Julia’s Bat Mitzvah

Focusing on Prayer


Julia writes about her research on lacemaking, one of the ways Penina Moise earned a living:

One of the things I learned about Penina Moïse was that she made lace and embroidery to sell for money because she had no money because she was poor. She sold lace to get money for her family. Penina Moïse made lace from about 1820 to 1850. In Charleston, that was one of the few ways women could earn money. I wanted to find out more about lacemaking to learn more about how Penina Moïse lived and the things that she did.

On Sunday, May 4th, I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. This is at the Howard County Fairgrounds. The only place you can park is out on the grass. That is really strange. But I was there to learn about lacemaking. I found a tent with ladies from the Society for Creative Anachronism. This means that they learn about history by doing it. This club makes clothing and food from many years ago in Europe before 1600. They learn about the music and the history. They wear costumes that were what people wore back then. They have fun meetings and teach each other about how people used to live.

In the tent, I met Susan Lee, who was making bobbin lace. This is also called pillow lace, because you make it on a pillow because you have to stick the little pins in it through a pattern and weave around with the thread on the bobbins. You put bobbins in the middle of other bobbins to go around the pins. It is like braiding hair, making many little braids to make the lace design. Susan Lee said that she could make about an inch of lace an hour. Susan Lee said that Penina Moïse would have made very similar lace in Charleston. Someone who is very good at bobbin lacemaking can make about an inch of lace in one hour. Susan Lee said that someone who makes lace must be very patient, able to concentrate, and not have any cats around because cats love to play with the thread and the bobbins. Susan Lee said that it was okay to use her picture in my blog. That was very nice.

From meeting Susan Lee and seeing her make bobbin lace, I learned things about Penina Moïse. I learned that she was very patient and that she could focus really well for a long time. This is also true of her in her teaching and in her writing poetry, that she kept going even when things were hard. I also learned that maybe making lace made her go blind. Susan Lee explained that many lacemakers went blind from straining their eyes.

I want to learn more about lacemaking. After the Sheep and Wool Festival, I e-mailed the Chesapeake Region Lace Guild. This is a club for people who make all kinds of lace today and teach other people about it. They will help me with my research. Doing this project lets me meet a lot of nice people.

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