Stitch in Time

By Mary Rose Boswell, Executive Director, Historical Society of Frederick County | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 03.01.16 – History, Timepiece

The colder months are a great time to curl up by the fire and do some needlework. Traditionally, the textile crafts were required education for young girls. Women often decorated their linens with monograms, and they learned the alphabet and a variety of stiches by making a sampler.

This sampler was made by Julianna Hoffman in Frederick in 1822. The style is relatively simple when compared to others that depict flowers, houses, people and animals in different embroidery stitches. According to sampler authority Gloria Seaman Allen, Hoffman’s legible Roman uppercase and lowercase alphabets, pious verse, enclosed vine-and-leaf border, and basic cross-stitch indicate a Quaker influence. Does that mean that Hoffman was a Quaker?

We know Hoffman was born in 1810 and died in 1881. Her mother was the former Elizabeth Steiner and her father was John Hoffman, a Frederick Town businessman. The family attended the Lutheran Church. The nearest Quaker meeting house was the Bush Creek Month Meeting in Monrovia, several miles southeast.

How, then, did Hoffman acquire her Quaker style of embroidery? According to Allen, Quakers opened the Westtown Boarding School in Pennsylvania in 1799, after which former students taught that Quaker style either in Friends’ schools or schools they established on their own. It is likely Hoffman had a teacher who either attended the Westtown Boarding School or at least came from Pennsylvania.

Hoffman’s sampler is made of linen with silk threads, 42 by 34 threads per inch. The entire piece is 11 inches tall and 13.5 inches wide. The piece was donated to the Historical Society of Frederick County in 1980 by Polly Spencer. This sampler and other textiles, as well as furniture and other collections, will be seen in “Frederick by Design,” an exhibit on view at the Historical Society of Frederick County from April 9 through Dec. 12.