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A Stitch in Time

Drawing from 167 examples of decorative needleworkâ -â primarily samplers and quilts from 114 collections across the United Statesâ -â made by individual women aged forty years and over between 1820 and 1860, this exquisitely illustrated book explores how women experienced social and cultural change in antebellum America. The book is filled with individual examples, stories, and over eighty fine color photographs that illuminate the role that samplers and needlework played in the culture of the time. For example, in October 1852, Amy Fiske (1785â -â 1859) of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, stitched a sampler. But she was not a schoolgirl making a sampler to learn her letters. Instead, as she explained, u201cThe above is what I have taken from my sampler that I wrought when I was nine years old. It was w[rough]t on fine cloth [and] it tattered to pieces. My age at this time is 66 years.u201d Situated at the intersection of women's history, material culture study, and the history of aging, this book brings together objects, diaries, letters, portraits, and prescriptive literature to consider how middle-class American women experienced the aging process. Chapters explore the physical and mental effects of u201cold ageu201d on antebellum women and their needlework, technological developments related to needlework during the antebellum period and the tensions that arose from the increased mechanization of textile production, and how gift needlework functioned among friends and family members. Far from being solely decorative ornaments or functional household textiles, these samplers and quilts served their own ends. They offered aging women a means of coping, of sharing and of expressing themselves. These u201cthreads of timeu201d provide a valuable and revealing source for the lives of mature antebellum women.
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Promotional Information

Filled with individual examples, stories, and over eighty fine colour photographs that illuminate the role that samplers and needlework played in the culture of the time.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction Chapter 1 The Physical Challenges of Needlework Chapter 2 Growing Old Gracefully Chapter 3 The Technological Reshaping of Antebellum Needlework Chapter 4 I Give and Bequeath This Quilt: Needlework as Property Chapter 5 Family Currency: The Gift Needlework of Aging Women Chapter 6 Biographical Needlework: Telling a Life Story Chapter 7 Threads of Life: Needlework as Memorial Conclusion Appendix: Decorative Needlework Made by Women Forty or Over between 1820 and 1860 Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Aimee E. Newell is director of collections at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts.


"The book looks at a field of study that many would think has been well covered from a completely new angle, focusing on older makers rather than styles, fashion, or the education of girls; [It] brings together anthropological, sociological, and psychological work with decorative arts and straight history." Diane L. Fagan Affleck, author of Just New from the Mills: Printed Cottons in America, Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries "This will be a valuable book providing new insights on American needlework; The author's [theme] chapters are full of personal details, beautiful needlework, and the rich evidence that she uncovered to support her findings. I believe readers will enjoy this book and will be inspired to find thoughtful and meaningful connections across time and place." Virginia Gunn, editor of Uncoverings, the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group

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