Primitive Stitchers Know How To Root Out The Good Stuff

Where do you get your news?  

Television broadcasts and headline digests are effective ways to keep up to speed on current events, but I’m also partial to combing the calendar of events section of magazines, newspapers, newsletters and websites for the latest possibilities of free-time fillers.  

One recent case in point was an entry I spotted in the May/June 2017 issue of Early American Life magazine for the Primitive Stitchers Society Retreat and Merchant Mall, held right here in Columbus earlier this month. An event organized and attended by members of a Facebook group who appreciate and enjoy creating handcrafted needlework in the 18th-century American folk art tradition? Now that’s news worth reporting!

Since 1970, Early American Life has covered traditional 18th-century styles, with reports on antiques, gardens, private homes decorated in period style, recipes and reproductions made by artisans working in period styles with traditional tools. I turn right to the make-it-yourself craft featured in each issue, turning out tree ornaments from Rebekah L. Smith’s Wool Appliqué Folk Art and Valentine penny rugs made from wool scraps with coins used as templates.

Created in March 2014, the Primitive Stitchers Society organized its first annual retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia in 2015, followed by its second gathering in Marietta, Georgia last year. Future retreats are scheduled to take place in Nashville, Phoenix and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Over 100 attendees from around the country gathered in Columbus to take special stitching and framing workshops, with more people like me stopping by to shop primitive-style needlework selections offered by about 15 different vendors.

I browsed booths stocked with sewing supplies like hand-painted velvets, custom-dyed linens, lacing threads used to make hand-braided rugs, hand-dyed wools and Valdani threads, pinkeeps, sewing rolls, thread waxers and catchers, mother-of-pearl thread winders, and thimble-topped needle books covered in crochet to resemble hats.

Some needlework designers introduced new patterns at the retreat. One was Notforgotten Farm from Amherst, Virginia, whose booth had a constant line of punchneedle and hooked embroidery fans, arms filled with new projects to buy.

Another was Summer House Stitche Workes from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, offering everything from covered wooden thread spools and show-special kits to cross-stitch designs resembling Elizabethan crewelwork.  A free “Flower Frolic” cross stitch pattern was ours for the taking. I could have taken up permanent residence in the Truffle Pigs booth, stocked with passementerie like antique decorative trims made from chenille, braided velvet and handmade eyelet.  Buttons, from wooden ones in the shape of hats to antique celluloid bouquets of flowers, were cleverly presented on hand-collaged cards.

Tiny emery cushions to park pins and needles were fashioned from hand-dyed velvet and filled with sand to resemble pineapples, peaches, turnips, strawberries and more “produce.” These ladies root out the good stuff, indeed!

Even non-stitchers could find unique pre-made treasures, like handcrafted Shaker-style oval wooden boxes, vintage crystal salt cellars, distressed furniture and porcelain teacups-turned-pincushions.

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