Sunday, November 15, 2015

An 18thc. Pocket-Sampler...or is It a Sampler-Pocket?

Sunday, November 15, 2015
Isabella reporting,

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.


Judy said...

Hi Susan,
Thank you for showing us this pocket. Can you tell us a bit more about them, I always thought they were worn under a skirt but you said over or under? Pockets have always intrigued me, so much so I have often considered reviving them and making myself one.
Cheers Judy

Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket