interesting.

I will be there for much of the day, and would be most happy if those of you who follow this project would come up and say hello.  If  former Willard employee Peggy Ellsworth is in charge at the morgue again this year, I will probably hang out with her much of the time.

9 Responses

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  1. marketing4introverts said, on 29/04/2015 at 11:01 am

    Hi Jon, the type of needlework Margaret D was doing is called “cutwork.” It is a very precise, intricate, and time-consuming type of embroidery. You stitch tightly around the “outside” of the “hole” with a “buttonhole” stitch and then cut out the center. You have to be very careful not to cut your stitches and yet cut as much of the fabric as you can so you don’t leave fringe. / When I saw the picture I just said “ohhhhhh” aloud, recognizing the mastery and how much time she must have put into even just this small section. It is absolutely beautiful. The very last thing she would have done is either hem the edge nicely or, more likely, cut right back to the outer-edge row of surrounded-holes, leaving a decorative edge to the piece. I can also see that this piece, which is of a more loosely woven fabric, is attached to a more closely woven fabric – as the edging. (see the basting stitches?) That basting would have been removed when the two pieces were actually stitched together, probably with a row of hidden stitches along the edge. / Thanks for sharing! I hope this gives you even more appreciation for Margaret D’s work! Best regards, Dhyan

    • joncrispin said, on 29/04/2015 at 11:22 am

      Dhyan, THANK YOU so much for your comment. I could tell from just looking at the fabric that she must have spent ages on it. I’ll try to post a wider shot showing more of her work. The needle just made me feel close to her in a strange way. Amazing.

    • FabricArtist said, on 16/06/2015 at 8:27 pm

      I think this is a form of Hardanger embroidery (google it for examples). As I understand it the hole is not cut but formed by pulling the embroidery threads tightly enough to create an opening in the woven fabric around an intersection of two pair of cross threads. This example is fantastic.

  2. marketing4introverts said, on 29/04/2015 at 11:05 am

    One more thing: Did you find a very small pair of scissors, perhaps in the shape of a crane, with a long pointed bill? That would have been the scissors she used to cut out the circles… and probably to cut her threads as well. Dhyan

  3. […] post, I received a comment from Dhyan about the photograph.  You can read her comment here. (Scroll down to see it.)  She seemed to know so much about the subject that I emailed her a full […]

  4. A Journey With You said, on 29/04/2015 at 1:52 pm

    Hi Jon, I have a mental illness (paranoid schizophrenia) and have always been interested in the history of psychiatry. Thank you so much for photographing these people’s history and giving us a glimpse into their personal lives.

    • joncrispin said, on 29/04/2015 at 1:59 pm

      Dear Journey, I always receive an email when someone “likes” one of my posts. It includes a link to the senders wordpress site. I was just looking at yours when your email came in. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to comment on my work. A lot of the folks who follow me are interested in aspects of mental illness, and I will include a link to you here. I admire you so much for writing about your situation and working so hard to help people understand what it can be like to live with schizophrenia. Thank you so much and all the best. Jon

      • A Journey With You said, on 29/04/2015 at 4:41 pm

        I admire (love) your work! I can’t wait to see the whole collection when you are finished. Thank you for your comments, they mean a lot to me. Rebecca

  5. Heidi said, on 11/05/2015 at 1:26 pm

    I am absolutely amazed by the suitcases. The above needlework from Margaret could also be hemstiching (Hohlsaumstickerei) and not cutwork (Durchbrucharbeit, I hope my translation programme translated this well from German to Englisch and back to German), as one would never really cut into such a piece of clothing. I still have bed linen from my swiss grandmother (born 1899) with almost similar patterns. Not surprisingly, they just had more time doing handicrafts, as there was no television, maybe not even radio, and certainly no internet and cell phones………….. and I am sure they did not Clorox. In those times, they put the linen on the lawn outside and let the sun do the work.


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