embroidery

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1981-28 Matt Flynn 009
A Sampler by Martha Butler
Martha Butler’s 1729 sampler belongs to the earliest known group of Boston samplers, worked between 1724 and 1744. The style of the samplers evolved over time, but the majority of them feature Adam and Eve or the Garden of Eden, both important symbols of Puritan theology. Martha’s sampler is closely related to what is believed...
44201_5b03cd989cb3b821_b
Keep Warm with a Smart Cap
This nightcap, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century, was made using a technique called crewel, a type of embroidery worked with wool yarn on linen. Since men had shaved heads or very short hair to accommodate their wigs during this period, they wore caps like this one to keep warm after their...
1903-11-28
An Unfinished Embroidered Picture
In the 17th century, amateur embroiderers or their teachers could commission custom designs from pattern drawers. In Thomas Heywood’s 1607 play, “The Faire Maide of the Exchange,” a character known as the ‘Drawer’ takes detailed instruction for a handkerchief: In one corner of the same, place wanton love, Drawing his bow shooting an amorous dart,...
Pelete Bite Wrapper, 1930s
Making is Un-doing
The island group occupied by the Kalabari people is located in the Niger River delta. This strategic position brought them into contact with traders and travelers from many African and non-African cultures over a period of centuries. Their dress traditions are marked by an eclectic and cosmopolitan combination of cultural references. [1] Kalabari cut-thread cloth...
Placket sampler, cotton embroidered in cross, buttonhole, looping, and running stitches, Germany, 1871
Practical Sewing
Decorative embroidered samplers were made by daughters of the well-to-do for display in their homes, and were symbols of gentility as much as of skill. For daughters of the poor, instruction in needlework, while equally important, often had a more practical purpose: to prepare them for work as domestic servants. Going into service for a...
Marisak Karasz
Sleeping with the Fishes
“It’s not how you do a stitch, it’s what you do with it” was Mariska Karasz’s exhortation to would-be embroiderers. Serving as guest needlework editor for House Beautiful magazine from 1951–53, the artist wrote needlework lessons with suggestions for adding unique decorative embroidery to bedding, table linens and curtains. But her instruction was never prescriptive;...
beetle wings
Wearing Wings
Valued for their iridescent blue-green-purple color, the wing casings, or elytra, of the Buprestidae Jewel Beetle have been used for centuries to adorn clothing and jewelry in India, among both indigenous groups like the Naga, as well as in Mughal court costume. In the 19th century an export trade developed around Calcutta, where gossamer-fine cotton...
pocket
Pick a pocket
Before the mid-19th century, pockets were not sewn into women’s clothing, but were an accessory. Pockets, usually worn in pairs, were tied around the waist between a woman’s under-petticoat and her petticoat or skirt. Openings in the side seams of these voluminous skirts provided a discreet way for her to access their contents. Pockets were...
spot sampler
At the Edges
This spot sampler is one of a genre of 17th century samplers that truly embodied the name. Most samplers of the period had a structure, pleasant in appearance, which incorporated pattern bands, phrases, and information about the maker such as her name and the date she completed the work. However, spot samplers like this one...