Monday, August 10, 2009


Congratulations to Susan Houston, who won a blue ribbon in the sampler category and a very impressive purple best-in-show ribbon at the Williamson (TN) County Fair for her Middle Tennessee sampler!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tennessee Sampler Survey: New Web Site!

Please visit our new web site! We are pleased to present the results of our research in an online gallery. Check out the new sections devoted to products and education. Special thanks to our talented and patient web designer, Justin Bird, who took our ideas and realized them in a digital form. This web site revision was funded by grants from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Loudon (VA) Sampler Guild.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Late 19th Century and Civil War Era Samplers

1860 Harriet Higgin
McNairy Co.?
23"V x 22"H © TSS 215
silk and wool on 24 ct. cotton

Despite the strains of the Civil War, Tennessee girls did not put down their needles. Needlework trends changed; Berlin work became popular throughout Northwestern Europe and the New World. Tennessee girls adapted by working Berlin motifs into traditional sampler patterns.

Harriet Higgin may have lived in Polk County or McNairy County. The style and materials of this sampler point toward a West Tennessee origin (McNairy County) rather than an East Tennessee origin (Polk County).

The latest (or youngest) sampler that we have found is dated 1883, showing that Tennessee girls continued to work samplers throughout the 19th Century.

1883 Eliza Lay
Scott Co.
16 1/2"V x 19 3/4"H © TSS 101
silk and wool on 28 V/36 H ct. linen

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Map, Little Dog Samplers of Middle Tennessee

View Larger Map

Map showing the locations of the homes of the stitchers. We know of 11 Little Dog samplers, ranging in date from 1831 to c. 1853.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly

The spring issue of Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly is here! The cover features a reproduction of a Tennessee sampler, the 1831 Sarah Harriet Stephenson. In addition to the chart for the sampler, there is an article on the Little Dog samplers (of which this is an example).

The model was stitched on 28 ct. light sand linen from Zweigart using custom dyed silks from Olde Willow Stitchery. A materials kit is available from SANQ for $69 (plus S/H). Call (800) 547-4176 ext. 2 to order. Refer to order number K-JCS15.

Special thanks to RIndy Richards and Connie Winslett, who stitched the model, Janet Hasson who conducted the genealogical research, and the editors of SANQ for allowing TSS this opportunity.

Core, Jennifer C. "The Little Dog Samplers of Middle Tennessee." Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly, Vol. 54 (Spring 2009). pp. 5-9.

Core, Jennifer C. "1831 Sarah Harriet Stephenson Sampler (chart and instructions)." Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly, Vol. 54 (Spring 2009). pp. 10-16.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where is the TSS Web Site?

Our web site is currently undergoing massive renovation. When it returns, visitors will be able to visit an online gallery of all documented samplers, complete with high resolution photographs and technical details. A section will be devoted to education, with pages for sampler owners and teachers.

Until the web site returns, visitors will be redirected to our blog.

Below is a sneak peak of our new home page:

Our web designer, Justin Bird, has been working hard to process all the data we have accumulated.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

House Samplers of Middle Tennessee and Map

Top Left
1827 Susannah D. Smith
wool? on linen
Brentwood, Williamson Co.
dimensions unknown © TSS 115

Top Right
1831 Mildred A. F. Nelson
silk on 25 ct. linen
Rutherford Co.
15” V x 15” H © TSS 157

Bottom Left
c. 1835 Harriet Daniel Bryant
silk on 22 V/28 H ct. linen
Maury Co.?
17 ½” V x 17 ¼” H © TSS 210

Bottom Right
1836 Mary Elizabeth Collins
silk on 30 ct. linen
Franklin, Williamson Co.
16 ¾” V x 16 ¾” H © TSS 128

The 1831 Mildred A. F. Nelson sampler (TSS 157) belongs to a group of four related samplers ranging from 1827 to 1836. The four samplers 1) are all square, 2) feature houses, 3) share stitch techniques (eyelet, rice, and four-sided) 4) have the same oddly shaped trees, the same color palette, and the same alphabet. We have not yet examined the 1827 Susannah D. Smith sampler, but it appears to be worked in wool, unlike the other three, which are in silk. I am eager to document Susannah's needlework--is that really a cow grazing beside her house? Mildred included a meandering stream in her landscape. The fruit baskets on Harriet's and Mary's samplers were popular motifs in Middle Tennessee throughout the 19th c. Harriet and Mary both showed a preference for tulip borders.

We have not yet established the connection among these girls, other than their relative geographic proximity and the evidence found in the actual samplers.

View Larger Map

Photograph of the 1827 Susannah D. Smith sampler courtesy of Bob Canaday/Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

1831 Mildred A. F. Nelson

1831 Mildred A. F. Nelson
silk on 25 ct. linen
Rutherford Co.
Sam Davis Home, Smyrna
15”V x 15”H © TSS 157

The curator at the Sam Davis Home in Smyrna has asked that the 1831 Mildred A. F. Nelson sampler be reproduced. The sampler was recently conserved by Norah Glickstein, who allowed me access to the reverse.

Robin Laukhuf of Olde Willow Stitchery will once again be custom dying the silks.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Latest Tally

Since we began our survey in 2004, we have documented 210 samplers. The breakdown is as follows:

45 East Tennessee
102 Middle Tennessee
6 West Tennessee
4 Alabama
3 Kentucky
3 Maryland
2 Massachusetts
1 New Jersey
1 New York
1 North Carolina
9 Virginia
4 England
1 France or Belgium
1 Germany
1 Scotland
26 undetermined

Here's our latest find. This sampler has a little dog on it. He's to the lower left of the house.

c. 1844 Frances (Fannie) Ann Collins
Franklin Co. © TSS 218

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Little Dog Sampler Featured on Antiques Roadshow

1831 Sarah Harriet Stephenson (detail)
Maury Co. and Williamson Co.
16 1/4"V x 18"H © TSS 015

The PBS program Antiques Roadshow has featured a Tennessee sampler. The program, filmed in Dallas on June 28, 2008, aired last night, February 9, 2009. Ken Farmer was the appraiser.

The 1833 sampler by Nancy Jane Hughes is almost identical to the 1831 Sarah Harriet Stephenson sampler. A little dog stands guard beside a four chimnied, two-story house. A rectangular catouche encloses the maker's name and the date of completion. The initials "MC" (which probably stand for "Maury County") complete the text.

See the video and photographs at Antiques Roadshow's web site.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Oldest Tennessee Sampler

1810 Wincy Piercy
Wilson Co.
Trousdale County Museum and Depot, Hartsville
11 3/4"V x 10 1/2"H © TSS 097

The oldest signed and dated sampler we have documented was worked in Wilson Co., in Middle Tennessee. This marking sampler with family names and a verse was stitched on uneven 36/40 count linen.

The complete inscription reads:

Wincy Piercy Sampler july 5 1810
Sherwood and Patsey Piercy Anderson
Louisiana Williamson + Eleanor Piercy

Sherwood and Patsey were Wincy's parents. Anderson, Louisiana, Williamson, and Eleanor were her siblings.

sense and good humour ever Prove
The surest cords to fasten love

Source for couplet: Moore, Edward (1712-1757). Lines 13-14 from Fable 9, “The Young Lion and the Ape.” Fables for the Female Sex, 3rd edition. London: R. Francklin, 1749, p. 68.

Monday, January 19, 2009

SC Samplers

1843 Jane McEwen Jackson with Mary Morrison Jackson
York Co., SC
17 1/4"V x 16 1/4"H
Photograph: Culture and Heritage Museums, York, SC

The latest issue of the Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts features an article on Carolina Piedmont samplers by Pat Veasey. The article expounds upon Pat's previous research, documented in the catalog Virtue Leads and Grace Reveals: Embroideries and Education in Antebellum South Carolina.

Citation for article: Veasey, Patricia V. "Samplers of the Carolina Piedmont: The Presbyterian Connection and the Bethel Group." Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts Vols. XXXI-XXXII. Issues 2, 1 and 2 (Winter 2005/2006): 103-148.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

An Intriguing Find

1877 Memorial Pincushion (obverse and reverse)
Hartsville, Trousdale Co.?
5 3/4"V X 5"W x 1"D © TSS 118

Neither Janet nor I have ever seen a memorial pincushion. The example above was found in the attic of an old home in Hartsville, Trousdale Co., that had been inhabited by the same family for several generations. The stitched inscription on the front reads:

JULY. 8th

The back features a bird motif.

The sides once held pins that spelled out words or perhaps the alphabet, as can be seen in the this view:

Pincushions like this were once used to commemorate the birth of a child. With the greeting "Welcome, Little Stranger" or similar aphorism one one side and a design on the other, the cushions were sometimes presented as christening gifts. The pins represented the pangs of childbirth.

Was this pinkeep originally intended to celebrate the birth of Lizzie and then adapted to memorialize her death in infancy?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Modern Middle Tennessee Sampler

For the past three years, two groups of stitchers have been working on the Middle Tennessee Sampler, a sampler I designed based on Middle Tennessee motifs. Carol, who chose to work her sampler in a horizontal format, is the most recent finisher. Her sampler, worked in silk on linen, is picured below:

A detail of Band 4, which features turkey work:

Samplers worked by Patricia, Cathy, and Teresa can be seen in this previous post.