Sunday, March 22, 2009

March Break Madness....

Well, okay, it's not going to be about basketball. I'm more of a hockey girl.

But, it is going to be about needlework!!!!! (and there's lots of pictures, so my apologies in advance!)

This past week our local historical site, called Black Creek Pioneer Village was open for the first time during March Break. Their season generally runs from May until December, so it was a treat to be able to wander through the place during March Break. I'd heard in the past that Black Creek has an excellent collection of needlework, but I'd never had the opportunity to experience it before.

In one of the first pioneer houses we stopped at Burwick House which dates from about 1844. It was very Georgian in style and we had fun working at not knocking our heads off when going through the exceedingly low doorways. In the kitchen area I spied these two samplers (my apologies for the wretched photography - the camera and I were discussing the merits of focus and clearly, I lost)....

I found this piece quite unusual as the border was stitched with morning glories around the edge - something I'd not seen before. It also had motifs of butterflies that almost looked like stumpwork. I hadn't seen such interesting things on an antique sampler before. Hanging nearby this was this piece (camera and I temporarily agreed to focus again...)

I found this piece a bit more typical of antique samplers I had seen in the past, but again I found the butterfly motifs unusual.

Both these pieces dated from about the same age as the house.

The parlor and dining room revealed these pieces of needlepoint and cross-stitch:

It's hard to take really great pictures when you're stuck behind a rope. Still, I tried!

Upstairs (after bashing heads on some low lintels), we found a wonderful bobbin-lace pillow with some lace in mid-process and these samplers:

What struck me about these two samplers (aside from the fact that they're identical, barring the names & dates stitched on them) was the fact that they're death samplers. The husband and wife died two days apart and someone took the time to stitch these memorial samplers to them. They were horribly young at 35 and 37 years old. I imagine they passed due to some illness such as flu or cholera. The interpreter in the building didn't know anything about these two samplers.

We left Burwick House and after eating our fill of pancakes & maple syrup (it is syrup season, don't you know!), we ended up at Daniel Stong's first house which dates from about 1816. Black Creek is situated on the Stong's original family farm, so this building is in the spot where it was built. At one time 9 people lived in this teeny, tiny little house. It only had 3 rooms. I don't know how Mrs. Stong didn't go stark raving mad with that many folks about. Hanging in the 'master' bedroom were these two pieces (again, I'm stuck behind ropes, so the pictures aren't the best)....

This piece dates from 1799 and is a more typical school-girl sampler like what I've seen before. It extolls the virtues of remaining chaste. Very interesting, anyway....

This next piece looks like it was done in crewel, but it was hard to tell at the distance I was away from it....

We moved a little ways away to Stong's second house, which was much, much larger that the original house. It actually had an upstairs! I could envision 9 people living in this house without killing each other. More needlework greeted me at every turn:

I daren't get too close to this cloth hanging near the front door as the interpreter was watching my every move.... It was very interesting to look at to say the least. Mostly done in cross-stitch from what I could tell, although the heart motifs looked suspiciously hardanger-like.

This piece was hanging in the parlour. It is more school-girl sampler-ish with themes I've seen before. It does extoll the virtues of faithfulness and has many traditional images of things like Adam & Eve standing below the apple tree with a serpent for company. It's almost risque... I was intrigued by the Asian-looking cranes at the bottom of the piece too. I didn't spy a date on this piece, but I am curious as to when it was stitched.

An adjoining wall revealed this piece:

This sampler incorporated an alphabet and was stitched by a 10 year old. I can't imagine having been able to create such handwork at 10! I was busy trying to exact revenge on my evil-older-brother at 10. It's a beautiful piece with more butterflies again.

Another wall showed this alphabet sampler (it took me at least 10 pictures to get something this clear - it's very faded....)

I found the variety of fonts used in the alphabets interesting in and of themselves. Stitched by a 13 year old in the 1830s I believe. There's a charming error in the stitching of the number 9 in the 5th row of the sampler. It's about half the size of the other numbers and looks as if there had been some serious frogging in that area. Nice to know these young girls weren't all perfect stitchers either!

I found this piece in the kitchen area of the home, but I'm not completely sure of its age. It looks a bit like it was stitched with a varigated DMC and the perforated paper it was stitched on looked quite new. It's still a pretty piece though. The letters were all diagonal satin stitched. (part of my doubt of the antique-ness of this piece was the selling of similar pieces in the gift shop, framed for about $50....)....

Upstairs in the house I spied another piece of needlework, but it was too far away to get a good picture of. I happened to mention this to the interpreter in passing and she very kindly allowed me behind the ropes to get a closer shot. She even took it off the wall so I could get an even better look at it:

This piece was stitched in 1773 by a 14 year old. What an accomplishment. It's also an excellent example of why you shouldn't carry threads - you can see every last carry in all of the wording in the piece. But again, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who does silly things when stitching. The flowers at the bottom of the sampler look to be stitched in silks as the sheen is still gorgeous today. It's a beautiful piece and I'm happy to know it is being taken care of.

I've always had a strange fascination for antique pieces of needlework, even though I don't generally stitch samplers or these primitive-type works. I'm more entraced with the history and the idea that I am participating in an art that can survive for hundreds of years.

Apparently there is more needlework at Black Creek, but the other buildings weren't open that day. I look forward to returning in the summer time and hopefully finding more treasures to share.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my little needlework tour. You've got great staying power if you've made it this far!

Off to enjoy some time with my needle....

P.S. Thanks for the words of sympathy on the loss of our little Joey. We still miss him a lot, but I imagine we'll move on soon enough. I never imagined one little hamster could mean so much to my little family. Who'd a thunk it???? :-)


Silverlotus 7:00 PM  

What a great tour of Black Creek's needlework. I need to head up there sometime.

I went to the ROM this week (what a mistake!) hoping they would have some in their textile collection. They did have a little bit of embroidery, but no samplers or the like. I was disappointed, but the beautiful Chinese robes made up for it. :)

Meari 8:44 PM  

What a neat little trip! I would've loved to see all that in person. Thanks for sharing with pics. :)

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