Margaret Kavanagh
[mashshare]

Weaving Amazing Tales in Crochet

threads of life

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.

Fannie Mitchen

Fannie Mitchen


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.

Dana Browne & Fannie Mitchen

crochet ironing scene

The detail in each diorama is incredible. Right down to the tiny cloth on the iron handle and the individual stones in the fireplace. Each of the crochet stories has tales to tell.


 
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.

crochet scene of picking cotton

While Fannie worked a hard day's work every day, she still found time to crochet intricate scenes.


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.

crocheted sawmill scene

Frannie's description: We heard they were hiring men in Crossett after the worst of the depression. So, we moved back to have regular work, medical care, and better schools. The children were old enough to tour the sawmill and watch the logs unloaded and taken into the mill on a conveyor.

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!)

crochet family scene

From Frannie: The depression of 1931 caused Roy to answer the urge to “Go West Young Man.”  We sold the little cookstove, the baby beds, the old zinc washtubs, and we were off to California. A nearby park helped us overcome the exhausting heat of our upstairs apartment. However, Joe refused to join the other children splashing in the pool. His indignant explanation was, “You don't think I want to get my new bathing suit wet, do you?”

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.”

crochet anniversary scene

Roy started preaching regularly for the small Church of Christ in Oil City. We found many new friends and enjoyed working with the church very much. Rosalyn and Jack lived in Bossier City, about 20 miles away. They came out frequently to visit and fish until Jack had a fatal heart attack in March of 1974. The children and grandchildren gave a beautiful reception for us on our Golden Wedding Anniversary. It was held at the Holiday Inn in Shreveport. We were really touched that so many of our friends and relatives came. Several from Crossett, Monticello, Little Rock, and even San Antonio.

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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.

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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.
 
And if you want to connect with some of us for a quick session, check out our YouTube wizard, Sam, on Thursdays at 11 am ET when she is LIVE. Visit regularly to see videos of crochet tips and tricks, yarn and product reviews, stitch tutorials, pattern help, and much more.

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Margaret Kavanagh

www.happilyhooked.com

I've been crocheting since my mother taught me as a little girl. I'm lucky to be working with Happily Hooked and I can't wait to share everything yarny and hooky with you! Yarn over, peeps! Yarn over!

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