The cloth is rectangular, embroidered in the centre , with a deep crocheted border. It is roughly 2.5ft x 3.5ft. The embroidery on the centre fabric is to one end rather than centred. The shape suggests it may have been designed for a small, square table with one end hanging down the front of the table.
What intrigued us were the motifs on the crocheted border. Crosses - chunky Red Cross-type crosses - alternate with the motif of a bi-plane.
Some patterns for crocheted borders are adjustable, designed to be added to an existing piece of linen to enlarge and embellish it. We thought it likely my friend's piece had been treated this way. It had a wide, hem-stitched border to which the crochet had been added.
None of the examples we found online commemorated the Air services . The navy was well represented. We found examples from England, France, the USA and Australia. The Australian War Memorial has a useful example and background on its website (Dianne Rutherford, Patriotic crochet in the First World War).
We can't, at this stage, be certain, but it is probable this piece comes from that WWI period and was made from a pattern distributed by a women's magazine. The Red Cross itself published a couple of pattern books. Biplanes were extensively used in WWI but only for training in WWII. The cross, on the other hand, may signify a church cloth, rather than the Red Cross.
The embroidery is largely satin stitch with some drawn thread work around the edges.
This was a privilege and lot of fun - sharing, examining and researching. We did not find a pattern for this specific piece but we gained an insight into the lives of women on the Homefront in the First World War along with the designs and crochet techniques with which they were familiar. It was extraordinary to have in our hands the only example we could find of a patriotic crocheted cloth commemorating the air service.