Back in the day, young girls learned in school how to embroider their sheets, dish cloths, table cloths, and napkins, all of which would make up their trousseau to begin keeping house once they married. The original purpose of a sampler was to practice the skills needed to complete this rite of passage into womanhood. Of course, women also didn’t have the right to vote or even open a bank account, but outside of my dissertation work, I prefer to idealize “the day” by focusing on the beautiful handiwork that made everyday objects so cheerful and personal.
I have a wonderful collection of vintage craft magazines, but never underestimating the possibilities of scholarly websites, I’ve found some fun old books without digging through flea market boxes. The Project Gutenberg, for example, which provides online texts of works whose copyright has expired, has on its site this beautiful and extremely detailed Alsacian Encyclopedia of Needlework, translated into English and complete with diagrams (above and at right).
The quintessential object for monogramming, at least in France, is the dish cloth. Oh how cheerful are those ivory linen rectangles with variations on red stripes! I just so happen to have picked up a few of them at a flea market (which had never been monogrammed) and now have a little side project in embroidery.
The question is: which embroidered initial to choose? Which font? Some initials are simply too formal and fancy for a dish cloth. A script “W” or more traditionally, “RW” is perfect for a napkin, but just sad and diminished on a measly dish cloth. I need something cheerful and more 1930 or 1940-esque than Victorian. In my search so far, I am tending towards the “W” above, with it’s reverse embroidery (you embroider the surrounding square and leave space for the “W”). It’s just like carving a statue out of marble, except for the purpose of drying off dishes and glasses. Hmm….sort of…
Of course, I may just end up with a cross-stitch pattern, which is much less formal and probably just the touch of country charm I’m going for. A simple “RW” in teeny squares… I’ve washed and ironed them, and even found some matching embroidery floss (for over $2 – best to stock up in the States for large projects!) – so I’m off!
*Edit* Do check out the link Olga posted in the comments. It’s a wonderful collection of antique patterns! I’m browsing around now in search of the perfect “W.”