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:
- The Needle’s Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution, by Marla Miller “unravels and reconstructs the working lives of unknown and unsung real women who plied the needle in the midst of multiple revolutions.”
- 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.”
- Ohio is My Dwelling Place: Schoolgirl Embroideries 1800- 1850, by Sue Studebaker connects Ohio history with the lives of young girls and their sewing.
- A Maryland Sampling: Girlhood Embroidery 1738-1860, by Gloria Seaman Allen explores “the role of needlework in early female education and in the lives of ordinary women in the changing currents of Chesapeake regional history.”
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.