Friday, June 30, 2017

Mary Rowe's Sampler

Having completed the final episode of A Year and a Day in the Life of Goody Imagination Prymm, and now working on a revised, more unified form of it, I have to keep my hands busy, along with my mind.  Stitching is a great way for me to contemplate my writing...a different way to immerse myself in the subject.  So I have recently begun a small sampler that could have been done by Mary Prince Rowe, accused Gloucester witch of 1692.  Many folk believe that all the accused in the Salem Witch Trials were from Salem, yet more were actually from neighboring towns, such as Gloucester and Andover.  I found Mary to be particularly interesting because she was accused (along with her mother and daughter) but released after spending some time in the Ipswich jail (like Goody Prymm!).  As I work on this fictional stitchery of hers, I'll add more information about her...and share how her sampler reflects her experiences...

You can see below I've taken a piece of very nice white linen, 35 count, and dyed it and stained it in a black walnut bath.  To add to the "aging" process, I used sandpaper on it to give it a rougher, more worn appearance.  After I complete the sampler, I may dye it yet again, stitched threads and all.  Perhaps an onion skin bath?

Mary lived to be 65 years old, from July 19, 1658 until she passed away March 3, 1723, so the border I've chosen to stitch is an historical possibility, as the earliest known American sampler with this particular border is dated 1721.  This photo is of Margret Palfrey's (Boston) sampler, dated 1739, from Betty Ring's American Needlework Treasures (now out of print), and shows the border I am planning to stitch. I like the little oak leaves in the curves, though they are a bit difficult to decipher in this picture.  I'm also using similar color threads...

I will need to choose a verse that would reflect Mary's life experiences, as well as a sampler motif or two...but whatever I choose I plan to use historically accurate possibilities!  Well, mostly. ;)

Update:  An interesting fact about Mary Rowe is that she came from a very prominent, wealthy family; in fact, all of the nine accused Gloucester women had, or were trouble makers (Mary's mother was known to have a sharp tongue), or were relatives of the accused.  I've begun the "snaky" part of the border and have stitched in two little oak leaves so far (I originally thought they were pine branches), so sweet, but also symbols of strength.  I think a 63-year-old woman can be sweet as well as strong, which is the age I'm envisioning her having stitched this.  The colors, I think, are soft and feminine.  There is very little information about the person of Mary Rowe, so my sampler will reflect my concept of her..."Innocent But Unafraid," which is the Rowe family crest motto and, come to think of it, is a perfect phrase to stitch for a person who had been unjustly accused of witchcraft!


Update:  Uh, oh.  Houston, we have a problem.  but not really, as I think this was fairly common. You can see in Margret's sampler below that the border was off.  'Course, she was only 13...most of the samplers of this time period were done by girls between the ages of 4 and 17, 13 being the average age (according to Glee Krueger's New England Samplers to 1840)...but there are a few in existence that were done by boys and older ladies, in my mind our Mary Rowe being one of them.



In Mary's sampler, I tried to balance it out a bit...so what will I do to make it less glaring?  Why, work in a motif on each side.  I'm thinking almost bare branches of bittersweet in the two lower corners (and continuing the border at the bottom).  This sampler has taken an autumn turn, and I imagine that Mary, in the autumn of her life whilst stitching this, and having been imprisoned in the Ipswich jail for several months decades before, had bittersweet memories of enduring that experience and yet surviving it.   Autumn is a soft and reflective season to me...that's what her sampler is becoming...


Update:  I've completed the border.  Although many borders of this type have another inside stitched row, I felt as though this sampler is simply too small for that, measuring a demure 8" x 71/2".  The shape is squarish, as samplers of the early 1700s became more nearly square, as opposed to the preceding generations, those samplers being long and narrow.  As I intended, I have begun stitching the branches of bittersweet in the lower corners, and I really like how it is turning out.  In the photo on the left you can see the DMC threads I've chosen.  Initially I had intended to use the pumpkin color for the orange, but as the berries were so very tiny, it really called for a more intense orange/yellow.  Next I will need to decide what picture I will stitch at the bottom, below which will be "Innocent But Unafraid."   Mary's husband Hugh Rowe was a seaman, so I considered a ship.  But now I'm thinking about a bridge of sorts (this sampler is about her, after all), which has all manner of symbolic significance.  The story relates that Mary, along with two others, were accused of bewitching the sister of a Lt. Stephens.  The three women were crossing Ipswich Bridge on their way to the gaol, having been arrested, and an old woman who met them was immediately thrown into convulsions.  They were charged with "committing wickedly and feloniously sundry acts of witchcraft upon the body of Mrs. Mary Fiche of Gloucester" (The Historical Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society, vol. XI, 1906).



Update:  I've been waffling on what to stitch.  That's how my creative process goes...I often have to ruminate for some time before knowing what it is that I want to do.  I've nixed the idea of just the bridge.  Rather, my Mary Rowe will be reflecting on the graces she was given and the blessings that she has.  At 34, she was arrested and put in the Ipswich Jail on September 24, 1692, then released on bond, then arrested again and imprisoned once again in the Ipswich Jail.  There she stayed until December after making an appeal to the court for clemency from the harsh conditions.  The Ipswich Jail, like the Salem Jail, was damp, cold, and rat and flea infested...no place for a human being.  So, at  the age of 63, Mary will be stitching her home...something she so missed while imprisoned. There will be trees perhaps...and definitely some crows.  Why crows? In samplers they often symbolized death but they were also symbols of hope. I rather like that dichotomy.  In the picture on the right, I've made more progress on the house. I'm considering having all the windows dark, except for one.
The trees will be shades of fall, I think. Notice that the body of the house is done in half stitches. I saw that on an antique sampler, which quite struck me. There really are no rules in stitching...(boy, that is really one sloppy chimney there...).



Update:  Traveling to far-flung places was a grand adventure, but it is so good to be home.  I couldn't wait to pick up Mary Rowe's sampler again...so here's the latest.  House completed, along with one window of light (always a good sign).  Outside, there are green, thriving white pines...and one gnarled dead tree, a grim reminder of what could have been for them, given the dark fate of so many in 1692. I have yet to stitch the crows...that will come this afternoon. Then on to the letters and numbers, some of which will have significance in the form of initials (not just Mary's)...



Update: I read somewhere in that, in English folklore, there was a parliament of crows in which three crows presided over a larger number of crows and would sit in judgment over the fate of another crow. The verdict would sometimes result in a crow's being set upon by all the other crows. Well, the parallel for Mary's case (and the other accused witches) are all too obvious...hence, I chose three crows.  They seem to be casting their eyes past Mary's house...



Update:  I've begun stitching the lettering in the style of 1600s...and I initially began using one thread over two but, given the diminutive size of this sampler, I reduced it to one thread over one. VERY tiny indeed, but appropriate.  And I couldn't help but draw my inspiration from this incredibly small stitching of one over one in Cawdor Castle in Scotland, on the right.  Yes.  That's stitching, not writing.  WOW! That linen had to be at least 45 count....so sorry it's such a poor photograph...



Update:  I've decided that Mary would have stitched the names of the so-called "Gloucester Witches," she being one of the nine. The first I have stitched is Esther Elwell, who came from a prominent family and also married into wealth. Her mother, too, had once been accused of witchcraft, but it is not known when. Interestingly, Sarah Jessica Parker is descended from Elwell. Esther, also known as "Hester," was accused along with Rebecca Dike and Mary's fifteen-year-old daughter, Abigail Rowe, of witchcraft by seventeen-year-old Betty Hubbard, and of murdering their neighbor Mary Fitch, who actually came down with a mysterious illness. Luckily for them, the court dissolved before their case was taken, and they survived the Salem Witch Trials.  Both Rebecca and Abigail came from prominent, landed families. Do you detect a theme here? It seems no one was immune from accusations. Esther died September 6, 1721, at the age of 82. I would like to stitch all their names in the colors of autumn leaves and bittersweet vine...



Update:  I've added Mary Rowe, Elizabeth Dicer, and Joan Penney's names in one section, as they were in the Ipswich Jail together. Elizabeth Dicer was a local woman (Salem) who had been fined thirteen times for calling Mary English's mother a "black-mouthed witch and a thief." Apparently, it was best to have held one's tongue in those harrowing times. It's still not a bad idea today! Joan Penney had numerous squabbles with neighbors over land and had been brought to court a number of times for such crimes as wearing a silk scarf and "breach of the Sabbath" after she carried bushels of corn on her way to church. No wonder Goody Prymm preferred living on the edge of the woods, eh? As far as the sampler is concerned, you may be wondering why Joan's first initial is an "I" rather than a "J." You stitchers of historic samplers already know this...that many early samplers do not have the letters "J" and "U" (see the word Gloucester?) because they were not part of the early Latin alphabet, so "I" was used for "J" and "V" was used for "U." The letter "s" was often replaced with the printers "s," which looks like an "f." I chose to stitch the "s" backwards to add a bit of innocent charm to Mary's work. I placed a dime next to the lettering so that you could see how tiny the stitching of one over one can be. I

Update:  I've worked the last of the accused Gloucester witches' names. There is Margaret Prince, mother of Mary Rowe and grandmother of Abigail Rowe, known for her troublesomeness.  And there's Rachel Vinson, the widow of William Vinson whose first wife had also been accused of witchcraft. And finally Phoebe Day, related to fellow accused witch Sarah Wildes, who was hanged for witchcraft on July 19, 1692. Next I shall stitch under these women's names "Innocent But Unafraid," and will probably do a bit of embellishing here and there. What shall I make this stitchery into?



Update: I've almost completed the "Innocent But Unafraid," except I had to leave out the conjunction "but," as it was not going to fit. No matter. The two words alone get the message across. I only have to stitch a "D." It's foreign looking, isn't it. Like Latin. :) On one side of the middle crow I will stitch "16" and on the other "92," the year of both their accusation and release. The morning light is very bright this morning, really showing off the gold thread and the lovely textures. I lost my needle in the carpet (arrrgh!) and have been using a larger one, very difficult when stitching one over one, but I'm managing. I'm sure I'll find the needle at some point, haha!



Update:  Finished stitching the word "Unafraid" and added the 1692. That date had to be in black. And then I decided to add one more crow, this one flying away---free---the three parliament crows looking on. It filled a space but also communicates Mary's feelings of this ordeal. Now I will add the fictional year in which she would have stitched this (probably 1722, the year prior to her death), along with her initials, and perhaps one more small motif...



Update:  No need for any motifs...'tis finished, at least the embroidery part.  The M is a bit off, but that's because of the unevenness of the linen weave there...off to figure out what it will become. I hope to make a needle roll, or some such thing...



Update:  I've almost finished the entire piece, making it into something functional. Now I just need to find the perfect little button, attach, and make a loop! Will post again soon with the final results!




4 comments:

  1. beautiful linen & thread ~ another journey begun!
    BB,
    L

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great! Do you stitch, Lizzie Tish? Didn't you tell me you were moving into an historic home?

    ReplyDelete