Tuesday 24 November 2009

St. Catherine's Eve

Tomorrow is St. Catherine's Day, she is the patron saint of lacemakers and as we tatters don't have our own patron saint, she is perhaps the one we should adopt, and so of course she gets a special mention in Tat's Heaven!

For lacemakers today was known as "Cutting Off Day" when they cut off and sold the lace they had made. Originally lacemakers would produce only one pattern, with which they had become conversant. This would have been worked in one continuous piece, the lace dealer would take the lace from each pillow and pay according to the length produced.

There were quite a few traditions in areas where lace used to be made. In the evening a lighted candle was placed on the floor and each girl would jump over it - if she extinguished the flame, then ill-luck would follow her for the rest of the year. The belief that flame could purify one's life and that by passing through fire then luck could be changed is an ancient one.

Kit be nimble, Kit be quick
Kit jump over the candlestick.
(lacemaker's rhyme)

Lacemakers also made "Cattern cakes" these originated in Tudor times by the Nottinghamshire lace makers who made them as part of the celebration of their patron saint day. A lightly spiced cake with a hint of aniseed. Their consistency is similar to rock cakes

St. Catherine herself lived in the 4th century she was reputed to be beautiful and intelligent and of noble birth. However, she was persecuted for her Christianity and was tortured by being put on a spiked wheel and turned, but it broke so she was beheaded. The firework "Catherine Wheel" is named after her - a representation of it is shown above. I found the pattern in a old ROT book but of course changed it a little and added some beads to make it look as if it was on fire!


  1. How very interesting! I will make sure I pick up a shuttle and dedicate a piece to her memory today.

  2. Interesting history! I'm glad that we don't have to work for "lace dealers" or confine ourselves to only one pattern these days.

  3. Oh, so interesting to read your blog today. I love it.

  4. This was truly educational and very interesting. I'll think of St. Catherine today as I tat.

  5. Thanks for the reminder!! I had forgotten about St. Catherine's day. I'll be lighting my candle tonight. I used to have a recipe for Cattern cakes. I wonder if I can find it.

    I'll be tatting prayerfully this evening.

    The wheel is really beautiful, & does look like fire! Great job!

  6. Wow, that's SO interesting. You do find some good stuff out. Thanks.

  7. It is so hard for me to imagine being tortured for my beliefs. What a blessing that we live in these times instead.

  8. I love the "wheel" - looks stunning

  9. I had a good opportunity to teach my DH and Kristen about St. Catherine's day. I had set it on my IPOD and when it came on, Kris said, "What's this about?" as she was playing solitaire on the pod. They found the history very interesting ~ I have a book about Catrine's Day and Caterine Cakes at home. Thanks for sharing. hugs, B

  10. Judith Connors wrote about this also, on InTatters - it's so interesting, because I had never heard of the patron saint of lacemakers. it would be fun to find a recipe for the cake, wouldn't it!
    But the thing that interests me most about this post is the lovely clock in the picture! - reminding us that "tempus fugit". It's beautiful, and the doily on the table is perfect.

  11. Hi Sally, That was a very interesting bit of lace history and about St. Catherine. The piece you tatted in her honor seems to fit perfectly with the story. The color scheme is just what I would envision for such a piece.

  12. Greetings on this St. Catherines Day. I'm very fond of the saints and what they did so be prepared for more!
    Thanks for all the lovely comments.
    Maureen you noticed the clock, its a granddaughter clock and my husband bought the hood from e.bay and then made the cabinet for it, he also made the table that stands infront of it, on the floor is a basket of lavender. Yes and of course I made the doily.

  13. very interesting, all news to me. I too noticed the clock, it's a cracker, clever husband yet again!

  14. A trug! - it's a trug of lavender, I didn't see it when I first saw the picture! I love trugs, I keep my shuttles in a very small one.
    Your husband is so clever - is the wood oak?

  15. Maureen - the trunk of the clock is elm and the base is oak. There is also a crack in the glass. He ordered the glass and was carefully putting it in but sadkly it cracked, this was about a year ago and he hasn't got the heart to put another piece in as he is afraid it will happen again!

  16. Do you have the lovely little book published in the UK called "Cattern Cakes and Lace" ? It is really a combination of festivals recipes, histories, customs with beautiful artwork, lace photos. It is by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer. I think it is a lovely book because of many water colors, photos of lace at the Country Museum at Shugborough Hall.
    It celebrates many of the Saints Days in an enchanting manner. It isn't a new book, first published in '81 ~ but it was new to me.
    Love the photo of The Sisters, I saved it! LOL
    Blessed Advent Season Beverly

  17. Hi Bev, Yes I have that book, which is probably where I got some of the information from. I treated myself to it some years ago because as you say it has the most beautiful artwork in it.
    Advent is upon us, I love the Advent hymns - A Blessed Advent Season to you too.

  18. Hope you had some Cattern cakes this week!

    Can you imagine being restricted - by law - to making only ONE lace pattern? How do you think the tatting guild liked this idea! Or was there even a guild then for lace-makers, and if there were, women would not be included anyway - or would they? Fascinating history. Thanks for the reminder this year.

    Very pretty motif.
    Fox : )


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