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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

MY CHRISTMAS STORY -- A PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH SAMPLER PIECE







While living in New Mexico, for a short stint, I spent my Saturday mornings perusing house sales for unique small items. 

One Saturday I ran across an estate sale where the adult children were selling the items their mother had left them. It was a vast collection of fabrics, paintings and sculptures. Really some good stuff.

I never seemed to have hardly a cent to spend on anything frivolous so I was careful to spend wisely at these sales. As I entered this particular house I noticed some unusual fabrics which intrigued me so I set about going through the stacks that were piled on a large table. About half way through I came upon a piece of fabric about 18" X 16". I instantly knew it was a unique piece. I could hardly contain my excitement. I asked the price to one of the children running the sale -- she said how about five dollars?  Of course I couldn't get the five dollars out of my money pouch fast enough. I asked her if she knew where her mother had purchased it and she said that she had no idea.

Well I could hardly wait to get home to get a closer look at what I had bought. Yep, it was embroidered on old linen and the stitching was early -- say about the late 1700s to early 1800s. The figures embroidered on the piece were indicative of Pennsylvania Dutch stitching.

The eight pointed star was a common symbol in Pennsylvania Dutch work as well as the "rigid" flowering trees. This might have been a pattern cloth for young women to learn correct ways to stitch? Not sure.

Anyway, today I call it my Christmas cloth because of the large star in the middle. Also because my maternal ancestors were Pennsylvania Dutch. I never knew them but I can pretend that one of them stitched this lovely piece of cloth. At least at Christmas --  then its back to reality.



20 comments:

  1. A fascinating piece of handwork. Your surmises sound very likely. There is a group at the U. of Nebraska called The Quilt Study Group who delve into all things quilty and historical. If you become even more curious about this piece, you could email or write them with a photo and possibly learn more. Meanwhile it's a treasure, thanks for sharing it with us.

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    1. June -- I am familiar with the University of Nebraska quilt museum. I did not know that they were involved with other types of stitchery. I will look them up online and possibly email the piece if they are interested in taking a look. Thanks for the reminder about the quilt museum. -- barbara

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  2. Lovely find. I always like it when a good sale unearths a bit of history.

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    1. Tabor -- I like to find vintage items at house sales. I don't buy very often as the good things are hard to find for me and I feel one could be overcome by too much. thanks for stopping. -- barbara

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    1. Yes, I did not expect to find such a gem when I entered the door of the house. In retrospect I believe I left many gems behind in that house. That's OK. thanks for stopping -- barbara

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  4. That's such a beautiful sampler! Good for you to get it when your recognized it. Now we can both think of the young woman who honed her stitching skills making it. And you can enjoy looking at it often. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. Barb - Things that are made from love are my favorite -- such as women's work. I feel that some of this old PA Dutch work is still in attics somewhere. They show up when least expected. -- thanks -- barbara

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  5. I'm not a big fan (like my wife) of garage and estate sales but it's surely true if you know your business it can be a really good deal....:)

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    1. troutbirder -- I see men at sales looking for old tools -- tools like they used to make before China jumped in. They usually head for the basement or garage at sales. Tell your wife that if I ever make it to MN we could take in a few sales -- thanks barbara

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  6. Oh, Barbara, what a beautiful Christmas story, so full of tradition & treasure & folk art...I'm glad for the mother that such a caring person as you found her cloth...A spiritual connection...

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    1. Rita -- The "mother," as told to me by the children at the sale, was a textile artist and this got her into collecting textiles that the kids knew nothing about. I know I left some good textiles there -- someone else I am sure is enjoying them. And that is good. thanks -- barbara

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  7. This is beautiful.
    My maternal Grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch, too. She would have appreciated this.
    What is sold off is staggering. I can appreciate the family simply does not want it for any reason and by selling rather than throwing away can send a parent's treasures to a good home.
    Helping my friend close her antique shop, she gave me a large framed certificate from the late 19th century. 17x24", more or less. I used an internet translator to determine it was a Swedish marriage certificate, from New England. In selling it on Ebay a great granddaughter of the principles turned up. I rescinded the sale to a collector in California, refunded the money (it was ugly) and presented the certificate to the woman to give to her mother. In a genealogy trip to New England they had found the marriage in the church book of records, but had no idea the large, colored certificate existed. It made me quite happy; thanks for listening. Have a wonderful holiday.

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    1. Joanne -- My PA German (Dutch) were married in PA. Their married name was Myers. I believe they were from the southern part of PA. They migrated to Ohio to raise their family. Perhaps that is what your maternal grandmother did also? The story you tell of the Swedish marriage certificate is amazing! A one in a thousand chance that would happen. It was so very nice that you made it available to the great granddaughter! Thanks for sharing this beautiful story. -- barbara

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    1. Michelle -- Estate sales can produce a great find once in a while -- I just happened to be there at the right time -- thanks barbara

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  9. A very nice piece of cloth with pattern to match. The rose is very well known around here too. In fact, I'm at the moment wearing a knitted sweater decorated with the same rose.

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    1. RuneE -- Yes this star is often called a compass rose here because of its eight points.Nice to hear it is a common knitted pattern in Norway. Isn't your country rather famous for traditional designs in knitted sweaters? thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  10. What a wonderful find. I like how the characters are sewn in different directions.

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    1. Janet -- Yes, that piqued my interest -- that I why I thought the piece might be a learning cloth -- girls sitting around a table learning the stitches, therefore the different directions??? Take a little cheer with you as you go through the season -- barbara

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