what I have here!"
I think my visitor must have run to the front door. She may even have broken the speed record getting here.
I was not expecting her to call in so her appearance at the front door, flushed and excited, was startling. She looked like a small child who had just been given something very special.
And yes, it was very special.
My visitor is involved in helping to set up and run an international lace-maker's conference. It will be held in Adelaide next year and it will, I am told, involve several thousand people. There will be all sorts of lace making involved. There will be exhibitions. There will be workshops, lectures, seminars and discussions.
I am not a lace maker. It is far beyond my genuinely limited manual skills to play with thread like sewing cotton wound around bobbles or through tatting shuttles or... well, you have the general idea.
There is also knitted lace and lace knitting. Yes, there is a difference between the two. The line may be blurred at times but knitted lace is generally considered to be the finer of the two. It involves complex patterning on both sides of the work or, if knitted in the round, on virtually every row. Lace knitting tends to be more the sort of work you would see in a garment to be worn and the patterning takes place on one side with a straightforward row on the other.
Having got that little piece of (perhaps unwanted) information out of the place I think you may be able to guess what my visitor was carrying. Yes, knitted lace,
Someone had given a box of it to a local charity shop. Fortunately one of the workers in there knew something about what she might be looking at. She also knows my visitor and phoned her. Would she like to have a look at it and tell them what she thought of it?
My visitor is an embroiderer - someone known all over the world of embroidery. She is not an expert in knitted lace. It is something I know a little about, more than she does anyway. So, she brought it to show me.
It was extraordinary. Some of it must be over one hundred years old, certainly older than the tatting I recently passed on to her. The first piece was a small doily made in linen thread as fine as hair. It is in perfect condition. There is a small circular table cloth also made in very fine linen thread. There is another table cloth made in "art-silk" and two more pieces, one in linen and one in cotton. All but the last are outstanding examples of the lace knitter's art - and even the last piece is more than many knitters could achieve. What is more they are all in excellent condition. There are no stains, holes or frayed threads. They were very well blocked (stretched out so that the knitting becomes even and the pattern is regular). They have been stiffened, as was the habit of the day.
And they solve a problem. We were hunting for knitted lace. My visitor had asked me to ask around. They wanted some for one of the displays. I know there must be people who knit such things even now and others who have pieces they have inherited. I had been hunting without much success for such pieces but these are beyond my expectations or my visitor's expectations.
I can guess at who the designers might be and I will be looking to see if I can find pictures of the patterns or even the patterns but I want to know who made them. What sort of person was she? Where did she come from? How did she find the time to knit such exquisite pieces of work?
That would be the most fascinating thing of all.