Sunday, March 18, 2012

Outdone by a Ten-Year-Old and Other Humbling Events

The last post I made (Going Polka Dotty) has become my all-time most viewed post.  It garnered a whole lot of interest, and rightly so - and I'm hoping it won't be too much longer before I will be able to show you a bit more of Son #1's girlfriend and her creativity.

Knowing now that the girlfriend has that innate craftiness & a creative bent, my neighbor and good friend Chris brought over a bag full of purses that she thought the girlfriend would enjoy either using, upcycling, or passing on to her friends.  There was a story behind every one of them and my son & his girlfriend were really interested in knowing the history.  So Chris started talking about her family's history in crafting & stitchwork, and then invited us over to see some of her handiwork and that of her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-aunts, and other family members.  She showed us some little purses that her mother & grandmother used to carry with them to special occasion events.  Be prepared to be rocked out of your socks!

Chris was trying to describe to Son #1 and his girlfriend what Petit Point meant (pronounced "petty point").  For those of you who don't do needlework, Petit Point is simply a smaller version of needlepoint, using canvas or fabric that had much tighter weave than what you typically see on a needlepoint canvas today.  As a matter of fact, until today, I had NO IDEA how small Petit Point could actually get.  I couldn't even see these tiny stitches without some high-powered glasses!

A Petit Point purse, about 6.5 inches wide and about 5 inches tall.
A close-up of the beautiful closure on the frame.  And now you can see more
clearly the tiny, tiny stitches that were on the surface.  
Amazingly, this purse had a compact stitched to match.  Inside were a couple of old
calling cards from Chris' grandmother & grandfather.  This compact is about 2.5 inches wide.

Hold onto your hats - you ain't seen nothin' yet!

A purse that had belonged to Chris' grandmother or great-grandmother.  You
can click on this image and see it larger, to get an idea of the detail in the ballroom scene.

The gorgeous frame clasp.  We were trying to figure out exactly what
"Haskenbale" meant.  The purse was made in Austria and was lined with
the most beautiful yellow silk, and you could see the handstitching where it
attached to the frame if you looked carefully.


I counted (with a magnifying glass):  that's about 40 stitches to the inch, folks.

The reverse side, with a tableau of knights.  Or maybe they were actors portraying knights.

Made in Austria.  

This purse's matching compact.  This one was about 3 inches wide.  

I thought about attempting to do something on this scale and couldn't even wrap my head around it.  Just holding a piece of history in my hands, though, I thought was enough.

Turns out, I was wrong.

Chris had taken us around her house to show us the various pieces she and her family members had done over the years, and they ranged from needlepoint pillows to chair seats to bell-pulls (and we were joking between the two of us that, darn it, no one ever seems to come when you pull them....).  Then she took us upstairs and started showing us some family samplers.  There was one brightly colored cross-stitched sampler in her bedroom that was dated 1934, with a Pennsylvania Dutch type picture and alphabet.  But nothing could prepare me for the sampler she had framed and in her guest bedroom.  (For any of you unfamiliar with what a sampler is, click here.)

Here is my giant piece of humble pie:

Combination sampler, most likely on linen, with alphabets done in buttonhole stitching (the top set - those are not knots, they are tiny.  Little.  Buttonholes.),
cross stitching (script and block lettering), and candle-wicking stitches.  

Just look at those tiny, tiny (did I mention TINY?) buttonholes making up the first set of lettering.
The top portion is crewel work, done in a sort of feathering stitch, some in chain stitching, some in
split-stitch.  I think parts of the columns on the sides were done by couching, but I could be wrong.

Now the Humble Pie part. Students of needlearts were expected to sign and date their work, which this young lady did.

If you thought you saw that wrong, you didn't.  This work was signed:
"Sarah Catherine By Me Aged 10    1818"

Talk about being owned.  Here I was, so proud of myself a few weeks back for being able to size up a dress pattern and drafting one from scratch - and being so scared to do it - I was now holding in my hands a stunning exhibit of hand stitching perfection that had survived intact nearly 200 years (thanks most likely to a very loving and appreciative family), done by a 10-year-old little girl.

Speechless.  Thank you, Chris, for allowing us to geek out over such a cool set of family heirlooms.

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