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18th February 2022

Smocking, Samplers and the Joy of Family

Inspirations is home to the world’s most beautiful needlework, encompassing a hugely diverse category of all things stitched. This includes the much loved technique of smocking, which is enjoying a resurgence in popularity of late.

In All Stitched Up! issue #312 we featured the article ‘The Enduring Appeal of Smocking’ covering this very topic. This article struck a chord with many of our readers, who in return sent in lots of kind comments and messages as well as some wonderful stories about their own smocking journeys.

Lynda Matthews told us how much she missed the Australian Smocking & Embroidery (AS&E) magazines. She was never really interested in smocking until she came across AS&E issue #26 in an heirloom sewing shop. This started her collection, which she continued all the way through the final issue #100. She’s still hunting for the AS&E issues missing from her collection (#1 through #25) and while she’s found a couple, she hopes to come across them all someday. We wish you luck with your search, Lynda. Some of those early issues should be about somewhere on eBay, in second-hand shops or needlework shops, although they’re not always easy to find.

Carousel from AS&E #63

Janet Henry says she loves seeing smocked dresses, but she’s only really ‘played’ at doing it herself. Janet agreed with the article finding that, in her experience, smocking is just as relevant now as it used to be. Her own granddaughter used to receive a smocked dress every Easter from one of her grandmas, and loved every one of them.

We’re thrilled that the art continues to be practiced and little girls the world over still love wearing it.

We had a request from Anne Johnson asking about where she might find instructional resources and smocking supplies, as she has a smocked Easter project in her craft closet that has been languishing because she’s not sure how to proceed with it. Anne is in the USA, so if any of our American readers can help, she’d be very grateful. Anne, we also have smocking resources available in our online shop HERE including our publications, A-Z of Sewing for Smockers and A-Z of Smocking that are filled with step-by-step instructions on smocking stitches. We hope you can find what you need and we’d love to see the project when you get it finished.

Laraine thanked us for the article and told us that she’s been smocking for over 50 years. She started when she was in high school and she still has a baby dress that she smocked in 1960. She’s always smocked for her family and has loved doing it for them, as well as for friends and their families. Laraine helps to exemplify what we meant when we said that smocking is just as relevant today as it was in the past!

Historic embroideries auction at Upper Slaughter Manor in Cotswolds, England (source)

Also in All Stitched Up! issue #312 we featured a news item about historic embroideries for sale at auction in the UK. This prompted Mary Trounson to share with us a story about her own historic sampler (shown below) stitched by Elizabeth Eady Hawes in 1831 when she was 9 years old. Elizabeth had four children, but died around age 30. 

Mary’s historic sampler stitched by Elizabeth Eady Hawes in 1831

The sampler was passed down to Mary, coming to her in an old-fashioned frame, with silverfish holes and smoke damage. She had it cleaned and restored and it now hangs safely in her house, out of the sunlight and with museum-quality glass. The restorer told Mary it had been stitched in silk on wool, and the historic selvedge markings can still be seen.

Even when Mary was a child she was intrigued by the stitching when she would see the sampler at her Grandmother’s house.

Now, she’s amazed that a 9-year-old could stitch something so fine!

The verse featured on the sampler read:

Contemplate when the sun declines
Thy death with deep reflection
And when again its rising shines
The day of resurrection

Mary is proud to be the custodian of this small historical record. She says it may be the only acknowledgement that Elizabeth ever lived, so it is very important. She hopes that she may be able to pass it on one day to someone who will take as much care of it as she has.

Finally this week, Lalah wrote to us about family. She grew up with a big family around her, so special occasions were always busy. She thought that could never end, but now many of her family members have passed away, and those that are still alive are in different parts of the country. 

Particularly in these past couple of years, it has been impossible for Lalah to see them, so she’s advised people who have family near to them to hug them tight.

Without family close by, Lalah said she’s grateful that every Friday she receives All Stitched Up! in her inbox as it makes her feel that she’s part of a big family. She recognises so many names of contributors and has favourites who she loves to get ideas from.

Without embroidery clubs nearby, the newsletter is her weekly stitching ‘meet-up’ with likeminded people from all over the world.

We’re so glad that we can bring you together with all the other wonderful people in the All Stitched Up! community, Lalah. It is why we do what we do and in a small way, helps to bring the (needlework) world closer together.

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