Friday, November 27, 2009

Belated Happy Thanksgiving

We hope you had a wonderful holiday with your families and loved ones all around!  Turkey with all the trimmings - what diet?  As Thanksgiving approached, we started to think a bit about the first Thanksgiving and the pilgrims who started it all, and how can you think of them, and not remember the Loara Standish sampler?  Here are some thoughts on that from Becky:

I had the opportunity to take a class on Loara Standish from Joanne Harvey at one of the Sampler Gathering events years ago in Plymouth, MA. Along with Joanne’s class on the technical aspects of stitching Loara, we were treated to a lecture on the history of Loara’s life and a tour of her home site and grave.  I even found acorns that I still have from her site. It was such a special day to feel the past of one of our first known sampler makers in America and to share that with so many others who have the passion I do for the history of these women who came before us, leaving the thread of their lives through the samplers they made. 

I always come back to the question, why do we create the pieces we do? Why did they create the pieces they did? Will others come after us and study what we have left behind as we do those before us? What will they learn or wonder about me? Now if only Loara would get her chance to come out of the cupboard and come to life in my hands!  Hopefully her time will come in this vast amount of stitching I dream of doing some day soon.

Loara's sampler is, in many ways, a typical 17th Century English Band Sampler, as are most American samplers of the time.   Its long, narrow form features row after row  of ever more complex bands of decorative border patterns.   

The verse reads :
Loara Standish is my name
Lord guide my heart that I may do thy will
Also fill my hands with such convenient skill
As may conduce to virtue void of shame
and I will give the glory to thy name

This beautiful piece stands out as the oldest known sampler stitched in America.  While we don't know the exact date she stitched it, we do know Loara's approximate birth date (sometime after 1627) and that she died  very young - before her father, Myles, who wrote in a 1655/56 will that he wished to be buried beside her:

"...if I Die att Duxburrow my body to bee layed as neare as Conveniently may bee to my two Daughters Lora Standish my Daughter and Mary Standish my Daughter in law..."

So we can date this sampler with confidence at approximately 1650. Loara was one of 7 children, and living in the Plymouth Colony when she stitched her sampler.  A visit to the Pilgrim Hall Museum site will give you more information yet about this very important relic of our past.

Loara included many very complex stitches in her sampler, one of which has been dubbed the "Standish Stitch".  The Standish Stitch is not only on Loara's sampler, but has been found on other seventeenth century samplers. The stitch has not yet been identified and was named the Standish Stitch by Joanne Harvey. The Standish Stitch is a reversible stitch mainly used  for dividing bands. I would describe it as a cross stitch with angled stitches at the bottom, but this is not done in the fashion of a normal cross stitch. To make this stitch reversible, it has many passes to create the stitch, sharing many of the same holes. Most of the stitches on the Standish Sampler are worked over three threads, which takes some getting used to. Other stitches used on the Loara Standish sampler are: Long Armed Cross Variation, Side by Side Cross Stitch, Marking Cross Stitch, Double Running, Diagonal Cross Stitch, Cross Stitch with Bar, Algerian Eye, Variation on a diagonal Cross Stitch and running Stitch. The sampler is stitched in a reversible manner throughout.

The next oldest American sampler known of is Mary Hollingsworth, who also has a very interesting history!  She stitched her sampler around 1665.  That these samplers have lasted so long and in such fabulous condition is a testament to the fact that they were always valued as historical documents as much as works of art.

From Becky:

As we enter the holiday season this year, I know we tend to reflect on our lives and the year that has passed. I know even though it was a difficult year for our family with the loss of our nephew, we find so many things to be thankful for. It has been a difficult year or two for our country and so many people we know have faced hardships, but hopefully we can each find a way to do something to help lessen the difficulties someone else is facing in some small way. Giving of a minute or two, showing a kindness, just a smile or hello, can add a lot to someone’s day. So from us to all of you, consider yourselves hugged and a smile sent to each and every one of you.  We hope you will be surrounded this next month with many family and friends and laughter! 

From Julie:
When I count my many blessings I find that I am most grateful for the simple things:  a beautiful sunset; a well-turned phrase; the warmth of our home on these cold winter nights.  Life is so complex - as anyone trying to navigate through the myriad of avenues now available on the internet well knows.  Simplicity can bring you back to the very essence of life and how it can be celebrated!  I think this is why we love samplers so much - it hearkens back to a time when life was lived more slowly, and perhaps savored more completely.  My wish for you is that you find the inner peace and contentment of a life lived simply and fully.

As the holiday season is now upon us, we thought it only appropriate to share some recipes of family favorites.  From our families to yours - the very best this season has to offer!

Favorite Recipe from Becky:
Aunt Jackie’s Cut Out Cookies

1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cup margarine (soften)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Cream the sugar and margarine. Mix in the egg and flavoring. Sift the dry ingredients together and blend in the sugar and margarine mixture. Refrigerate for two to three hours. Find your favorite cookie cutters and heat oven to 375 dgrees. Roll dough to 3/16” thickness and cut out. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets. Sprinkle with colored sugar decorations if not planning to frost. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until lightly brown around edges, very lightly brown! They will darken fast and so watch them carefully. If wishing to frost, cool completely.

1 pound powdered sugar
1 TBL Crisco
1 tsp vanilla
Milk to spreading consistency and a dash of salt
Mix together. Divide into small bowls and add favorite food coloring choices for your decorating pleasure.

This has been in my family forever, and it is always my favorite cookie! I tend to like it best with just some sugar sprinkles, but frosting is always fun for the younger people in your lives.

Favorite recipe from Julie  
Mom’s Shortbread with Lavender

½ cup cornstarch
½ cup icing sugar                                            
½ tsp salt
2 cups sifted, all-purpose flour
2 tbsp dried lavender (use only organically grown lavender to be sure it's safe to eat - I buy mine at Whole Foods) 
1 cup butter (2 ¼ lb sticks)at room temp.

Sift the first four ingredients together four times.  (I know, I know - but it’s what makes the cookies melt in your mouth.  Buy a battery-operated sifter like I did!)  

Gently crush the lavender in your hands and sprinkle into the dry ingredients, stirring to mix thoroughly.  

Mix in the butter with your hands (the heat from your hands melts the butter and makes the batter hold together better than if you mix with a spoon).   

Roll into walnut sized balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets.  Flatten with a fork or cookie press dipped in flour.  (you can crowd them on the cookie sheet - they don’t spread).   

Bake at 325 for 20 minutes, or until they’re as golden brown as you like them.  I like mine a little darker than most people do.  

The lavender in these cookies adds a very sophisticated touch - but be careful not to overdo - you don't want the lavender to overpower the delicious cookie.  I've been making these cookies without the lavender all my life - its my very favorite cookie and the only one I must bake for it to be Christmas!  I added the lavender as an experiment a few years ago and loved it!

Makes about 2 ½ dozen.  Can easily be doubled.

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