Free Cross Stitch Chart
Needlework - the Joy of Accomplishment
What do you do indoors when Jack Frost is nipping at your door? You take advantage of the fireplace.
You keep your hands busy. One grandson asked be be taught how to knit. He has taken to it with gusto. His cat wants to get into the act.
And you read a book that warms the heart.
Caddie Woodlawn," she said. Years ago all my children read it - silently - so I was out-of-the-loop. Recently, I picked it up. Immediately afterward I read its sequel. Now I know why Carol Ryrie Brink's writing is so well-loved and won a Newbery Award. It is so pleasant to read a story where you like the characters and the author obviously does, too. We can guess the source of this mutual affection. Caddie Woodlawn is the author's grandmother. The incidents are based on what Grandma remembered about her girlhood days in the Wisconsin of the 1860s. The stories are true.
Carol Ryrie Brink writes with uplifting humor. Each chapter is a mini story in itself - is moving, adventurous or sweet - sure to chase away the winter blues - for girls, boys and adults. Christianity and patriotism crop up naturally here and there within the life of this American pioneer family.
When a little girl, Caddie was sickly. Therefore instead of sitting indoors cutting out quilt squares, Father convinced Mother to let Caddie run wild with her brothers.She gets into all kinds of scrapes. It does make her stronger. But when she reaches age 12 Mother is afraid Caddie will soon be passed learning how to be lady-like altogether. In a bit of a huff Mother says to Father,
"When I was her age, I could make bread and jell and six kinds of cakes, including plum, not to mention all the samplers I had stitched which anyone may see if they care to look in my marriage chest."
Father believes that it will just be a matter-of-time and Caddie will adopt womanly manners. But by chapter 21 some direct words are called for. After Caddie pulls a prank, Father sits down with his daughter in private. He gives her a serious talking-to. But Father is a gentleman. His talk is beautifully stated and worth the price of the book. Caddie receives it well. She trusts her Father. "It is the sisters and wives and mothers . . . who keep the world sweet and beautiful," he tells her. "What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it . . . " A page more of practical and inspiring words round out this gem of a speech on the strengths of womanhood. It brought a tear to my eye.
Girlhood and Cross StitchI wonder if the samplers made by Caddie Woodlawn's mother were kept in the family. Or if Caddie herself ever settled down to stitching one. Samplers were first made for recording alphabets used for marking dainty linens. They were kept in a sewing basket for reference. As the 18th century progressed samplers became picturesque. Elaborate scenes were created below the alphabets. The needlework was adorned by a border of flowers or strawberries. Watching the BBC 1995 TV Series, "Pride and Prejudice" I noticed, in one scene, patient Jane sitting with needle and thread sewing what looks to be a sampler. How do I know? A tell-tale border of strawberries edges the linen in her hands.
Needlework in School
During the 18th century the education of daughters of the middle class was most often carried out at home with a mother or governess. Or if money could be spared, at a female academy or finishing school. Women who were unmarried set up a small school in town to earn a living. Sometimes the teachers were widowed ladies needing to provide for any children they might have. Newspaper advertisements from the 18th century exist showing the subjects taught in these schools. English, French, geography, arithmetic, writing, music, drawing, dancing, and needlework. *1
|Green dogs? What was Ann thinking?|
Within a decade or two after the American Revolution town schools (although with some opposition) were allowing girls. Besides studying their books girls did "regular stints . . . of knitting and sewing." This was plain sewing for the household. But they also did fancy sewing. Each girl made a decorative sampler which was expected to be a household treasure ever after.*2 Proud parents would frame the sampler and place it on the wall of the parlor.
Charlotte Mason Recommends SamplersBy the late 19th century, sampler-making was becoming less popular. Curriculum was changing. But it was given a mention by Charlotte Mason. Among the useful handicrafts, knitting and rug-hooking, etc. she recommends "samplers on coarse canvas showing a variety of stitches."*3 Today girls might start with Aida cloth.
My newest project is "Anne Anthony - 1786" - (below). The original is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All I can show you is my slow but steady progress at the top. It is a challenge in size and detail. The strange threads you see along the top, etc. are my way of marking off the tens. Among the alphabets, birds, and flowers, there is (not shown here) a blue house to be stitched soon and what appears to be a large family dressed in period clothing. The little girl holding the hand of a big sister might be Ann herself. Here's a good tip for stitching large areas. Count alertly. Outline accurately. Then fill in comfortably.
Quite often a moral verse was stitched into a sampler. Stitching helped to hide virtues in the heart. Needlework was not only a skill but a reminder of Christian humility, reference, and good works. What I am showing of the antique blueberry-raspberry sampler - 1847 - (with the green dogs), are from a reproduction that I finished - by a different Ann. I changed the verse to one that is more meaningful to me than the one charted - "The Old Rugged Cross" (above)
|Ann Anthony - 1786 stitched lavender strawberry buds in her border. The bird is waiting for lavender silk thread.|
Here is a verse stitched into the antique sampler of Martha Perry in 1800.
Are not the sparrows fed by thee,
And wilt though clothe the lilies and not me.
Begone distrust! I shall have clothes and bread,
While lilies flourish and birds are fed.*4
I'm taking my time with "Anne Anthony - 1786." I'm in no rush. I mustn't be. That isn't the way a sampler is created. For Ann it went slowly, too. It took a year to complete most likely. She worked on it dutifully, probably before she would be allowed to play. But the hours she worked on it couldn't have been all grim. The months it took to complete produced the satisfaction of work well done - the joy of accomplishment that is earned by self-discipline.
A Mini Cross Stitch
Click to download:
A Bleeding Heart Spring.pdf
I include instructions (scroll below) for beginners.
|One of my first - Aida cloth - with glass beads|
*1. Rebecca Scott, Samplers, Shire Pubs. pgs 43, 44, 45. (I enjoyed reading this well-written history of needlwork in England.)
*2. Clifton Johnson, Old Time Schools and Schoolbooks, pgs 141,142
*3. Charlotte Mason, Home Education, pg 315. (Her word "sampler" popped out at me as you may imagine.)
*4. Patricia Ryan & Allen D. Bragdon, Historic Samplers, Little Brown, pg 160
Caddie Woodlawn was written in 1935. (for grade 5 - up). After receiving so many letters from children urging her to write another book about Caddie, Carol Ryrie Brink finally did - ten years hence - Caddie Woodlawn's Family - formally Magical Melons.
|Stitching in the sunny parlor.|
InstructionsFour holes on Aida cloth will accommodate one cross. No hoop is needed if stitched gently while snugly. DMC floss has 6 strands. Separate the strands to use two in a size 24 tapestry needle.
Start with a 5-inch square (at least or larger) of 14-ct Aida. I used linen. My picture is less than 4 inches square. You can start with the flower a couples inches from the top of your cloth. Outline and fill-in. I started with the rabbits while I worked out the design. Use any color floss you like or those I listed on the chart.
PincushionTrace a 4-inch square around your finished picture. Sew a quarter-inch seam, leaving an opening for stuffing. Under my linen I used a fabric interfacing but Aida will not need this. Choose calico for the bottom. Stuff pincushion densely. Lace at the seam is optional. One of the Christmas gifts I received was tied in bright red chenille rick-rack. Wanting to use this darling stuff up is what gave me the idea to make my pincushion and up-the-brightness of the thread color of the bleeding heart to match it.