November 29 - Towards Perfection
Good-bye November!

November 30 - The End

Believe me, I could go on and on about my embroidery journey, as 30 years of study has filled this house with pictures, books, study guides, and books of notes and patterns. There are framed pieces on my walls, in my closets, on my families walls, and sitting on shelves. The variety of technique and design are limitless. This week of walking down memory lane has been interesting. I feel  like I have relived the life of a person I no longer know and found a life I hadn't seen in a dozen years. One thing is sure, I enjoyed sharing with you some of my best work, but I wonder how I am the one who created the amazing pieces. I certainly was another person, with a different motivation and my hands were far more capable than they are today. 


So, let me continue this last day of NaBloPoMo with my last, but perhaps my favorite phase of this embroiderers journey. In the late 1990s I became acquainted with the term "schoolgirl sampler". We all know what a sampler is, that piece of linen that may have the alphabet or a phrase like "Home Sweet Home", but finding out that museums had samplers as old as the early 1700s, and that women during Queen Elizabeth's time did exquisite embroideries, that this, the stitches of women, as our history. Women of means were taught to be good wives, to be literate, and to be poise, by way of samplers. This article from the MET site gives a brief history of American Needlework.

As my interest in Japanese Embroiery started to wan (late 1990s), the needlework shops were talking about the world of girlhood needlework. Not only were the shops filled with beautiful samplers, but more importantly, they were bringing in excellent instructor/designers, hand-dyed linens and threads, new silks and all sorts of little treasures to embroiderer. Plus, there were conventions and gatherings, and guilds, a whole accomplished community of people teaching even more people, like me, who wanted not only to stitch the treasures, but to learn about the lives of anonymous girls and women of the last 400 years.  

Let me tell you a bit about the two pictures above. The first is called The Strawberry Bag. It was designed by a local artist, Carolyn Webb. She saw a picture of a bag first created during Elizabeth the First reign and decided to create someone similar to teach. Strawberry motifs were used often in that time period, a symbol of purity, and youth. The bag is stitched in the manner of a sampler with rows of different patterns and stitches. Kept inside are a Jacob's ladder needlebook, a strawberry pinkeep, and a three demential strawberry scissor fob. Carolyn made a clay mini-strawberry for each one of us to put on the string of our bags.

The Swan Lake Bag is from a class I took in Phoenix, when I traveled with 4 friends to take the workshop from Merry Cox, the designer. We stitched the designs on our bags before the class. Two sides and a bottom fully stitched, along with each of the "smalls" that are kept inside. There is a ruler holder, a button bag (which holds the thimble and a chunk of beeswax, plus a scissor with fob. The names of each friend are stitched on the bag, along with the place and date we were there. Many memories are stitched into this project, as in all my needlework. 


How I fit so many classes, stitched the number of hours, and completed as many pieces as I did, I'll never know. I am sharing only a few of my favorites, but I have many more treasures. I traveled the country to take classes on samplers and "smalls" the little etuis or needle cases. 


This particular piece is one of my favorite as it was stitched at the end of 1999 to commemorate the year 2000, which was the year I turned 50, and the year Smith and I would have been married for 20 years. Plus, you know, it was the turn of the century. A big WOW of a year in my life. The needlebook, 2"x3", with a linen fabric count of 34 stitches to the inch.


Inside is a pincushion (with pins), linen pages to hold needles, and a tiny pair of scissors with a tassel fob, which is held in place with a ribbon and snap. Each one of the etuis are created so a needleworker has all she needs in one neat little compartment that is always handy and at the ready. This piece is smaller than a phone and would fit into any pocket. 


The etui is closed with an antique button and a buttonhole stitch loop. The phrase used "Adorn thy life with love and goodness" is typical of what would be found on a girlhood sampler, as are all the motifs and stitches.

Thank you for indulging me this journey down memory lane, this step back in time. I am humbly in awe of myself. Did I really stitch all of that? Can this journey really be mine? I know I am a different person because of needlework, because of the people I met. Learning at the feet of so many masters and senseis has been a pleasure and an honor, and while it is no longer something I want to do, or can do, I know it is where I have been and I am better for this journey as an embroiderer. 


It was the quilt motifs that got me interested in counted cross-stitch, but the samplers that kept me there for years. I would scour antique shows for old samplers and tools -- needle cases, thread holders, scissors, sewing birds, chatelaines -- I could rarely afford them, but boy did I ever like to look (and the hunt). I know what you mean about another life, as I encounter pieces of my own "past life" and wonder how I ever did it...

This has been a wonderful journey and look back, Margene. I remember seeing a few of your amazing pieces when I visited... simply beautiful work. Thank you so much! Again!! xoxo

Our dedication to various crafts is truly amazing!

I love these pieces, made for practical usage, but so beautiful! That's something I don't see often in this age of big box stores, but I think it's part of what we're all trying to do with whatever craft we're pursuing. Stitching is a solitary pursuit, like knitting, but also like knitting, it sounds like there is quite a community built around it, along with the connection to other women over hundreds of years. Thank you so much for sharing!

Margene, I have so greatly appreciated this trip back in your stitching. These pieces are just amazing!

Your memories must be as precious as the items themselves. I'm sure it was great fun to travel with friends for the classes.

I just loved hearing of this phase of your life, and how much it meant to you

This has been fun Margene - a real pleasure. Your stitching is so fine and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

While your Japanese embroidery is unbelievably beautiful, my heart really belongs to these girlhood samplers. I became enamored of these from watching years of Antique Roadshow. There is nothing quite like looking at one of these from hundreds of years ago and having a window into a little girl's life. Some of them are so accomplished to be free form and done by little girls. Your samplers are fabulous. Since they will be quite valuable someday, have you thought about who you are going to give them to? It would be quite the honor to have one of these if the person understood their worth. Thank you so much for sharing them with me!

While I appreciate the techniques and beauty of your Japanese work, the samplers are more in keeping with my style and I just adore them. I proudly display the needlework Santa you sent me years ago!

What FUN, Margene! Those tiny little treasures and so wonderful! Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your journey and your history and your treasures. XOXO

What a treasure trove! Thank you for blogging this month! I so enjoy reading!

I am so glad you shared your stitching journeys... the pieces are lovely to behold and the stories that accompany, priceless. It's evident that you received (and still do) many hours of pleasure in those creative endeavors and experiences and moments.
So happy that NaBloPoMo encouraged you to share and relive...

I hope you're going to keep sharing! and are you contemplating getting back into this kind of embroidery? I can totally see how you'd be "tempted" by all things Alabama Chanin!

Thank-you Margene for sharing this with us! What a wonderful era in your life and so many accomplishments. You are a master!

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