Friday, May 11, 2018

Needlework Guild of Minnesota

This week I spoke at the Needlework guild of Minnesota.  I have another presentation for them later in the month.  They are a wonderful group, "Our mission is to foster the highest standard of excellence in the practice of needlework through programs of education and study."

I presented a history of girlhood sewing and brought many examples to share.  I setup in advance so attendees have time to look at the examples before and after the PowerPoint slides.  I also bring magnifying glasses so stitching can be closely examined.

I had so much fun I only took one photo!  Busy talking!

At the end of the table is a quilt, made by a girl aged 8. Also included were samplers, mending examples, sewing school lessons, books and a little table top box loom.

Lesson 5
Here are some close ups.
This is a mending sample for holes from a school lesson.  The more solid ares were holes in the fabric.

The girls had to use high contrasting thread so they could see their stitches and so the teacher could see to grade their work.

Clothing was precious and holes were mended to extend their life.

Darned ares in wool - Lesson Example

This is mending on a long tear in wool.  Can you find it in the mending threads?

Again high contrast threads are used in the lesson.

You can imagine a girl saying, "My life has been one long sewing lesson"

Plain sewing wasn't always fun or a desired activity.  Not all girls were willing participants.

Sorry to say, we don't know who F.V. was.
She did lovely work and I'm happy to own her final sampler.  It is one of many pieces I bring with the lecture and trunk show.

Dated Example
Cross stitch


Marking Practice Piece

Girls were also taught to mark their linens. For this they used high contrast colors on purpose.
After working on school sewing samples they were ready to mark linens in their home and perhaps to build their trousseau/hope chest.

The year wasn't always included. Sometimes a number for household inventory purposes was used.
Sometimes the letters were formed by counting the even weave of the linen ground.  Other times they used coarse buckram or waste canvas over the ground fabric. The grid was removed when the stitching was completed.

4" Apron

Quarter sized garments were sewn as samples.  These are sometimes mistaken for doll clothing.

This small apron includes plain and fancy stitching.

While it might appear machine stitched, it is all hand sewn.

L.W. was a developing wonderful needlework skills.

Sampler stitched on perforated paper

This is the date on a school girl sampler.

Stitched on perforated paper and date 1852, it includes her name.

I was able to get lots of information on her and her life in Missouri and Colorado.

Before doing conservation framing, I took photos of the back. They are vibrant rich red and green threads with many other colors.

When did you do your first needlework?
Happy Stitching,

Contact me if your guild or sewing group is interested in a program.


  1. What wonderful examples! I'm hoping L.W. was in graduate school! Those stitches are so tiny! I'm sure people learned a lot from your wonderful lecture. I love their Mission Statement!

  2. Replies
    1. Ha Ha, I will be sure to tell my family's that this weekend.

  3. What a wonderful presentation! Your samples are marvellous. They really learned to sew in those days. I remember pestering my mom to let me use the sewing machine whenever she got it out to sew clothes for our family. I must have pestered her a lot because I got a toy sewing machine for Christmas when I was 8 and I haven't stopped sewing since :0)

  4. You have such a good collection! I would not have thought to bring magnifying glasses for the people to use. Very thoughtful of you. I imagine that you are a favorite speaker for them.

  5. You do everything don't you? Great pics!

    1. Nope. I don't knit, and so admire knitting.
      Cleaning...only,when I have to ha ha
      Then there's the laundry...

  6. What a precious collection of needlework you own, especially the ones made by young girls. Reminds me of a lecture I took with An Moonen once, about samplers and needlework on household linens. I can tell the girls in the VS and in Europe had a lot in common. Well, it is a long time ago, but I vividly remember I did not like my "useful needlework lessons" at all (at the age of about 8 years)...

  7. This looks like such an interesting presentation. I would love a chance to hear and see it. Why didn't I ever get to see you do a presentation when you lived in a neighboring state?
    I believe I was eight when I first learned to do cross-stitch using small print gingham as the grid. Then I moved on to simple embroidery stitches. I was in my early 20s when I got hooked on counted cross-stitch. It was an obsession for many years.

  8. Wonderful presentation and examples of old stitch work. I didn't start until I was older and worked in a craft store, the owner loved doing cross stitch and taught me.


  9. You have so many amazing things to show! I am sure the members of the guild enjoyed your presentation!

  10. Your collection is awesome and I'm sure your lecture was an incredible wealth of knowledge. I stared embroidering when I was in elementary school. I'd go to the dime store and purchase a stamped tea towel. My mom actually used them!

  11. Precious examples - and so special you could preserve these pieces and share with people who love needlework. Cross stitch work was something I could never do - my eyes jumped around too much and I would mess up the count. But I do remember my Mom getting me pillowcases printed with embroidery designs back in the 1950’s, then onto crewel work, macrame, knitting and finally quilting - guess like so many of us, I would be lost with out some type of needlework in my hands.

  12. Such sweet examples. I am of a generation where I remember having sewing, knitting and crochet lessons at school. I did not like that at all, especially since the boys where then taken out of class for lessons in woodwork, claywork etc. and came back with wonderful things they had made. I felt it was just not fair they got to do all that great stuff. Now I am grateful for those 'girls' lessons as you can imagine.

  13. What in interesting and informative post and beautiful collection! The only needlework that I did as a child was at my grandma's, occasionally doing backstitch embroidery on a pillowcase.


Thanks for your comments!