I've written before about 18thc. pockets, those indispensable accessories that women wore tied around their waists and beneath their skirts. Some pockets are humble and hard-working and made of patchwork scraps, while others are elegantly worked in silk to be admired.
But this one is something special. The pocket from the collection of Colonial Williamsburg, where I saw it earlier this year. (It was stored in a study drawer, which partially obscures the very top of the edge in the photo, above.) This pocket is also a sampler, a needlework practice-piece to demonstrate skill at embroidering.
The maker proudly included her name - Judith Robinson - along with her initials. Nothing more is known about her, but it's likely she lived in Pennsylvania, and likely, too, that this was one of her first girlhood projects as a budding needleworker. The motifs she chose - the lions, trees, and birds - were typical of Pennsylvania German samplers of the time. At first glance, it appears Judith included a date below the pocket's opening. Instead of a date, however, the numerals are simply 1-8, with the 9 a haphazard afterthought in the middle of the design.
Judith's counted-thread cross-stitches were done in shades of blue wool on linen. Some of the wool has become fragile and worn away over time, as has the printed floral cotton used to bind the edges. It's easy to imagine the pocket becoming a favorite piece in Judith's wardrobe, worn with pleasure over and over - and why not, with those cheery lions, right, for company?
Many thanks to Linda Baumgarten, Jan Gilliam, and Christina Westenberger for "opening the drawers" of the collection for me. Colonial Williamsburg has much of their collection on-line here in their E-Museum, and it's constantly being updated as more pieces are researched, catalogued, and photographed. Go explore! Above: Woman's pocket (Judith Robinson), wool embroidery on linen, America, Mid-Atlantic (Pennsylvania), c. 1780-1820. Collection, Colonial Williamsburg. Photographs by Susan Holloway Scott with permission of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.