Dana Browne & Fannie Mitchen
Fannie Mitchen is a woman who always crocheted, which is true of many women, of course. What she did differently is to consciously crochet tales of her own life story. She made dioramas of crochet telling this story throughout her life. In the early 1980s, an Arkansas mayor declared a Fannie Mitchen Day, at which time her work was exhibited in a Threads of Life exhibit at a local museum.
You can spend hours at Fannie’s website, looking at her dioramas and learning her life story. “I have used dye, coffee, wax, spray, and wire as well as thread and imagination to tell the story of our life together,” she said.
Fannie’s Threads of Life
Her story begins with her marriage. Some of the 125 photos go on to share details about her life, while others add visual details where we can really appreciate the crochet work. We learn not only about her story, but also what it was like for a woman to live in Arkansas during the Great Depression.
As she says, “I guess reminiscing is a sign of old age, but with 18 great-grandchildren, that privilege should be mine and there is so much marvel about — from wood stoves to electric ones, ‘horse and buggy’ to cars, sleigh rides to water skiing, airplanes, telephones, radios, televisions, and so many great medical discoveries.”
Crochet to Cope
She quit teaching because she got married; you can sense that there’s a little regret in this. It seems no coincidence that she started to crochet tales from her life story at this same time. Although she never self-pities, anyone who crafts to cope can see how crochet might have helped her get through tough times. Fannie does mention that “many hours were spent singing or telling stories to the children,” so her domestic creativity likely extended to many areas of her home.
From Generation to Generation
Fannie’s great-granddaughter, Dana Browne, was young when Fannie passed but they’ve played a strong role in one another’s lives. Dana and her husband collected, photographed, and archived as many of the dioramas as they could (unfortunately some had been destroyed).
They put in a long effort to get them permanently placed at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. Dana generously sat down for an interview about this experience, which you can read, in full in Happily Hooked issue #50. (Lifetime Members can access this issue for free in their library. Not a Lifetime Member yet? Consider signing up!)
From Dana, with Love
When asked what she wanted people to know most about her grandmother, Dana said, “My great-grandmother was a simple, kind, Christian woman who loved her family. She loved sharing her ability to create beautiful crocheted works of art with the world. If one wants to know what life was like for the average woman living in rural 20th century America, one could not find a better example than Fannie Taylor Mitchen.”
When I was publishing this post, I visited Dana’s website and fell in love with every single image. I strongly encourage you to read more. Learn about Fannie Mitchen’s crochet tales and Threads of Life in our interview. And visit Dana’s website to view more of Fannie’s work. Both are incredibly inspiring.
A few words about us
This article about Threads of Life, by Kathryn Vercillo was originally published in an issue of Happily Hooked Crochet Magazine. If you aren’t a subscriber, you’re missing out! Visit our main website to learn more! The support in our Facebook group is phenomenal! There’s nothing like it anywhere else.
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