I returned home from the SAGA Convention laden down with gifts from my sewing sisters! Women have long used their needles to fashion gifts for their friends and family. In early America, they filled their diaries with records of the needlework gifts they made to celebrate, to remember and to acknowledge friendships. A perusal of the online catalog of the Winterthur Museum shows example after example of beautiful gifts that were created by women a few centuries ago. Fortunately for us, letters or diaries often accompany those works and show how those items were richly prized and passed down through families.
Needlework gifts in the collection of Winterthur Museum
I was taught needlework by my Great Aunt Florence. One of my earliest memories is of her teaching me to make a French Knot. In my memory we spent the entire afternoon working on those French Knots. Thinking about it now, we probably only spent a few minutes, but at the time, it seemed we worked on those knots for quite some time. I have a few of her sewing implements that have been passed down to me that I remember her by: darner eggs, and her strawberry pincushion.
I have been especially blessed to receive some wonderful and special sewing gifts from my friends. When I stepped into the Presidency of the Smocking Arts Guild, Wanda created the beautiful reticule that now holds all my embroidery supplies.
My friend Julie, gave me the pin cushion and scissors/needle book that also go inside it and keep things organized.
I can also press children’s cloths properly; thanks to the mini hams that Julie designed and made me.
I have received special embroideries from Claudia and Joan, and a lovely pink pincushion from Terry.
I have a cuddly fleece embroidered with the Hampton convention logo from my friend Lindsay. It is my uniform for all sewing retreats; and a pressing cloth from Tawn with the same logo.
My knitting supplies have a new bag that hold them including a special case for my needles thanks to my friend Kelli.
And from Lori, a silk husiff decorated with more bullion roses than one can count, that holds the supplies for other embroidery projects!
The women of old would be proud of my friends; they are carrying on the tradition of needlewoman of the past, and I for my part feel richly blessed by the gifts I have been given. They are highly prized and I hope one day will be passed on to members of my family who will value them as well. Do you have special needlework gifts that you have received?
For background on needlework gifts from colonial America, see the Winterthur Museum at www.winterthur.org and “As a Small Testimony of My Affection”: Needlework as Gifts in Early America by Alison Buchbinder, Sampler & Antique Needlework, Fall 2009, published by Hoffman Media.