Unraveling the Threads of History:
Needlework Samplers from the 19th Century

Most of us have had a teacher that has made a lasting impact on our lives. For many young Bellefonte girls in the early nineteenth century that teacher was Miss Sarah Tucker. In our area we know that Miss Tucker ran a subscription school in Bellefonte from about 1807 to 1825. As part of the Centre County Historical Society’s new exhibition, Unraveling the Threads of History, Miss Tucker’s role and that of her students will be explored.  This exhibit features 25 samplers.

Sampler Gallery

Needlework sampler instruction was critical in a young girl’s education in early America. The instruction served many purposes not least of which was teaching the alphabet along with sewing skills that each girl would need to clothe her future household. One of the first projects, often completed by girls as young as six, was called a marking sampler and was filled with basic embroidery techniques and was also used to learn to stitch the alphabet. This marking sampler was then referred to when a certain stitch was needed to sew a garment or “mark” household linens and clothing.

Needlework teachers such as Miss Tucker taught particular designs – either patterns they had created themselves or ones that had been taught to them when they were learning the craft. Researchers today are able to trace many samplers back to their geographic origin because of certain teacher’s designs and techniques. We are very fortunate to have access to several samplers that, by their design, can be attributed to the teaching of Miss Tucker. In addition to these Bellefonte samplers, the exhibition will also present other Central Pennsylvania sampler examples along with information on how local women created linen from the flax grown in our fields, different sampler motifs and verses used, and information on preserving family samplers.

In addition to several examples of local and regional samplers, local needlework artist, Ann Barton, explores the elements used by Miss Tucker in her own beautifully executed sampler. Ann painstakingly produced an embroidery chart and stitched the finished “Centre County” sampler. Ann and Lynda DeBrasky then worked together to create a reproducible version of this sampler pattern that will be available for sale in the museum store at the Mansion.

Exhibition times:
March 19 – September 24, 2017 
Sun|Wed|Fri 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
or by appointment

Exhibition Reception:
Sunday, June 4 @ 2:00 p.m.

Exhibition Committee: Ann Barton, Lynda DeBrasky, Diane Farr, Cathy Horner, Richard Pencek, Ann Moellenbrock, Johanna Sedgwick, Mary Sorensen. Samplers and objects featured in this exhibition have been generously lent by: the Centre County Library Bellefonte Historical Museum along with local collectors; and from the collections of the Centre County Historical Society. Graphic design by David Lembeck. Photography by Frederic Weber. Printing sponsored in part by Jaru Associates, Inc. Funding for Unraveling the Threads of History is from the Jean Smith Campbell Fund and Ruth Grier Robinson Fund of the Centre County Historical Society. Special thanks to Barbara Hutson of Queenstown Sampler Designs.