Talking Crochet with Carol Alexander
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First National Crochet Contest of 1937

By Maggie Petsch Chasalow

In 1937, the now-defunct National Crochet Bureau sponsored the first National Crochet Contest. Those eligible to compete had to have received a first prize in a state, county or local fair in the United States in 1937. Two hundred, fourteen people entered, representing 32 of the then 48 states.

The exhibit was held in the grand ballroom of the American Woman's Association Clubhouse at 361 W. 57 St. in New York City, and consisted of five categories: tablecloths, bedspreads, luncheon sets, dresses or suits, and sweaters. (The second annual contest added 6 categories: doilies and scarves, chair sets, edgings and insertions, fashion accessories, household accessories, and juniors 16 years old or less. They also combined the dresses, or suits and sweaters categories into one category -- blouses and dresses.)

The judges were Elizabeth Blondel of McCall's; Ellen Van Cleff, Connecticut State College; Charlotte Embleton, state of New Jersey home demonstration agent; Mrs. Grace Ramey, Country Gentleman magazine; and Helen Sprackling, Parents magazine. Patronesses of the event included Anne Morgan, Mrs. Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Caroline O'Day, Baroness Johan Liljencrantz, Mrs. Vladimir Simkhovitch, Claire Senie, Mrs. Lawrence Shepard, Mrs. Richard Boardman and Mrs. Arthur C. Holden.

The contests appear to have continued at least until 1958 under the name The Nationwide Crochet Contest.

Winner of the grand prize of $250 for the first annual contest was a lovely 61-year-old homemaker named Mrs. Frank E. Hayward of Seattle, Wash. Her winning entry was a bedspread for a single bed, composed of approximately 6,363 inch-square motifs made of size 60 cotton. Each square took approximately 5 minutes to crochet, and a total of 101 balls of crochet cotton were used, costing from ten to fifteen cents per ball, as the cost of the thread rose or fell during the Depression.

The judges found Mrs. Hayward's work to be "technically flawless" and were charmed by its diagonal joining, with the edges pyramided to make a pointed edge.

Mrs. Hayward used the very same crochet hook to make the bedspread that her mother taught her to crochet with when she was just a little girl. The bedspread, which Mrs. Hayward predicted "will last forever," was to be bequeathed to Mrs. Hayward's granddaughter.

In addition to her cash prize, Mrs. Hayward received: a cross-country trip to New York City where she stayed at the American Woman's Clubhouse; a trip to the top of the Empire State Building, then the tallest building in the world; tea with Miss Anne Morgan and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt; a visit to Radio City to witness a radio broadcast; and a trip to the Metropolitan Opera.

I think we all can identify with Mrs. Hayward's comments. "I always have a bit of crocheting about me," she was quoted as saying. "I do all my own housework, you know, but when I sit down to rest beside the radio, I like to pick up my crocheting. Don't think I did nothing else for ten years, but just this spread! It was just pick-up work, and I made countless other things in between. Didn't I get tired of it? No, not a bit! My family did, though. My husband is the kind that likes to rush through things and get them done, but with a thing like this, I believe in taking it easy."

When she had finished putting all the squares together and tossed it over her husband's knee, she said, "There's the bedspread."

"Now maybe you'll finish some of the other things you've started!" he replied.

Copyright © 2001 House of White Birches. All Rights Reserved.

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