The Needlework of Oscar Topsfield ~ printed book


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Available as a printed booklet and as pdf download. Click HERE for the PDF booklet.

Oscar stitched his sampler in 1904, when he was 12 years old whilst attending HM Greenwich School. Greenwich Hospital was founded by Royal Charter for the relief and support of seamen serving aboard the ships belonging to the Royal Navy who for reasons of age, wounds, or other disabilities were unable to maintain themselves. It also provided for the widows and the maintenance and education of the children of seamen that had been killed or disabled. Sailors often used their off-duty hours aboard ship to do handcrafts such as carving, knotting, and needlework. We believe that it was a tradition at the naval school for boys to cross stitch a sampler to send home to their parents. We know of the existence of other similar samplers.

Oscar Leonard James Topsfield was born on August 14, 1892 to William Henry Topsfield and his second wife Elizabeth Annie, née Taylor. The family resided at 11 Park Street, Southend-on-Sea, Essex. William had joined the navy in 1854 and served for twenty years. He was a Crimean hero serving in the Baltic on a score of ships before leaving the navy with the rank of Chief Petty Officer (a captain of the hold).

Oscar followed his father and joined the Royal Navy on July 6, 1910. His service number was J 9026. The first ship he served on was HMS Ganges II. He went on to serve on the Magnificent, Irresistible, Pembroke, Aeolus, Commonwealth, Antrim, Inflexible, Blake, Gibraltar, and Victory XI.

We are fortunate to have a copy of a photograph taken of Oscar and his wife Catherine (Kitty), née Viney, taken on November 8, 1919, their wedding day.

Oscar left the Navy on June 10, 1922. He and Kitty had two children, Jean and William. In a 1939 register, the family are living at 169 Hainault Avenue, Southend-on-Sea with Kitty’s father. Oscar is noted as a grocer’s cellarman. Oscar died on March 4, 1974 and Kitty eight years later in 1982. Their son William died in 2020, and we suspect that the sampler became available for sale when his estate was disbursed.

Many naval and merchant sailors in the 19th and 20th centuries embroidered pin cushions for their loved ones. The length of separation between sailors and their family was long, and this only increased during times of war. The pin cushions worked by sailors often featured the words “Think of me”. The sentiment was a particular favourite of the British Royal Navy in the 19th century.

In keeping with this naval tradition, we have designed two pin cushions based on Oscar’s message to his parents ~ When This You See and To You All. The charts for the pin cushions are included within the sampler’s booklet.

Today, through his needlework, when this we see, we remember Oscar Leonard James Topsfield, even though he is far away from thee.

Oscar’s sampler has been lovingly stitched by Melissa Gay. 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.

Thread Legend

At first glance, Oscar’s sampler appears to have been stitched with variegated thread; however, this young boy worked using solid colours while diligently carrying his thread. The model was reproduced using a palette of nine silks from Au Ver à Soie’s range of Soie 100.3. We have included below conversions for Soie d’Alger and DMC. Only one spool or skein of each colour is required.

Soie 100.3 / SDA / DMC ~ Colour Description
029 / 2757 / 926 ~ Grey green
152 / 2214 / 732 ~ Olive green
240 / 3814 / 729~ Old gold
284 / 2633 / 758 ~ Terracotta
493 / 2645 / 22 ~ Alizarin
519 / 4216 / 801 ~ Coffee brown
542 / 4226 / 782 ~ Topaz
557 / 5114 / 3041 ~ Antique violet
755 / 1736 / 3750 ~ Antique blue
The pin cushions can be stitched using colours of your choice. We have listed below the shade numbers of the Soie 100.3 we used together with conversions for Soie d'Alger (SDA) and DMC.

Thread Legend ~ When This You See

Soie 100.3 / SDA / DMC
080 / 3431 / 3033 ~ Cream 755 /1746 /930 ~ Blue
Thread Legend ~ To You All
Soie 100.3 / SDA / DMC
109 / 2936 / 815 ~ Garnet 209 / 1826 / 890 ~ Green

Linen Sizes

Oscar executed his sampler on perforated paper with cross stitches laid over the equivalent of two threads of linen. The sampler is suitable for needleworkers of all abilities.

The design area is 142 stitches (w) x 158 stitches (h). Our calculations have included a 3" margin for finishing and framing. The model was stitched on Bees Knees, an overdyed linen from Tabbycat Linen.

28ct linen: Design: 10.14" x 11.29" Fabric: 16.14" x 17.29"
32ct linen: Design: 8.88" x 9.88" Fabric: 14.88" x 15.88"
36ct linen: Design: 7.89" x 8.78" Fabric: 13.89" x 14.78"
40ct linen: Design: 7.10" x 7.90" Fabric: 13.10" x 13.90"
46ct linen: Design: 6.17" x 6.87" Fabric: 12.17" x 12.87"
56ct linen: Design: 5.07" x 5.64" Fabric: 11.07" x 11.64"
When This You See was worked on Aztec Red linen from Weeks Dyeworks. Stitch count 97 (w) x 61 (h).
To You All was worked on Rivergum linen from Fox and Rabbit. Stitch count 91 (w) x 79 (h).

Stitch Guide

Oscar stitched his sampler with cross stitch over 2 strands of linen. The project has been rated as suitable for needleworkers of all levels of ability.

Cross stitch ~ is made up of two stitches worked over one or two threads. You should make all your stitches cross in the same direction for a neat and uniform finish.