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.
Grandma quilting with me looking on in 1975
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!
A sampler made by my mother when I was born.
Vintage is in vogue! For a treasure hunter like myself, who relishes the beauty and history held in antique, and love worn objects this is a delight! The cold, newness of modern objects and decor can create a very sterile home atmosphere but add even a few prized pieces with a past and you have added character, and conversation! I do not come from family rich in the monetary but rather rich in the wealth of lore, and love. This however does not mean I do not have family treasures and keepsakes. The value of these items is often in their stories and family meaning as opposed to how much money they could line a pocket with.
I have few heirlooms currently as many of those which will be entrusted to me are housed presently with my mother and my aunts but I know when I do receive them I will find ways to display as many as possible with pride of place and with their histories intact! I despise the idea of stashing away the precious in boxes never to be seen or enjoyed, hidden from those who may benefit from the cherished history and stories they hold within.
While some extremely valuable antiques may be difficult to safely display or renew others house their value in their true use for their true intended purpose. I possess a lovely children’s table and chairs set made by my grandfather for my mother and her sisters in the 1930s and 40s. My mother kept this set for use by my sister and myself, and I for my children. It had been refinished at least once over the years with a thick plastering of dark varnish but about a month ago I decided it was time to renew its beauty and charm to allow for its continued usefulness!
Perhaps if this was a truly priceless object I would leave it untouched but as it is priceless only to us I knew a fresh coat of the latest chalk paint and wax and a little distressing would renew this darling set while maintaining its antique character. I enlisted the help of my daughters who were absolutely thrilled to be part of this family project. We chose a lively peacock colour, as they are meant for the bright, vivacious nature of children! What I love, love about chalk paint is that you can paint over anything without the daunting task of first preparing the piece with sanding, priming, and the like. It’s a simple process of paint (perhaps a couple coats and touch-ups depending on the surface), rub on wax (a little bit of a process until you get the knack), a distressing with a fine sandpaper in the areas where normal wear might have occurred, and another layer of wax for protection and good measure! Voila! A piece no one can resist commenting on!
My girls Loved Helping
Google chalk painting techniques–Annie Sloan I believe is the product leader in this approach–but I just took a quick gander at a Mrs. Hines’ Class Blog post and followed it very loosely with fantastic results! My son and daughters now want to know who will be the next to possess this beautiful family keepsake for their children. I replied, “I think, one day in the distant future, it may have to stay at grandma and grandpa’s for all to enjoy!”
After Painting with Chalk Paint