February 02 2011 Wednesday at 09:59 AM

Stitching MYSTERY

Did you know there is a colonial sampler that is steeped in mystery and legend? It's known as the Patty Polk sampler, and because no one knows of its whereabouts, the existence is often questioned. Why is it so fascinating? Because, the story goes, it was worked by a ten-year old girl circa 1800 who stitched these words:

"Patty Polk did this and she hated every stitch she did in it. She loves to read much more."

Is it real, or only a good story? The story of the sampler has long been passed around, but always with the caveat of "no one knows where it is or can find images of it". And, it's such an outrageous statement for the time -maybe we just want to believe.

How did I first learn about this sampler? 

I came across a children's book called Abbie in Stitches by Cynthia Cotten. It tells the imagined story of a colonial girl not content with her education (needlework only, no reading allowed). The author's note said the story was inspired by this famous sampler. As a result, I tried researching it, only to learn that its existence was in question. No! I want it to be real! On-and-off searching over the years turned up litte information and zero images. Today, I found the most compelling evidence...

The piece appears to be real! It was inspected in person by Mrs. Frederic Tyson who wrote a catalog entry about it for American Samplers (National Society of the Colonial Dames of America). Her description reads: "Polk, Patty. [Circa 1800. Kent County, Md.] 10 yrs. 16" x 16". Stem-stitch. Large garland of pinks, roses, passion flowers, nasturtiums, and green leaves; in center, a white tomb with 'G W' on it, surrounded by forget-me-nots." And then she enters into the catalog the famous quote above (but no image is included). That's good enough for me! I believe. Do you?

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Related: I blogged about Schoolgirl Embroidery over on Feeling Stitchy!