At Hands Across the Sea Samplers we are drawn to red samplers, whether they are simple primers or large samplers comprising of rows of complex border patterns that were stitched in George Müller’s orphanage at Ashley Downs, Bristol. We just cannot resist a red sampler!
Maria’s sampler, a trilogy, comes not from England but from the Puglia area of Italy. Puglia, the “heel” of Italy, is an ancient land that is known for its sunny dry climate. It is a land of sea, hills, endless plains, and its amazing coastline on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea.
Maria finished her sampler in 1837. It is possible that she was ten years of age as this number appears to the right of her name. To the left of her name she stitched IO, the Italian for “I”. Maria married Fortunato Giannone, and they lived in Terlizzi – a town found to the west of the seaport of Bari on the Adriatic Sea. Their son Tommaso Giannone was born in 1859.
There are few surviving examples of early Italian embroidery. Italian medieval embroidery began in the great workrooms of Palermo in Sicily. After the Norman conquest of the island, Roger II patronised the embroiderers and improved the skills of the local silk weavers by importing professionals from Byzantium. By the end of the 14th century, the political troubles of the island of Sicily were affecting the production of textiles on the island.
As in other parts of Europe in the 16th century, the use and production of needlework in the domestic setting was on the rise. Items that were embroidered included cushions, table linens, bed hangings, and items of clothing. It was common for young girls to learn to sew and embroider so that they could put together a “corredo”, a trousseau, or bottom-drawer. Traditionally, this was a collection of hand-sewn linens that included lingerie, bed sheets, pillow cases, towels, napkins, and table cloths.
A girl might work steadily on her corredo throughout her adolescence, embroidering linens to create a highly decorative trousseau. A family who could afford for their daughters to spend their time on needlework rather than helping out in the fields, could demonstrate this with an elaborate display of corredo. It was a tradition for the corredo to be displayed in the bride’s home on the eve of the wedding for neighbours and extended family to admire. Grandmothers, aunts, the mother, and other female members of the family would collect and hand embroider fabrics as their contribution to the corredo.
Mothers taught their daughters to stitch and sew. These were important skills before the industrial revolution and later the invention of the sewing machine. Most women had to make their own clothes and the clothing for their families. Maria’s sampler was used to teach her how to stitch. The border patterns worked by Maria as a child on her sampler may have been used by her in later life to decorate her family’s personal and household linen. Maria patiently stitched the alphabet in various fonts. Samplers were worked so that the girls memorise their alphabet and numbers.
“Beauty awakens the soul to act.” ~ Dante Alighieri
Maria stitched her sampler mainly with cross stitch over 2 strands of linen together with four-sided stitch. The project has been rated as suitable for needleworkers of all levels of ability.
The model has been lovingly stitched by the Contented Stitcher. At the very core of Hands Across the Sea Samplers there is a team of needleworkers who are passionate about antique samplers and being able to share those samplers with you.
Maria’s sampler is presented to you in two different formats ~ a printed booklet and as an instant pdf download. Details of the instant pdf download can be found HERE.