This week has been a very busy week at the Governor’s Residence, but I have carved out a little extra time to sew!
I don’t do much sewing now, even though I really do love to. The one thing I really love to make is christening gowns for our new babies. These gowns are not fancy, but I do love to add bits of lace to them — from their grandmothers or great-grandmothers and other family members — just to give the gowns a little special meaning. All the gowns are different, designed just for that special child.
So over the weekend I gathered up my little boxes of lace and ribbons and fine batiste fabric, along with my sewing machine, and brought them all to the Governor’s Residence. I found a room with windows that really had great light, so I set up my sewing machine there. We had refinished the top of an old desk we found on the 3rd floor, so I thought that would be a perfect desk to put my sewing machine on. It was First Lady Betty O’Neil’s desk. Her husband C. William O’Neil was the first Ohio governor to actually live in this house.
Then I set about going through all my lace bits to see what might make a significant gown for baby Tadhg. I had an old dress that I bought from a little shop in Washington over 20 years ago that had beautiful strips of insertion lace. It was probably 100 years old — a white batiste dress that looked much like the suffragettes wore in 1920. I had already removed some of the lace for one of the gowns I made for one of the other babies, but there was still enough left for one more gown. The crazy thing was that the note I wrote on the dress when I bought it was that the dress was made for the daughter-in-law of the governor of Ohio, even though I wasn’t told who that governor was. And the vertical strip of lace looked like the sun — and of course I thought of the rising sun in the Ohio seal. So I knew that this piece had to be the centerpiece of little Tad’s gown. I put little tucks on each side of the lace insertion.
I found another roll of lace that I had found in my Grandmother Hawkins’ attic after she died. It was pretty dark from the coal that they had heated the house with when I found it, but I had soaked it clean and it looked pretty good. It was insertion lace, with shamrocks! Perfect for a baby with an Irish name and heritage! I split the little sleeves so that I could insert this lace. I picked another little piece of lace to trim the bottom of the sleeve. It was from a little box of lace that I had bought from a fabric store on the day Becky graduated from college. Becky’s apartment was above the store. I’m going to use another piece of this lace for trim around the collar.
I always like to put a deep piece of lace on the bottom. I was saving a beautiful crocheted piece of lace that Alice and I bought in London when she was a student at Miami. We bought several pieces at Portobello Market. They were pieces from an Abbey, and they were handmade and very old. And perfect to trim the bottom of little Tad’s christening gown!
I still have a few more bits of lace that I want to work into the dress. One from Alice’s wedding dress (scraps we saved when we shortened it), and some crocheted bits from Mike’s Great Grandmother Budd. And when I finish the gown, I will embroider his initials on it, as well as the date of the baptism. And I will create a little card for him so he can remember where all the little bits and pieces came from!
On Mother’s Day, when we celebrate Tad’s christening as well as my mother’s 93rd birthday, I am going to make a cake that Mike’s Grandmother Liddle invented. It is made with angel food cake (homemade or box mix or purchased) and lemon pudding (homemade or box mix). Grandmother used to tear up the angel food cake and fold it into the lemon pudding. Then put into a 9 x 13 inch pan and chill. Before you are ready to serve, remove the cake from the pan and cut in pieces to shape a cross. Frost with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with lemon slices. Perfect for such a special day!
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Granny Liddle’s Lemon-Angel Cake
1 ready-made angel food cake — tear into bite-sized pieces
2-3 oz. package lemon pudding mix — Cook according to directions, reducing water to 2 cups for each mix, and adding an extra egg yolk for each mix. Cool.
Toss the cake pieces and the lemon pudding very lightly, and put into a tube pan. Chill. About an hour before serving turn out into serving plate. Frost with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Keep refrigerated.
First Lady Fran DeWine is Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.