Crochet Work Among Germans from Russia
By Connie Dahlke
A fine new addition has been completed at the website of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection (GRHC), NDSU Libraries, Fargo. These webpages at the Textiles and Clothing Section have been prepared by our talented Glueckstal descendant, Ryan Schumacher, a senior in electrical engineering at NDSU. Ryan has prepared web pages which showcase written instructions for making some of the crochet work pieces shown in the "Handwork of the Women of the Glueckstal Colonies" chapter of the Glueckstal Colonies Research Association (GCRA) new book "The Glueckstalers in New Russia and North America - A Bicentennial Collection of History, Genealogy & Folklore." The crochet patterns were prepared by Connie Dahlke, who organized the "Handwork" chapter in the book.
Connie's considerable skills enabled her to take the pattern off the picture of handwork items sent to her for inclusion in the book. She crocheted a series of examples and framed them which were part of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Convention in Modesto in 2004. A selection of these patterns are now available at the NDSU website. Go to the Textiles and Clothing section at: library.ndsu.edu/grhc/history_culture/index.html, and click on the Textiles and Clothing link at the top of the page -- this takes you to the listing of the crochet patterns. You can link on whichever one catches your interest to go to the pattern with a photo. There are five doily patterns, two lace patterns, and two motif patterns posted.
Connie Dahlke was born in Walla Walla, Washington, the great-granddaughter of Joseph and Christina (Kessler) Rott, both born in Glückstal, So. Russia. Her mother and grandmother were born in Logan County, North Dakota.
Connie's reproduction crochet pieces displayed at the Modesto AHSGR Convention which have been donated to the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, where they can be viewed. Posting the photos and crochet patterns on the website is an added convenience for those who did not attend the Modesto Convention.
Crochet work was popular among the Germans from Russia in the Dakotas, and mention is made by Joseph Height ["Homesteaders on the Steppe"] of both crocheted tablecloths and pillowcase lace as prized possessions of German housewives in Russia. Photos in Karl Stumpp's book, "The German Russians: Two Centuries of Pioneering", show evidence of decorative lace and crochet work on the clothing of German women and girls 1920-1942. Various pieces of crochet work can be seen in the photos of German-Russian families included in the various Jubilee books produced by North Dakota and South Dakota towns.
As young girls developed fine-motor skills, they were introduced to needlework by their mothers or grandmothers. A first project might be hand-sewing a simple dress for a favorite doll, or hemming a dishtowel or other small cloth object. As the needle skills progressed, the child might be instructed in embroidering a colorful design on a pillowcase, which would naturally lead to learning to crochet lace to edge the pillowcase.
Girls would often prepare hand-decorated linens to be carefully saved in their dowry box. Dreams of a future home of her own motivated many a young girl to diligently invest time and effort in the preparation of these handwork pieces.
The crochet patterns present a sampling of some of the crochet work done by German-Russian women in the Dakotas. Additional examples of German-Russian handwork can be seen in "The Glueckstalers in New Russia and North America", pages 647-665. It is hoped that the crochet patterns will provide a venue for interested individuals to participate in a "living history" of Germany-Russian culture and help preserve the accomplishments of our ancestors. Connie writes, "I am truly indebted to all those who took the time and effort to photograph their collections of German-Russian crochet work."
Connie Dahlke is a Registered Dietitian, having completed the Dietetic Internship at Loma Linda University in 1973. She is also compiling a German-English hymnal. She is married to Ron Dahlke and they have two adult children.