Sunday, October 19, 2014

Art the Beautiful Salutes Bygone Stitchers, very young ones

I went over to Princeton, to visit Morven this afternoon, and see the place in general, and in particular visit a huge exhibit of New Jersey samplers created by young girls at school in the late eighteenth to mid nineteenth centuries. The reason for the quirky title of the exhibit is that it's from a poem stitched into one of the samplers about the joys and skills of stitching.

I've lived about fifteen minutes from Morven, a national historic house, with occupants over the years including signers of the Declaration, several Governors of the State, and various movers and shakers.  Now it's a national site, open to the public as a historic destination.

And you know how it is, when something's in your back yard you tend not to get there and see it.  This has been the case with me and Morven since 1965, so I thought, well I'd better go.  And since people are coming in loads from all over the country, I really can't complain it's too far to drive.

So I did, go here and you can see around the place as well while you're there.  I took pix in the grounds, cameras not allowed  indoors, and had a fine old time wandering about.  

When I arrived there was a very jolly group who told me they were from the Sampler Guild of Loudoun, Virginia, always off somewhere to see stitchery, and "we love our trips!"  Well, yes, that was evident.

After they departed the place was very quiet, easy to see everything, at least I wished to be a few inches taller.  Everything was hung just a little high for me to see without craning, and I blessed the curators who also put some of these priceless samplers, from collectors all over the place, on tabletops with glass boxing them in, easy to see and study.  

Room after room of them on the walls of this old house, not the original house, that burned down a long time ago, but a pretty old rebuilding of it, all the same.  And a lot of great old furniture and dishes to admire.  And samplers hung as they might have been when they were first stitched.  Much better than a museum setting.

The history itself, aside from the amazement of seeing samplers created by ten year olds, just the sheer stitching, they didn't design them, is wonderful to see and study.  And so many of the names of the girls still exist in families living around here.  The Stocktons, whose house it was but who didn't make any samplers, are still around.  The Brittons whose name does appear in samplers, too, and Buckelews, and various other familiar ones to anyone who's been around these parts a while.

The exhibit was meticulously researched, and there's a catalog which you can get online at the Morven site I linked for you earlier,  if you're a sampler fiend and can't get to see these.  Plenty of historical notes and comments on the design.

What I found missing, though, was an appreciation of the sorts of stitches used, the techniques of stitching and where they got their materials, how they were spun and dyed,  and all that aspect that as a stitcher I'd have liked. But I expect my embroidery friends and I can deconstruct quite happily.  Most of the samplers are silk thread on linen fabric, beautiful stuff, very fine, and anyone who has worked in silk will tell you it's not for wimps.

I liked a lot of the outdoor features: the sundial,  maybe you can read the inscription, 

and the notice board with a bit of history and a page of Annis Stockton's recipe book.  While her husband was away fighting the Brits and being slung in gaol, and later signing the Declaration, she was keeping things going at home, as all the women did.  

Here we can see her recipes for French Rolls, Syllabub and Floating Island.

And I liked very much the old brick garden wall with the door in it. 

There still is a kitchen garden as well as a sitting garden, 

and the oldest tree on the property, probably dating back to the eighteenth century, it's pretty much had it now, except that it's hollow and would make a great habitat...I'm so tempted to go over secretly and put a couple of little modeled animals there, but that might be a federal crime.  Latter-day attempt at a Brit takeover by stealth art.. 

I thought you'd like to see what you see when you come up on foot to the house and around the grounds and if you sit on the porch looking out

All in all, a good time was had by me!


mittens said...

you do give the best tours, Liz; thank you. This is a treasure.

Magpie's Mumblings said...

Isn't it so true that we rarely visit the historical places that exist in our own area and tend to think that we should travel great distances in order to see quality. Glad you discovered this gem and that there was also a show about needlework at the same time. Definitely a win/win!

margaret said...

what a lovely place to visit and to have it on your doorstep lucky you. The gardens look just the place to take some hand stitching on warmer days. Must have been so interesting to see so many old samplers, amazing when you think no electric lights etc.

Minimiss said...

What a delightful place to visit. That hand writing in the recipe is exquisite. The gardens look beauriful too. I would love to be able to see the samplers as well. Alas, a little far for me to travel for that.