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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

250 year old stitches

The other day I helped a friend with a little computer problem she was having – nothing technical, just a how-do-you….? -  and while I was there she showed me some beautiful embroideries that had come down through her family.  It was a varied collection which included some beautifully fine cross stitch samplers, a silk satin-stitch embroidery, and a couple of canvaswork samplers from possibly the 1920s.

embroideries 008She very graciously allowed me to photograph them, so I could show them off.   You really will have to click each one to get the benefit of them.

This one is the only one framed and hanging on the wall.  It is a sampler of alphabets, using cross stitches, eyelet stitches and cross stitch embellished with back stitches.  The initials in the bottom right are from family names,  


the black initials probably of someone who has died.

The date is 1755 with the initials GR, which I take to be George Rex, King George.  GR Between the two initials are crossed swords with a crown in each angle.  Not being much good at remembering which king or queen reigned when, I had hoped the crowns might give an indication as to which of the Georges it might be, but when I looked it up, I found that in 1755 it was the second one.  So the crowns are just regal decoration!  I tried to lighten up the sample but with the thread colour being so pale it was harder to see. eyelet stitch

The letters made up of tiny little eyelets must have taken quite a time to sew, each little eyelet being made up of about 12 tiny stitches and given just the right tension to pull the threads to make the centre “eye”.  eyelet detail I have to tell you that each of those eyelets measures only about 2 millimetres across – obviously worked by someone with good eyesight and a lot of time to spare – a well to do young woman, no doubt!

embroideries 006a

This  photo shows the reverse side of one of the samplers, something I didn’t even notice when I took the photo – but then you wouldn’t, would you!  I’m glad I did take it this way though, as it shows how neat the work is.  The reverse is as beautiful as the correct side!  Here’s a bit of detail. reverse side detail



I think it is so amazing! 

My friend, R, who has asked not to be named, is thinking of selling one of the samplers, this one, below,eleanor magrath


so I have asked her to give me a price, and I’ll see if I could afford it.  It won’t be cheap!  I mean, consider the work that has gone into it!


It was worked by someone called Eleanor Magrath in 1785.  I was keen to find out who she might have been, but there are a lot of Eleanor Magraths in the genealogy records I use, so it may not be possible to pin her down!  I suspect that the spelling of her surname could make her Irish, perhaps English, or possibly Scots, though the Scots spelling is generally McGrath.  Not impossible though!  See the tiny chain stitches that make up that rose?  They can only be a millimetre long.  I’m sure Eleanor didn’t work this by candlelight!eleanor detail

For its age this sampler is still very bright, probably hasn’t been on display, but folded up in a drawer.  Any embroiderers these days should know not to fold their work, but wrap it in acid free paper and roll it up!    I just love the sampler anyway and would love to be able to display it on my wall!  We’ll see!

canvaswork The next two photos are of more modern samplers, canvaswork of possibly the 1920s, just little snippets of patterns and designs to try them out prior to using them in an actual piece of work.canvasworkdetail 







They are worked with wool instead of silks.

silk embroidered  The last picture is of my friend’s favourite – another silk one but worked in satin stitch, chain stitch again, and one or two other stitches I can’t really identify.   Its top is actually the bow in the top left of my photo.  I should have been more careful.  I wonder if it was worked for a bag – maybe slightly too large for that -  or maybe a pouch for handkerchiefs.    satin stitch detail

Again, some detail:  






patchwork Now, as well as the embroideries there was also a small sample of patchwork!  I put a pound coin, about 1.5 cm diameter into the picture to give it some scale.  The patches aren’t quite as small as the ones I told you about  in Marjorie’s dolls house recently, but still quite small.  I’ve no idea what was planned for this work.  It was an odd shape.

What a beautiful collection to have, and to know just who worked some of the pieces too.  R. is going to do a bit of researching her family history now, and I am looking forward to hearing more about the embroiderers!

Talk again soon.

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