Thursday, September 22, 2016

Needlework and Paper: How They Worked Together

"All things needlework" should be our motto and when Teri and I (Kara) visit an antique store. We have trained our eyes to scope out anything that looks like it was created with a needle.

Our laser vision in antique stores
Last summer, while visiting Hershey, we visited a few antique malls with Teri's wonderful and very patient mom. As Teri and I exhaustively scoured leisurely perused each booth, we both zeroed in on a lovely collection of embroidered pieces.

A typical sentiment

Such bright colors!

Upon examining them, we realized that the background was actually paper, as opposed to the traditional cloth used for cross-stitching or needlepoint.

A close-up of the paper backing

Teri took a few pictures thinking that it might be fun to do a post on these, once we researched more about them. Although we didn't buy any of them, Teri did find an amazing sampler that she purchased; you can read more about that here.

I had forgotten all about the paper samplers until this past June, when my mom gave me my birthday present.

My birthday present

She had purchased it from a friend of hers, who collected these perforated paper needlework mottoes. Needless to say, I was thrilled that now I owned one of these gems, so I needed to know more about them. I went to my trusty friend, Google, for information. Here are a few things that I found:

1. These samplers can be called perforated paper needlework, Berlin work, Victorian paper punch, or punched paper needlework.

2. It was often called the "poor stitcher's pastime," because of the minimal cost involved in creating such pieces.

3. Most of these pieces were created between 1860–1900.

4. The designs were typically sentimental sayings or scripture and could be found in many different languages.

5. Most of the threads used were wool, usually variegated, but sometime silk was used. Most likely, it was whatever the stitcher had on hand.

6. Not much is known about the stitchers, because most of the mottoes were not signed or dated.

7. Pre-printed sayings to stitch became available starting in the 1870s.

*If you would like to read more about perforated paper needlework, check out this article by Dutch Treat Designs or this one at Victoriana Magazine.

The piece I have is framed with a typical frame used for this type of needlework and is quite sturdy. The stitching itself appears to be in decent shape, with just a few spots where the wool has worn away. Considering its likely age, the colors remain surprisingly vivid.

Common frame type

An example of the variegated wool and a glimpse of the pre-printed paper

"He Leadeth Me" is the motto that I have, and my framed piece currently resides on our mantel. Every time I dust (which should be more often), I start humming the hymn. It is such a wonderful saying, and I am so glad my mom chose this one for me. 

What a wonderful reminder that stitching can be good for the soul—in more ways than one. Whether it's creating an inspirational saying or just the act of using a needle to make something beautiful and functional, people through the ages have found the comfort that stitching can bring.

Do you own a piece of perforated paper needlework or have memories of one in a loved one's home? If so, let us know about it and share a picture if you can. 

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