October 4, 2019

Family Heirloom Needlework

This is a spread made by my paternal grandmother.  I believe the needlework technique is called net darning.  If anyone knows differently, or can tell me more about the technique, I'd love to hear from you.

My grandmother's name was Martha Nathansohn Wassermann.  She was born in Stargard, Pomerania.  Pomerania is a region that is currently split between Poland and Germany, but the border has wobbled over the centuries.  She had five sisters and one brother.  She and my grandfather Karl Wassermann lived in Bamberg, Bavaria, Germany.  They had two sons, Heinz my dad (on the left), and Kurt my uncle.  This photo was probably taken around 1914-15. 

Last spring, at Passover, I displayed the few pieces of silverware that I have from her table.   The silver, the net darning spread, and some photos are the only remnants of the household where my father grew up.  My father and uncle and one of my grandmother's sisters were the only family members to survive the Holocaust.  So these pieces are very precious to me.

Here they are, looking out of the windows at their apartment in Bamberg.  My grandmother and grandfather are at the left window; my dad, uncle, and great-grandmother are at the right window.  The photo was taken in about 1912.  My uncle returned to Bamberg in the 1970s or 80s, for the first time since the war, and the building was still there.

My uncle escaped to England, and my father escaped to the US in September 1939.  My father sailed on the ill-fated ship, the Athenia, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat.  All the things he brought with him were lost.  These heirlooms and several old photo albums were given to me by my uncle.

My grandmother's work is very neat and precise!

The reverse side is as neat as the front.

I think the netting and the embroidery thread are cotton.

There is a ruffle on the short sides and one of the long sides.  I'm guessing that it was made for a bed that stood against a wall.

As I put my hand down to give some scale, I realized that both my grandmothers meet in this photo.  Both these rings belonged to my maternal grandmother, Marion Rose (née Straus) Flexner.

She wore the heavier gold one while she and my grandfather, Maurice Henry Flexner, were secretly engaged.  He waited to ask her father for permission to marry until he had enough income to support her "properly".  She won the smaller one in a contest!  It was the second prize, and my mom told the story that she was very happy to have won second, because first prize was a washing machine.  There is a small diamond chip in the center of a faceted silver (or silvery) setting which gives the illusion of a much bigger stone.  Very sneaky, indeed!

Here are Marion and Maurice.  The photo was taken about 1925.  The first photo shows my grandpa taking too long to regain his seat after lighting the flash powder (yes, flash powder).  In the second, he is seated on the left, and my grandma is standing on the left with the white collar.  My mom is seated in the front.  The other folks are the group my mom liked to call "the whole fam damily".

And just because I like it, here are my mom and grandma, two ladies who certainly know how to wear a hat!  It was taken in 1927. 


  1. Precious heirlooms, indeed. Your family looks like they had fun together.

  2. Wonderful photos! So glad you know so much about your family's European history. It's inspiring me to continue working on my family's Russian heritage. Thanks Ann!

    1. Yes, do the research! The results are so meaningful and heartwarming. I'm lucky that my mom's family was into record keeping and memorabilia, so the folks on my maternal side have been known to me forever. But I still am finding lots of new bits and pieces to fill in the blanks on ancestry and other sources. The info on my paternal side is much more sparse, but I have been able to turn up some new info. One of these days, I plan to sign on for the ancestry European files and really delve.