Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dressmaking Samplers

I found these pieces of textile, carefully wrapped up in a small paper bag at the bottom of a box full of absolutely wonderful old linen and lace. And just at first, I wondered what on earth they could be! Because I had never seen anything like them before. They looked, at first glance, like parts of a garment, because they had buttonholes, buttons, pintucks, frills and darts. But when you looked more closely, you couldn't imagine what on earth that garment might be. One of them had a date - 1894 - embroidered on it in tiny red cross stitches, with sets of initials. One was in fine cotton, and one in flannel, with the work in blue thread. Every little piece of needlework was slightly different, and all of it very skilled. And then it struck me - these must be samplers of dressmaking - i.e. useful - needlework! I suppose the children of those who were reasonably well off might do conventional embroidered samplers, while the children of those who would be expected to make their living as seamstresses, might produce these 'useful needlework' samplers, so that they would know how to make garments of all kinds. Isn't that interesting? I find these pieces incredibly moving - I've never come across anything like them before and I'm amazed by how difficult it has been to find references to anything similar online. I wonder if they may have been made in so called industrial schools? Certainly, somebody took the immense trouble to keep them safe for over 100 years. So they deserve to be appreciated, and perhaps added to a collection of samplers.


Erna said...

Wow Catherine, could it be possible that they are Dutch?My nan made one at school and yes they were called "useful needlework"We've got a lot of them here in Holland and Belgium.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

How fascinating! I suppose they could be Dutch, but they came among a great deal of Scottish/Irish needlework - mind you, there were many connections between Scotland and Holland, in the past. I've just never come across them before, but that's perhaps because many of them were lost - not treasured in the same way that the other needlework samplers were. If I can find out any more, I'll add it to the blog post.

cloutie dumpling said...

Hi Catherine,
Have just discovered your lovely website. Don't know if you remember us; we lived over the road from your mum and dad in Elms Way. Your parents were the best, most generous neighbours anyone could wish for. We'd often come back from work and fresh veg from their garden had been left for us on our doorstep. I still make your mum's recipe for "Sea Pie". She also showed me how to make decent edible bread!
Best Wishes,
Carol and Glenn Bryan

Catherine Czerkawska said...

How lovely to hear from you and of course I remember you! I still make bread and usually think of my mum when I'm doing it and still miss her and my dad.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

PS I'm on Facebook - you can email me there, too if you want!