I just want to give you some background into this little story.
I was so fortunate when I got married all those years ago. Hubby came with a wonderful extended family. Lest I leave anyone with the impression of interference on any of their part, these were all formidable, strong women, born in the 1920s and 30s who were interesting and interested but never prying. Every single one of them was creative and all lived well into their 80s. Three are still with us and, despite the years, their characters have not changed. I feel privileged to have known them all for the greater part of my life.
So, back to my story. One of the aunts, Kathleen, passed a few years ago. In her working life she was the Head of an Arts and Crafts Department at College (adult) level. She was a great collector of beautiful objects and when she died she left me her collection of textiles. I used one of these to line the 1950’s style hat I featured in my last post (September 18th).
All the fabrics filled two cars so I decided to catalogue them when I got them home. I should mention here that my dining room was out of commission for some time while I carried out this task. I noted dimensions, cut a sample and categorised each piece. There were rich silks from her early travels in Asia, beautiful wools (Prato, Italy is embedded on the side on one piece), edgy cottons from the 60’s, fabrics with exclusive stand alone labels included on the selvages – all in all there were over 450 pieces, which I documented and stored in boxes. Realistically I knew I could never use them all so I shared with various sewing enthusiasts. My aim was purely to recoup the cost of all the storage boxes I had to buy so excited buyers got to enjoy top class coat weight 100% wool fabric for €15 (this was the maximum charged). In short, I shared some of the joy Kathleen gave me.
While sorting through all the fabrics I made two other amazing finds and it is one of these that I want to bring to you today. It was a sampler which my husband’s aunt no doubt picked up in an English or Scottish auction house at some stage in her life. I suspect it was an examination piece as the name on the side in perfect copperplate handwriting is ‘Edith M. S. Simpson No. 48’. The date, which is cross stitched into the top of the piece is 1900. The folder used to hold the pieces looks to be handmade – although a sewing machine has been used to bind the edges. Yellow silk has been hand sewn into the folder and acts as a backdrop for all the pieces. The samples are, in my mind, perfection. I hope Edith scored highly in her exam. I wonder what became of her. I hope she had a happy life but given the tumultuous events which would occur in the world throughout the following 20 years, I suspect she faced down many challenges and heartaches like many women of that era.
I hope you enjoy the photos and perhaps pause for a moment or two to think about Edith. Never in her wildest dreams would she have thought that all her painstakingly beautiful work would one day be shown to a worldwide audience.
With sincerest thanks to my husband Enda for the photography.
The closed pack. Still beautiful after 120 years.
For scale the complete pack is 22 inches by 15 inches (56 by 39cm)
The young lady herself – look at that copperplate handwriting
Inserting a patch and teeny tiny knitting. There are over 15 rows in the middle knitted sample and it measures only 1 inch square.
Cross stitching her initials, knitting on the round and a beautiful sock sample (heel) length 2 inches
More patching, on very fine wool this time. Look at the size of the cross stitches. Below decorative stitching gold and blue on linen.
More fine stitching (gold/blue) this time on fine wool. Gathering for a sleeve. A buttonhole the sample measure 3 by 1.5 inches.
Darning on fine knit:
Tiny gathers. I counted 66 gathers into the cuff:
I think this is a placket but happy to be corrected:
A patch. Look at the perfect matching:
A patch on fine wool. Look at the tiny cross stitches. There are also two rows of tiny running stitch around the triangle.
Not sure what the top piece is called. The bottom could be a decorative line of stitches for a collar:
A hand sewn French seam.
(Top) more fine gathering. Can you see the tiny little holes created by stitches in the bottom of the gathering?
(Bottom) Pin tucks with a decorative stitch.