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 Linens n' Things

by Helen Richards

Linens n' Things is the subject of a display in the lobby exhibit case at the Township Administrative Building (Michigan Avenue & Platt Road). Some of the different kinds of handiwork on display are:

Hand woven items. There are scarves, tablecloths and a sheet in this group. The sheet is monogrammed and dated 1815. It serves as a beautiful tablecloth on special occasions and is shared by three sisters.

"Huck weaving, a very old art, is a simple but quite stunning type of embroidery done on the surface of huckaback toweling. Huckaback is a coarse linen cloth, made with small knots taken at close and regular intervals that form a rough face. This cloth is the surface to be darned on."*

"Rug hooking has probably been the most continually popular of all colonial crafts. Many hooked rug makers prefer to work from the top of the design, with a hand hook. This type of hooking can be done on the lap without a frame. The work goes slowly; an experienced worker can do one square foot of hooking in about six hours." *

[* The above information is taken from Phyllis Fiarotta's Nostalgia Crafts Book.]

Samplers. A description of an early sampler is found in B. D. Creekmore's book Traditional American Crafts. "A sampler, as the name implies was first intended to be a reference work; on a single piece of cloth, an accomplished needlewoman would preserve her complete repertoire of embroidery patterns, drawnwork, lettering, and fancy stitches. In seventeenth century England, samplers were long and narrow -- about eight inches wide and a yard or more in length. Fragments of designs and examples of stitches were scattered over the entire surface. As it was worked, the sampler was rolled up, scroll fashion. It could be tucked away in a chest or a drawer until needed, and unrolled to permit the seamstress to select the proper motif for decorating clothing, chair covers, bed hangings, and cushions.

"In the colonies, where small girls received their first (and usually their only) schooling at home, the sampler became a teaching aid with a dual purpose. Having already mastered knitting -- by the age of four a little girl was expected to be able to make plain stockings and mittens on long wooden needles -- it was vitally important that a child of five should learn to sew. If she could be taught to read at the same time, so much the better. Across the top of a large square of linen, colonial mothers drew the alphabet in capital and small letters, and underneath it, numbers from one to ten. `Great A, little a, Bouncing B....' As the tine-honored rhyme was repeated, small fingers worked the letters in Cross or Chain Stitch, using a large needle and dark worsted thread. Literally, girls learned to sew before they learned to read, but they were not likely to forget either lesson."

Eighteenth Century samplers sell for thousands of dollars and are very difficult to find. The samplers on display probably were done during the mid-1960's and purchased at garage sales for very little. These may not be as valuable as the early ones but still are fun to collect.

Counted cross-stitch, tatting, hand woven tablecloths embroidered in Europe during the late 1800s, and both knitted and crocheted doilies are all a part of the exhibit. The knitted doilies appear to have been knitted in a circle on four zero needles. These are a few of the very fine items for you to admire.

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