One of the childhood memories I cherish is that of the sampler my mother helped me to create for the purpose of learning embroidery. Yes, I did learn to embroider! And while this was once common place, even in my day it had become a very uncommon pastime to teach children the art of stitchery. My mom held to the tradition perhaps because she knew I had an interest in crafts and art and had recalled her childhood experiences…a form of reminiscence I suppose. Regardless of her motivation I still dabble at needlework and find it a truly soothing occupation.
The tradition of embroidery and sampler creation can actually be traced back far into the distant past. The” sampler” has appeared as an art form in primitive cultures as the Nazca of Peru in ca. 200 BC –300 AD and has been found in Egypt in the form of silk samplers from around 400 -500 AD. Europeans were making samplers at the very least by the 16th century.
Why talk about stitchery and samplers on a genealogy related blog you may ask? As you know I like to discuss how I incorporate family keepsakes and artifacts into my daily family life and my home decor. While dusting my occasionally forgotten upstairs shelves I came across a framed needlepoint my grandmother had created which I so hated to stuff in a box. I lovingly placed it atop a bookshelf and let it fade into the background of the landscape of my home environment. I thought of grandma, placed it back on the shelf and it set off a chain of events in my mind! My memories of grandma came flooding back her hands stitching this and then the linens which now adorn my daughters’ dressers; The quilt she made me as an infant–I have a photo of her stitching it as I stood beside her–which has now been passed on to my eldest daughter; The “God Bless..” sampler my mother made which bears my birth date; The wedding samplers my husband and I received from an aunt and family friend bearing our wedding date; And then there are the cross stitched quilts I made for my children when they were born. All these examples of family stitchery, hold memories and many of special life events. They often bear dates and places, mottos, and family motifs. It occurred to me that many could be considered documents and sources– I’ll be it secondary ones–not only keepsakes.
I’ve decided to photograph these items and attach them to my tree as well as include them in a catalogue of family keepsakes and heirlooms. I’ve also continued my own stitching and have been teaching my children, to maintain tradition and to be sure that my home is not just a house of store bought trinkets but continues to be filled with the beauty and loving touch of family handicrafts and artifacts. “A stitch in time…” can take on an entirely new connotation!