Weekly Geeks #5 – Storytelling

This week’s theme was suggested by Renay. She says, “I thought it would be cool to ask people to talk about other forms of story-telling.” This week’s theme is once again one you could approach several ways. You might want to tell about the forms of storytelling (aside from books) you love.


The art of stitching dates back many, many years to Egyptian times – embroidered cloth was preserved well in a desert environment. The earliest needlework can be traced back to about the 6th Century AD. Beginning in the 18th century, young girls and women began making samplers.

The Metropolitan Museum’s website writes this about the art of sampler making:

As part of her preparation for the responsibility of sewing clothes and linens for her future family, most girls completed at least two samplers. The first, which might be undertaken when a girl was as young as five or six, was called a marking sampler (1993.100; 1984.331.6; L.2001.53.4). Marking samplers served a dual purpose: they taught a child basic embroidery techniques and the alphabet and numbers. The letters and numbers learned while embroidering a marking sampler were especially useful, since it was important that any homemaker keep track of her linens, some of her most valuable household goods. This was accomplished by marking them, usually in a cross stitch, with her initials and a number.

The site goes on to note that samplers reflected not only the values of the stitcher, but also may have been all that survived to represent these young women’s lives. Signed and dated, a sampler tells its own unique story.

I have long been fascinated with this art. I started stitching as a young girl, and have continued to enjoy it as I’ve grown into a middle-aged woman. I especially love making patterns which represent who I am. Several years ago I completed a New England sampler – special to me because I grew up in New Hampshire and still hold New England close to my heart. Here is the finished piece:

I love browsing antique shops for antique samplers – and as I gaze at the imperfect stitches and trace the name of the stitcher, I wonder about her life – who was this young woman? Where did she live? What was her life like? Often the stitched piece gives me hints…a wintry New England scene, or the star of Texas.

In writing up my post for this week’s Weekly Geeks, I browsed Amazon and found some great books about antique samplers and needlework:

  • Sampler View of Colonial Life, by Mary Cobb “describes the samplers stitched by girls in colonial America and explains what these samplers tell about the lives of their makers.”

I hope this post will inspire readers to look at this beautiful, yet simple art as a way of telling a story. I’ll leave you with a link to a wonderful site where you can browse antique samplers on line and read about their history and the stories of the women who made them: Antique Samplers.

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    • Julie on May 29, 2008 at 20:12

    What a great post! I never thought of textile art in terms of storytelling, but there is lots of it that fits. Quilts, guernsey sweater patterns, and of course the samplers. Yours looks beautiful; I wish you’d posted a larger image!

    • Kristi on May 29, 2008 at 21:03

    Great post, Wendy! I’m a quilter and stitcher, too. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of fiber arts (especially the part quilts played in the Underground Railroad). Great list of book, too. I’ll have to check some of them out…

    • Maree on May 30, 2008 at 05:36

    Beautiful work! I stitch too, but find that samplers don’t call to me. They are fascinating slices of history, though.

    • Wendy on May 30, 2008 at 07:14

    Julie: Thank you! I may try to repost the photo of my sampler later in a bigger size 🙂 I also thought of writing about quilts as they are also all about telling stories…but, I’m not much of a quilter (although I’m learning)!

    Kristi: I find that a lot of readers also quilt, stitch or sew…I think the idea of a story within the pieces is what attracts readers.

    Maree: Thank you so much!

  1. This is beautiful. When my eyes were younger than they are now, I used to quilt and I loved to create patterns that had meaning for me in the stage of life I was passing through. I really miss it now. Thanks for the post. I loved it.

  2. Amazing. Thanks for the wonderful insight into the sampler. I was always fascinated by the idea that little girls learned to stitch by creating a sampler, but the rest of your post was all new info to me.

    • Kerry on May 30, 2008 at 13:42

    Great post. I’m an avid stitcher, but I didn’t even think of antique samplers as stories, which of course they are.

    There’s also the personal story of one’s own stitching. I can place many moments in my life by what I was stitching at the time, especially when it comes to visiting with friends. I can picture my stay with them along with what I was stitching while I was there.

    My son spent 10 1/2 weeks in hospital after he was born and I look back on the time I sat stitching beside his incubator as a remarkable peaceful time considering the fact I had a child in the NICU.

    • Wendy on May 31, 2008 at 09:03

    Ann: I know what you mean about younger eyes. I am finding it harder to cross stitch these days as I don’t see the tiny stitches as well as I used to – not to mention the patterns. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Heather: Thanks!

    Kerry: I couldn’t agree more – your story is a touching one about your son and I can just see you sitting at his cribside stitching. It is always such a satisfying and relaxing thing. When I look at my finished pieces, I can remember exactly what was happening in my life as I stitched them.

  3. I love stitchery and the way it’s been used for centuries to tell stories.

    My great grandmother and aunt were quilters, and I cherish the quilts they made for me. My star quilt is made from scraps of all my baby and toddler clothes – what a treasure!

    • Kerry on May 31, 2008 at 13:23

    ravenous reader – what a wonderful idea to make a quilt from your baby and toddler clothes. I’ll have to remember that. I still have a few things of my son’s that are extra precious and they sit in a box because I don’t know what to do with them. That might be the answer.

    • Wendy on June 1, 2008 at 06:57

    RR: What a great quilt to have – such meaning…and I’m sure as it gets passed down through the generations it will become only more and more treasured.

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