In Stitches

By Carrie Blough, Curator, Historical Society of Frederick County | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 05.08.14 – History, Timepiece

When Spring appears, when violets blow
And shed a rich perfume:
How soon the fragrance breathes its last!
How short lived is the bloom!

Fresh in the morn the Summer rose
Hangs wither’d ere its noon,
We scarce enjoy the balmy gift,
But mourn the pleasure gone,

Such are the charms that flush the cheek:
And sparkle in the eye
So from the lovely finish’d form
The transient graces fly.

When Sarah Hanson was 12 years old in 1783, she created this sampler as a testament to her abilities with a needle and thread. As was common in the 18th century, samplers were created by young females who were learning the needle arts. It offered a “sample” of their work. Samplers were the perfect opportunity to try out all the stitches and stitching patterns of embroidery, a skill that would last them throughout their lives. This sampler was created on linen with silk thread.

Samplers were made from the 15th to the 19th centuries. They often depicted the alphabet, flowers, animals, geometric designs, Biblical references and poems. Sarah embroidered a poem amid flowers, butterflies and cornucopias. The poem she embroidered came from a collection of poems in The Book of Flowers. The first and last stanzas of Sarah’s poem are different from the one in the book; the poem in the book begins with a stanza about winter. Perhaps Sarah worked this sampler in the cold winter months and wanted to only think of spring and the flowers it brought. The same poem was embroidered on other unrelated samplers from the 18th century, each stitcher bringing her own style and creativity, from the selection of the poem to the colors of the flowers.