Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Memento of a Marriage

A Memento of a Marriage
 Enter marriage with your eyes wide open
After marriage keep your eyes half closed - Folklore

The Lady-of-the-House stitched a gift for her parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. She chose colors to match their décor. Observing their relationship the Lady-of-the-House has seen how her parents keep a sense of proportion.  “What advice would you give a young couple,” she asked her mother. A few hints were shared.

A wife needn’t always be silent in situations of conflict but when she speaks the hard truth she does so kindly – especially when upset. Love honors verbally, intellectually, emotionally, physically and economically.   

Love keeps inevitable idiosyncrasies to their rightful size – minuscule. 

Thank you, Mom.  

With a patient eye open for a sampler that would double as a memento of her own marriage, the Lady-of-the-House finally found one. It is in the winter 2005 issue of Sampler & Antique Needlework Quarterly.

A pen friend sent her a stack of back issues. The gift was received with earnest appreciation. 

About Schoolgirl Samplers
A typical feature of an early American sampler is an alphabet. The sampler might be kept in a sewing box and the alphabet referenced when linens in a trousseau were to be monogrammed or embroidered.

Tiny cross-stitches might form the words of wise saying or religious verse in the center of the sampler. Above and below this might be “spots.” Spots of birds, flowers, majestic lions and crowns, figures of family members or pets offered interesting sewing practice. A house, very much like the one the girl lived in, might also be a prominent feature. She stitched in her name and dated her work. And perhaps to get the most use out of a piece of linen, a sampler would often be embellished with a border of pink strawberries or a vine of honeysuckle. 

What Settled the Matter for the Lady-of-the-House?
“The verse on this historic needlework would make fitting words for a wedding sampler,” she thought.

Tell me ye knowing and discerning few
Where I may find a friend both firm and true
Who dares stand by me when in deep distress
And then his love and friendship most express

She also decided that its Adam and Eve would make a fitting representation of a married couple – and (though it wouldn’t cross the mind of the average onlooker) in her heart they represented her marriage. She has been married for thirty-two years to the Man-of-the-House who stands by her in sickness and in health, through richer and poorer with love and friendship. 

A Formally Dressed Adam and Eve
It isn’t unusual to find the figures of Adam and Eve on a sampler. They commonly stand on either side of a tree dressed in their fig leaves. Rarely, they can be found fully dressed. This is the case with the sampler the Lady-of-the-House chose. The bottom of this magazine page shows Eve and Adam in “modern” clothes as stitched by Mary Oldfield in 1806 at age 10.

Miss Oldfield dressed the ancient couple – properly. The bell shape of Eve’s dress suggests a corset at the waist but also other undergarments that widened the skirt at the sides of the hip. I’ve read that this fashion emphasized to a suitor that a maiden was capable of producing heirs or in the middle class, general child bearing. In the north east of early America children were valuable help on the homestead. 

According to an article in Early American Life Adam’s breeches reflect an earlier American fashion. By1806 knee beeches were going out of style. Long trousers had been gradually taking their place. Breeches would still have been worn with a jacket of tails, however, on formal occasions.

Custom Color
Pastel colors are recommended in the chart for Mary Oldfield. (making progress above) They mirror how the historic sampler has survived and looks today. The Lady-of-the-House wrote her pen friend that she was excited about reproducing a certain antique sampler from one of the magazines. Just for fun she included snippets of her new threads in the envelope with her letter. 

Miles away her friend followed a whim and secretly went to work. She picked up some DMC, matching colors of the snippets, and over-dyed them in her kitchen with a tan Ritz dye. With her letter of reply she tucked in tiny bags of her custom threads as a surprise. The Lady-of-House was indeed surprised and intrigued when these “aged” threads spilled out of the envelope.

She wrapped each gingerly around a holding card. This photograph shows the subtle comparison between DMC and over-dyed DMC. The Lady-of-the-House likes to keep the threads for a project in an empty box of note cards.

Leftover threads from past projects are stored in an organizer until they may be called upon again. Can you see the turquoise from her parent’s sampler? 

Perhaps you have already gathered your favorite kinds of materials together to create a memento of your life and haven’t delayed as long as the Lady-of-the-House has. When hers is finished she anticipates showing it to you.  

Until next time, 
Karen Andreola 


  1. This post beckons me to the cross stitching that I long ago abandoned. Good thing I will be teaching my daughters to stitch this week.

  2. What a thoughtful friend you have!

    I have an unfinished quilt. It isn't a momento of my life, exactly. It's more of a project I began before I really had the skill to do the work. I began the work when my daughter spent her first few weeks away from home at a music camp. It helped me to occupy my mind with better thoughts than the ones that were apt to come unbidden.

    My youngest child is heading to college in a few short weeks (orientation is tomorrow, in fact). I'll probably be needing a bit of distraction during the settling in period! Thank you for the encouragement to unpack the quilt and get to work.


  3. Every time I see a new post by you, it makes me smile. :)

    I love this post!

  4. I love how the overdyed floss came out! I will surely remember that trick!


  5. Thank you for sharing these personal stories of what you are working on....


  6. This post causes me to want to start a sampler. As a child I worked on Cross stitch and I started a counter cross stitch of a victorian mother and child years before I had my first child and it became damaged(unfinished of course) and was thrown away. Now, I have 2 children still young but, I think I have time to start something and take better care this time. Like all your posts this one makes my smile too. Thank you.

  7. The second cross-stitch I have attempted is half done. It is a listing of the names of God and the meanings underneath. The top has the verse "The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous runneth into in and is safe." I started working on it over 10 years ago. It is amazing how each name I have worked on periodically coincides with a specific spiritual or emotional need for that particular quality of God. He is good to reach out to us even in our small stitches. You have inspired me to get it back out again and continue my work.

  8. Dear Ladies,
    It is saddening to hear of projects abandoned, long forgotten or left to the dust. I have one of these.
    If I've encouraged you to recover a project or begin afresh on a new piece I am happy.
    Karen A.