The Sam­pler Sleuth

Just Cross Stitch - - Contents - Haiti Sam­pler: Girls Learn Needle­work From Nuns Vickie LoPic­colo Jen­nett

A Haitian sam­pler is unique in its own right, but per­haps even more cu­ri­ous is how a sam­pler from that part of the world found its way to the Fredericksburg, Texas, home of Jane and Ron Woell­hof.

As is the case with many crossstitch projects, friend­ship is the com­mon thread re­spon­si­ble for this trea­sure re­sid­ing with the Woell­hofs.

Although the sam­pler maker is un­known, it came to Jane from Polly MacQueen, a dear friend of the Woell­hofs. Be­fore mov­ing to Fredericksburg, Polly and Mr. Mac (as her hus­band was fondly known) lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for many years.

An Ohio-trained reg­is­tered nurse, Polly blended her pro­fes­sion with com­pas­sion as she worked to im­prove med­i­cal care in Haiti. In her med­i­cal ca­pac­ity, she spoke with François Du­va­lier, pres­i­dent of Haiti from 1957 to 1971, re­gard­ing the less-than-op­ti­mal pub­lic health con­di­tions in the Caribbean na­tion. When Polly sug­gested ways that she could vol­un­teer to help pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion, Jane re­calls, “Papa Doc or­dered a car and driver so Polly could travel to help train med­i­cal staffs.”

While in Haiti, Polly re­ceived a vi­brant sam­pler as a gift from Bel­gian nuns who ran a Catholic school there. Down through the cen­turies, many re­li­gious groups were known for their skilled hand­work and em­broi­dery skills. Mis­sion­ar­ies trav­eled the globe teach­ing needle­work to chil­dren as a rou­tine part of the cur­ricu­lum.

In this in­stance, Jane ex­plains, needle­work skills not only helped girls learn aca­demic sub­jects, but they also as­sisted in de­vel­op­ing pro­fi­ciency in a trade for earn­ing a liv­ing to help sup­port them­selves and their fam­i­lies.

In this sense, the cross-stitch project truly was a sam­pler to be ref­er­enced again and again for mo­tifs to dec­o­rate hand­ker­chiefs, purses, scarves, nap­kins and other items for the tourist trade. Whether trav­el­ing in Haiti or vis­it­ing web­sites, hand-stitched items are a com­mon prod­uct of­fered for pur­chase even to­day.

“The nuns were out­stand­ing teach­ers for the stu­dents,” Jane notes, as is ev­i­denced by the fine and neat ex­e­cu­tion of ev­ery stitch.

Some very tra­di­tional and long­stand­ing mo­tifs—roost­ers, roses, a stag and geo­met­ric de­signs—join mo­tifs with lo­cal flair—peo­ple, a palm tree and a cray­fish—to cre­ate a styl­ized and vi­brant work of art that is both prac­ti­cal and pretty.

Although the en­tire al­pha­bet is not in­cluded, a few letters in var­ied type fonts ap­pear just in­side the top and bot­tom bor­ders. The word “baby” in English and French as well as the lo­ca­tion and date are the only other texts. Cen­trally lo­cated, although not large, is a styl­ized ver­sion of the Haitian coat of arms.

Mea­sur­ing 101/2" high by 151/8" wide, the sam­pler is hem-stitched on all four sides. Threads ap­pear to be cot­ton worked on tightly wo­ven linen. They have re­tained their vi­brant col­ors.

In ad­di­tion to the sam­pler’s ori­gins, the sam­pler also has a spe­cial mean­ing for Jane be­cause it was stitched the year she was born. “It is so whim­si­cal and finely worked. The back is so neat and con­stant. It brings me great joy and peace,” Jane adds.

Tra­di­tional and lo­cal Haitian mo­tifs cre­ate a vi­brant work of art.

A styl­ized ver­sion of the Haiti coat of arms is in­cluded in the sam­pler now in the pos­ses­sion of Jane and Ron Woell­hof.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.