Antique Crochet Lace Collection

Nov 30, 2011

The scene is a familiar one.
Driving through a small town, far from home, examining the sites through the car window, when all of a sudden, you yell STOP. Because that antique market right there is so full of goodness that it's spilling out of the warehouse and all over the parking lot. Any decent person would stop and take a look, and fortunately, I married a very decent person, and he stopped, knowing his fate was sealed.


It was a sea of antiques and collectibles. Everything from old VHS tapes (are those considered antiques now?) to fancy French tea sets to classic cars.
I knew there had to be needlework.
And oh yes, there was.


On the edge of a sidewalk, near the front door of the building itself, was a table covered in crocheted pot holders. They were adorable and tempting in their own right, but just behind them, scarcely concealed...was an old basket overflowing with bits of antique handmade lace. Jackpot.
I confess, I didn't leave anything behind for the next person.

It's a lovely mix of crochet and tatting and rickrack, about half of it still in complete collar-and-cuffs sets. One small envelope held roughly 5 yards of crochet edging, marked "May Yingling $12.00".
Some of the work has been removed from garments and repurposed. Some cuffs with a bit of damage have been repaired and sewn together to make lovely fichus. Bits have been sewn into different shapes to hide stains. One particular crocheted piece is in thread so fine that I can't even see the individual stitches without a magnifying glass.
It's an absolute treasure trove. I've been having fits of imagination about the woman who must have made all of this, and worn it, and repaired it. Google isn't getting me very far, though I'm not terribly surprised, as (alas) fichus and social media have never coexisted.
My next trip to Pennsylvania will certainly include a trip to the Duncansville town hall, where I hope to pick up the trail of this incredible needlework. Does May have children and grandchildren in the area who have carried on her fine work? Did she do her needlework with a group of ladies and are any of them still around? She obviously sold some of her pieces, but where and to whom? And can I have more?

I'll keep you posted!
Until next time,

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Peaches455 wrote
on Dec 1, 2011 10:56 AM

How old does it have to be in order to be considered "vintage" or "antique"?  Recently my mom gave me a bunch of crocheted doilies and dresser scarves with crocheted edgings that my grandmother made.  While I don't know specifically how old they are, I would guess 45 to 60 years.  I'm tickled pink to have them, regardless of their age, but I  was just curious.  One of them I need to take a picture and send to either CrochetMe or Piecework magazine and inquire about the method for making it - it has interlocking rings.

valeriedash wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 7:37 AM

Sarah Try the following link:

It just may be the right one for more information about the person who made this beautiful work!

ncdanish wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 10:14 AM

Sarah I Have over 50 pieces of crochet lace that my grandmother and her sister made. she also made me a bed cover. I love ever bit of it. When I got married my mother -in-law also crocheted and I have some of her work, I was lucky to have my grandmother as a teacher and I can crochet but not as well as she did.

on Dec 3, 2011 12:28 PM

This la ce is beautiful.

I too, was fortunate enough to receive a box of lovely laces, from my father-in-law, when my mother-in-law passed away.  He knew the history of some of the pieces,some she had purchased in Bellguim after WW11, some were had made by her mother and grandmother.  Since she would be 95 this year that makes some of them over 100 years old.  I made myself a beautiful vest, covering the front with many different laces, and wear it with pride.  This pleased my father-in-law very much to see them being put to good use.

I am sure you will enjoy your treasures as much as I do mine.

jessy@2 wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 1:34 PM

I congratulate you on your purchase, I would have done the same thing. As for the lace itself I don't know, but this may help your search. Your lace looks very similar to some lace that my great-grandmother had made. She lived in Notinghamshire in the UK and some of it had been made with a bone hook that had been passed down to me and I used it often. The lace had been removed from sheets and pillowcases and still had the cut bits of thread still attached, I think some of the lace had been removed from nighties and such like as it was so fine and narrow. anyway, I lost it all in the Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria Australia in 2009 so I'm not able to take photos to show you. Mine had mde it's way from the UK to Australia through immigration, yours could have a similar story tell.

linlal wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 2:50 PM

Great find, Sarah! I wonder, though, if May might have been the person purchasing the edging. That would explain why it's in an envelope with the name and price on it. I think that's more likely than the crafter writing her own name on the envelope along with the price.

So that makes me wonder if this glorious find comes from the crafter or the purchaser. Are there any similarities in the work that would indicate it was made by the same person?

As well as the town hall, I would look for any Chinese organizations in Duncansville and the surrounding area. They might be able to give you information about May and/or her descendants. The antique store may also have records of who they purchased the lace from.

This will be a very interesting mission!

meme1313 wrote
on Dec 3, 2011 5:13 PM

great find!! I see some tatted lace in there! you can tell if anything is machine made by looking at the back, my husband's Granmother, originally from France (in 1920) taught me that. I also have a collection, one crochet table cloth makes a great shawl on cool summer evenings.

The original owner may have been a seamstress and offered the trims for additions to garments.

now the BIG question, do you dare cut them and use in art?


Crotone wrote
on Dec 4, 2011 7:40 AM

Good Morning Sarah,  I recognize all the beautiful crocheted  items you displayed because I have a huge basket that my mother-in-law left, including collars and cuffs.   I look at them and enjoy the work, but I am forever looking for ways to repurpose them.   Do you just enjoy looking at it, or do you use it?  Any ideas?   I have sewn some of it on pillow cases.  Between my mother (who is 98 years old) and I, we must have hundreds of lace edged hankerchiefs and when one gets holes, I save the lace.  Over the years, my mother has crocheted hundreds of items, especially dresses and sweaters for the grandkids, etc. and I don't have the heart to get rid of them.  So, they are containers in our storage shed until???

joanmynahan wrote
on Dec 4, 2011 8:29 AM

The last photo of lace is tatting.  My great aunt tatted.  It is done with crochet thread and a tatting shuttle.  She tried so many times to teach me, but the second I was on my own, I would do it wrong.  Wish I had accomplised it - it is truly a lost art.  She used to trim handkerchiefs with tatting.

katskards wrote
on Dec 4, 2011 1:58 PM

to Peaches455 - Typically it is "collectible" at 50 years of age and  "antique" at 100+ years of age.  This is true in furnishings, and I suspect follows into other lines of collectibles ~

Sarah Read wrote
on Dec 6, 2011 2:18 PM

Thank you all for your comments!

I do believe that May is the crafter, as the whole lot of it was tossed into a workbasket which also contained her thread (which I also bought) and her sewing scraps and supplies. Her name appeared elsewhere on some of the sewing supplies as well, though I left those behind for some lucky seamstress to discover. :)

Yingling is actually an Americanized German name that is very common in Pennsylvania, and I've been digging through some records on Yinglings in Blair County, and found Gertrude May Yingling, born May 7th 1875. She's mentioned on a pension application: In the matter of the claim for pension of minor children of Jacob Yingling late of Co. C 3rd Regt of Penna Vol Infantry, claim no. 522644.

I have a lead! I'll certainly be pouring over genealogy sites for the next while.

As far as what I plan to do with the lace...that's tough! I know that I want to frame some pieces and hang them on the walls of my studio. I may re-purpose the ones that are in better condition and use the tatted edgings on some gifts. I may take a few pieces over to the textile museum at the local university, if I can bring myself to part with them!

I love the idea of using them on garments. Perhaps I'll save some of the very fine pieces for a wedding dress, just in case I ever have a daughter or granddaughter.

jph wrote
on Dec 8, 2011 2:46 PM

So wonderful to see all these lovely pieces from the past. I am an art quilter and I wonder if any of you are too. THe work of quilter Cindy Needham might be of interest. SHe does the most incredible wholecloth quilts with pieces of lace from the past. Check out her work and techniques at

She is also a wonderful speaker and brings so many quilts to share - so if you ever have a chance, do not miss her - each quilt has a wonderful story to tell.