New Zealand’s History Samplers by Vivian Caughley

New Zealand's Historic Samplers: Our stitched storiesNew Zealand’s Historic Samplers: Our stitched stories by Vivien Caughley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars (9/10)
Read: 11 May 2017 – 25 May 2017

Way back in 1969, the year I was born (you can do that maths if you want to), my mother did a correspondence school embroidery course. She was a new mother, still fairly new in a new town, and I’m suspect she needed something to do for herself while my father was at work and she was home with a new baby. She finished a beautiful sampler as part of her coursework.

A number of years later, she had it framed and gave it to me as a birthday present, but it was always understood it would stay in my parents house while they had a house to hang it in. As indeed, it has done over the years.

My local needlework shop here in Wellington turned 50 years old at the beginning of May this year, and one of the ways they are celebrating is by having a display of work from the decades the shop has been open. May was for work from the 1960s. Hearing about this, I suddenly thought of Mum’s sampler and borrowed if from Dad for the shop to display. I needed to write up a little bit about it to go with it, and realised I have only my unreliable memories of what Mum told me about it. Of course, as is the way when we lose someone, I now desperately wish I had thought to get the full story from her before she died and made a record of it somewhere. I didn’t.

The owner of the shop in question then told me about this book and I requested it from the library. Knowing how many other books I’m trying to read and having a limited borrowing time, I didn’t manage to read the whole thing, but focused on the section about the School Certificate embroidery course. I found a photo of someone else’s sampler, stitched in 1975, that is very clearly from the same course as the one Mum did. While unique to the person who stitched it, it has the same guiding hand as Mum’s one does.

I learned a lot of interesting things about the development of embroidery courses in New Zealand and while I’ll never know for sure, I think I can make a good assumption about what course Mum was taking and how it developed into the sampler she stitched. It will go back to Dad when the little exhibition is done and, while I hope the day is still many years away, when it comes to live with me I will have more information about its background and something to pass onto the next owner, whoever that may be.

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