PaperGirl Mailbag: Marshall Field’s Lace.

posted in: PaperGirl Mailbag 6
Sherry's lace, via my scanner.
Sherry’s lace, via my scanner.


Not all the ideas I have are good. I’m not always cool, not always winning. There was the time I took a shower in New Orleans and didn’t put on new jeans and my underpants fell out of my pants in front of everyone. And when I wiped out at the pizza place in the Portland airport and flinged* wine all over the whole world, that was lame. But sometimes… Sometimes I hit gold.

The PaperGirl mailbox. Now there was a great idea.

You people just need to get out of town, okay? Just get out. Get right on out of town with yourselves. I have with me now a stack of the most incredible, awesome, fabulous letters you have ever seen in your life. Phyllis, Mark, Dottie, Joan, Karen (Kater!!), Catherine, Annabelle, L—, and Lindsey (we’ll get to you in the next PaperGirl Mailbag post, missy) you all just have to get out of town with these letters! I waited till I had a moment’s peace and then I sat back in the good recliner that I only use for very special occasions and read each letter with great relish. I had a glass of prosecco while I did it and I even used a letter opener so as not to ruin anything, anything. For the record, there may be no gesture in the world that communicates “I am a grown-up” more fully than opening a letter with a letter opener. Well, opening a letter with a letter opener and then taking a sip of prosecco. I hardly recognized myself!

All the letters are extraordinary. Tonight, I must highlight the one that came from Sherry, in Indiana. When I opened the letter, there was a piece of beautiful lace inside. Here’s what the letter said.

Hey, Mary!

P.O. box at the Merchandise Mart? I love Chicago, too, and all the connections with Marshall Field, architecture, noise, energy, stuff.

Here is my Box Warming gift for you: lace cut from a 4-yard length obtained for Ethel Field’s wedding dress in 1891. (Marshall’s daughter.) The newspaper account says her dress was tulle, but what do they know??

Daisy Cornick, and old family friend of my parents and one-time floorwalker in the fabric department of Marshall Field’s State Street store fetched it when she worked there as a young woman. After my girls were born and a couple of years before she died in the early ’60s, she gave it to me along with other lace pieces — narrow trim, and shorter lengths — for their wedding dresses. Such a sweet gesture, but too gorgeous and fragile and historical to use. Aside from small pieces used for trim or embellishment, it’s been tucked in a box in my studio for cdecades, waiting for the perfect reason to whack off a piece and share!

Was any of the lace used for her dress? I don’t know. But the story is true. And fun.

Thanks for the PaperGirl blog!

Sherry B.

And then there was a little p.s., hand-written, about how Sherry has met my mom and how we have acquaintances in common because of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.

Sherry, thank you. I’m going to take this to my Micro/Macro fibers class next week! Or at least I’ll keep it with the other incredible textile bits I have been getting (along with their stories) from readers like you. I mentioned the idea of a PaperGirl Retreat someday (and I’m really letting my mind wander on that, by the way); but maybe there will be a PaperGirl Museum before long.

I’m saving all the letters and everyone who writes will get a hand-written note back. That’s a promise. I love hand-written correspondence!

*Nope. Not a real word, unless you’re me, in the Portland airport several months ago, turfing out with wine.

6 Responses

  1. Jen
    | Reply

    Fabulous! So fun to hear about your readers and their lives and what they are sending. I love your blog. Your writing and thinking helps me connect a lot of different parts of my life that can feel disconnected at times. Because you share so well your deep journey in quilting, writing, life, love, travel, small moments, art school etc. here it makes me feel included in an awesome tribe 🙂 Please DO continue to think about PaperGirl Retreat. I’ll come!

    • Jen
      | Reply

      ps. At the retreat there could be quilting, writing, yoga, yummy food, reading, walking, perusing the mobile PaperGirl Museum …
      ahhh can’t wait!

  2. Kathryn
    | Reply

    Love everything about this! And definitely YES to the PaperGirl Retreat! I would so go and bring my mom along with me!

  3. Karen Morrell Johnson
    | Reply

    PaperGirl Retreat?!!! I’m in!

  4. Shermie
    | Reply

    How well I remember Marshall Field’s Fabric Department! Before I even learned to read, my mom and I would ride the bus and two subway trains to get downtown. After a visit to my ophthalmologist (I had an eyepatch then glasses at 3 yrs old), we ate in one of the several restaurants, then went to the obligatory departments: books, china,. Then Fabric, where I sat on a high stool and looked at the BIG books of fashion. Then I climbed down carefully and got to see and feel all the amazing, beautiful fabrics and trims! What a dream! Then, of course, toys! Always an outfit for my Ginette or Ginny dolls. The escalators wound down to the basement subway entrance. And , last but not least, the newsstand paperdolls! Life was so delightful!
    When I got engaged, my mom took me to Fields lingerie department and let me pick out the most lacy, gorgeous peignoir set. That store holds some of my finest memories of mom and me together!

  5. Nadine donovan
    | Reply

    I love this- what an awesome gift in the mail. I love getting letters in the mail also!

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