embroidery

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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...
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...
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...
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;...
Image features muslin embroidered with a floral motif in gold threads and blue-green beetle wing "sequins." Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Wearing Wings
From the archives, an Object of the Day post on an example of iridescent design from the collection.
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...
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...
Sampler is divided into compartments with vases, birds, and flowers. Those compartments with text are composed in the form of a rebus or pictogram. Sampler is edged with tatting. Contains the following text in Spanish
Love Unites Us
  a sampler might say “noli timere” be not afraid. but this sampler says “love unites us” in the end, we are all alone. but somewhere we also learn the elusive truth that there is love. love of life and beauty, knowledge and kindness. love unites us is not a bad thing to read on...