Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Elizabeth Parker's Confession

EB sent me a link to this interesting nineteenth century embroidery:

You can left-click on the picture to make the writing large enough to read. It's not cross-stitch, by the way. Looks like back-stitch to me. Whatever the stitch, Parker was an extremely skilled needlewoman.

Her work throws an interesting light on the person behind a piece of needlework. Most early samplers that I have seen quote Bible verses or pious wishes, and the texts may not have been chosen by the embroiderer herself. That's why the few pieces with different messages are so fascinating.

The initial function of the samplers (among those social classes who could afford them) was to teach young girls the skills they required, from darning, button-hole making and sewing a straight seam to elaborate embroidery techniques. The samplers were also used to teach girls basic numbers and the alphabet.

They were kept by many, both because they were reminders of how to perform the necessary tasks and because they could be framed to demonstrate the skills of the young needlewoman.

Today those early samplers are viewed as decorative. But their initial functions were different, and, as Elizabeth Parker's confession tells us, they could be used in ways having nothing to do with the job of a housewife.

Some of you may know that I'm interested in embroidery and related techniques, their social interpretation and the way arts and crafts are interpreted when they are done predominantly by women. The website link at the top of this blog shows you some of my (much clumsier) work.