Sunday, February 20, 2011

Julie Goes to the V & A!

Okay - not lately - but in the winter of 2006, my husband and I spent five weeks in England - four in London, with a few side trips, capped off with a week in Yorkshire to attend the first ever Ackworth sampler event!  While Becky mends, I'll take you down memory lane with me as we look at some of the needlework we saw (and we saw a LOT)!

We were up at 8 and figuring out which tube stations we needed to get to the Victoria and Albert - and off we went around 10 to spend the day. This is a gorgeous museum, and very large - easy to get lost in. And of course, we got very confused when we got off the tube train to find a sign saying - this way to the subway to the V&A. Then we realized that they meant a tunnel to walk through, which was good - we weren't quite sure we'd be able to negotiate the streets, so having a sign saying "this way, stupid" is a good idea! I also like the way the tube stations all have signs saying "way out", in case you don't know what "exit" means, I guess, hahahaha. Sounds a bit like the old Barnum joke - "This way to the Egress", doesn't it?  As soon as we were in the galleries, I asked about photographs, and find that there are no limitations on taking or sharing photos.  So I took plenty.  These are some of my best, and I hope give you an idea of what it was like there, so you can start to plan your own trip.

We wandered around a bit to find what we wanted - spent a nice little bit of time in the fashion exhibit, and then it was off to the British Galleries! I had a date with Martha Edlin! 

We happened to stumble upon this pretty jacket which was later to become one of the models for  the Plimoth Jacket Project!  Behind is a painting of Margaret Layton, wearing the jacket!  I took this photo without knowing how much I would later read about it and others like it in The Embroiderer's Story!

There are lots of wonderful textiles - costumes, rugs, table carpets, tapestries and embroideries in the British Galleries, and I knew that Martha was supposed to be there. I spent an hour or so just wandering and stopping to take photos, and came upon a lovely casket with the mica still attached. I loved this piece and looked at it for quite some time - and also took lots of photos.

 Next, I found some Mary Queen of Scots embroideries that looked as though they'd been finished just last week! I spent a bit of time there, too. :D

Finally, as I wandered around the corner from there, there she was - Martha Edlin - all her things together in one spot - one very dark corner! It really touched me, though, to see all her embroidered pieces together with her toys and needlework tools. 
Her Casket

Items found in the casket.

The sign says all these pieces have been handed down for 300 years through the female line of her family. They all must have handled them very carefully, as they are in wonderful condition! The oddest part, though, is that until I got my pictures up on the screen of my computer back home, I wasn't able to see much detail, because it was so dark! I kept peering in to try to see things and I don't know how many times my head ran into the glass! 

Her early sampler was there, then a whitework sampler, a beaded book cover, TWO mirror-surrounds, one finished and one in progress, as well as her casket, the needlework tools and some embroidered pincushions.  All in all, it's a very impressive grouping all from one person.

I got some great shots, though, so I know I will be able to blow them up and see the details, but still. I also checked in the gift shop to see if they had any CD-ROM's or anything with pictures of the casket - it would have been so nice just to have the pictures they had from the little video that sits beside the case - but there was nothing like that. I'll be going back again and can ask if they have anything like that, but it sure wasn't evident...

From the little video, you can see all four sides, and the inside of the box, which is very cool! I'd love to be able to look at those pictures longer.  We had lunch in the cafe there at the museum - a very hearty beef and ale pie with the ubiquitous mashed potatoes. 

In the afternoon, we wandered a little bit to get "the feel of the place", then finished up back in the British Galleries to see the rest. It seemed like the day went by so fast - before we knew it, we'd been there for almost 7 hours and were so tired we could hardly get back to the tube station!

More adventures to come...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Exhibition Catalogs and Gallery Guides

You many wonder why only Julie seems to be writing for the blog lately - our Miss Becky has had surgery on her right arm - she tore a muscle lifting a heavy backpack - and so can't type much these days.  But the surgery went really well, and she is recuperating, so we can look forward to her contributions again soon.  Meantime, of course, you're stuck with me!

Becky and I have been very lucky - we've traveled to a number of wonderful exhibits and seminars in the U.S. (and I even managed to get to Ackworth in England for one!)  Whether you attend an exhibit or not, though, you find that you want a record of the samplers shown... ideally, a full catalog of all the items on display, or at least a "gallery guide" - a more modest publication with photographs of the major pieces and a history of the girls or schools involved.  Luckily, more and more groups are including such publications as part of their efforts, and we truly appreciate it.

We first met Jennifer Core and Janet Hasson at Deerfield - a wonderful symposium of sampler experts, headlined by Mary Jaene Edmonds!  Like us, Jennifer and Janet were in the audience and they showed us their "book" - a wonderful photo album of Tennessee samplers they'd been finding and studying.  This was not too long after Sue Studebaker showed that there was a wonderful body of samplers that had been stitched in Ohio.  Jennifer and Janet decided to find out if there was a similar body of Tennessee samplers - were they connected by a common school, or did they have some elements in common and unique to Tennessee?  About 6 years later, the resounding answer must be Yes!  And they are finally ready to unveil their findings at an exhibit, entitled Middle Tennessee Samplers - "This My Name Shall Ever Have", at the James K. Polk Presidential Hall in Columbia, TN.  The exhibit opened on December 17 and runs until April 10, 2011.  

You should go if you can.  We sure wish we could - but travel just isn't in our future for the next little while.  Which is why it's so great that they have published a gallery guide.  A picture of the guide's cover is above.  It's a great publication which has some wonderful photographs of samplers, along with descriptions and very interesting information on the "Little Dog Samplers", "House Samplers", and female education in general in the south, especially at the Columbia Female Institute.  It's the next best thing to being there, and I'm glad I got a copy.  If you can't go to the exhibit in person, you should definitely order a gallery guide.  The price is such that everyone can afford a copy.  This information comes from Jennifer and Janet:

A gallery guide has been published in conjunction with the exhibit Middle Tennessee Samplers: "This My Name Shall Ever Have" and is available through the Polk Home. To order, call (931) 388-2354 or email The total mail order cost is $5.00 is for international orders, $4.50 within the United States, or $4.76 for Tennessee residents. Price includes shipping and handling and applicable taxes (TN residents only). Wholesale inquiries should contact Janet Hasson at  

A few years ago, we did manage to travel to Baltimore for a seminar accompanying the exhibition of samplers at the Maryland Historical Society - A Maryland Sampling - Girlhood Embroidery 1738-1860.  The exhibit was guest curated by Gloria Seaman Allen who had done a remarkable amount of research into Maryland samplers, and the exhibit was coordinated with the publication of a book by the same name.  A picture of the book is above, and it is still readily available at your favorite booksellers.  We love to be able to support the care and study of samplers by purchasing something so useful to us in our own research as a book like this.  

When you purchase this book, there's a bonus - because of course, research doesn't stop because of a publication deadline.  There's always something new to discover, and appendices are updated and published online as new information comes to light.  To date, there have been 3 additions to the information in the book, and as research continues, I think we can expect many more.

Check into your local museums and historical societies.  Are there any samplers hidden away in their archives?  They may be just waiting to work with you to bring them to light.  Take the Benton County Historical Society and Museum in Philomath.  They are currently working with local sampler stitchers to present an exhibit featuring both contemporary works and historical samplers.  The exhibition will run from March 11 to April 30th.  Lynne Anderson, of the Sampler Consortium, is working with the University of Oregon to produce an accompanying publication.  We can't wait!

If you are traveling and wonder whether there is an exhibit in the area you'll be touring, take a look at your travel dates in our Google Calendar below.  We have been listing every sampler-related event we hear about.  Who knows?  There might be something going on that you didn't know about and that you can fold into your travel plans.

We are working now on another benefit for our readers - a listing of places online to see samplers - many museums and historical societies have online galleries for viewing, and as we find out about those, we'll try to keep our listing up-to-date.  Look for that item to debut in the next couple of weeks.  And if you know of any online samplers, please let us know at

We have noticed, with some excitement, that we now have 137 followers, which is so gratifying to us.  To celebrate when we hit the magic number of 150 followers, watch for a give-away that has something to do with this post.... (are you intrigued yet?)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Old Sturbridge Village

Our trip to Connecticut last fall took us to many fascinating places.  One of the most fun was Old Sturbridge Village (which is actually in Massachusetts).  In the background of this page you can see some of the wonderful history interpreters we met and talked with.  We saw a printer and a tinsmith at work, talked with a lovely lady who was making a rag rug, met a couple of ladies putting in a garden of bulbs for springtime delight, browsed the wares at the local mercantile and visited with two neighbors who were passing the time of day in a kitchen.  This is a place that truly "takes you back", and makes you wonder whether you've fallen down the rabbit hole!  

We had gone to Sturbridge because we knew there was a sampler exhibit - and this was our main excuse, but we spent the whole day just reveling in days gone by.  It was magical!

Needlework of many types abounds here - on our way to the sampler exhibit, we saw some wonderful quilts.  And later, as we toured through several homes, we saw more...  

The homes we visited were of several different economic classes, so we got a good idea of everyday life for people across classes in New England of 1790 or so.  

Early in our visit, we found the Needlework Exhibit we had come to see: 

There were some beautiful samplers, and the exhibit was very well laid out...

with lots to see...
When we finally left the needlework, we toured the houses.  One of the most memorable was a modest home with the lady of the house busy working on a rug. 

 She talked to us of her materials and the tools she had with her in her needlework bag.  

There was evidence of her handiwork all over the home.  These wonderful knitted mittens

and this make-do in the bedroom upstairs.
What a terrific day we had in Massachusetts!  As we drove home, we knew we'd be heading back whenever we could!  The exhibit we saw on samplers and girlhood embroidery is up until June 19th, and they have a terrific quilt exhibit they've just added.  And the needlework found in all the houses is a real treat, so don't wait for a special exhibit - go anytime!  If you can't visit - enjoy their online version, or a slide show of the quilts.

You Might Also Like:

Related Posts with Thumbnails