From the Vault - featured items from our collection

Irish Needlepoint

Irish Needlepoint

This needlepoint was done by a woman named Mrs. Seale who lived in Laois County, Ireland. The needlepoint was sent to Sam Waller by her daughter, Ms. Edith Seale around the year 1959. Sam’s original note card read “This old needlework is all of a hundred years old and was made by Mrs. Seale, the Glebe, Queen’s County, Ireland and was given to the Little Northern Museum by her daughter, Miss Edith Seale. Grennan. Attanagh. Eire. About 1959.” Éire is the modern Irish word for Ireland but should never be confused with the Irish word eire, which in modern Irish instead means “encumbrance” or “burden”. As Ms. Edith Seale could not be found in the guest books it is a mystery how this piece came to be donated to the collection. Perhaps Ms. Seale knew Sam Waller from before he came to Canada, or perhaps she heard about Mr. Waller and his museum through word of mouth from friends who had visited. Perhaps Ms. Seale did visit but neglected to sign the guest book, or perhaps she had married and changed her name. The piece is in fairly good condition, though there is some light damage visible. It is in two pieces. The pattern is one of repeating flowers and leaves, with clear glass beads sew onto the red flowers only. The background is made up of gradations of green – fitting for a piece from Ireland.

Needlepoint is a type of embroidery where thread is passed through a stiff mesh canvas (it resembles a screen found on a door). While many different stitches can be used, often it is a simple stitch and the image is created through changing colours of thread. Usually the entire canvas is covered in stitches. Needlepoint is usually stiff, and has been used for wall hangings and upholstery covers. Needlepoint differs from cross-stitch because of the materials used (needlepoint uses a much more rigid canvas whereas cross-stich can be done on a looser grid), as well as by the stitches done (for example, the minimum requirement for a needlepoint stitch is a tent-stitch, or half of an “x”; cross-stitch requires the full “x”). While modern needlepoint technique evolved in the 17th century, needlepoint has been done since 1, 5000 B.C. in Egypt. Different celebrities that have enjoyed or done needlepoint include Mary, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Marie Antoinette, and Princess Grace of Monaco.

Specifically, this is an example of Berlin Wool Work. The style originated in Berlin and the sheets were often sold individually, making them more affordable which helped increase their popularity and reach. Also increasing popularity and reach was the fact that for the first time in history a large number of women had time to devote to leisure activities.

The collection item pictured here is preserved as part of the original Sam Waller Collection.

Added: March, 2016

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