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.