Voyaging with a needle
Embroidered map samplers, about 1800. Photos: George Serras.
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These embroidered map samplers show the world as it was understood by Europeans at the end of the 1700s, following more than three centuries of voyaging in pursuit of trade, scientific knowledge and imperial expansion.
Sitting in an English school room, the embroiderer has sewn together the coastline of New Holland or Terra Australis from the accounts of Spanish, Dutch, French and British sailors.
The samplers were probably sewn by a young Englishwoman in about 1800. She drew her maps onto the silk from a pattern created to teach ladies geography. The pattern map was based on Captain James Cook's charts. But the maker has added her own touches, using tiny stitches to trace Cook's three voyages into the Pacific. In Australia, she has added the new British settlement at Port Jackson, founded in the wake of Cook's voyage.
Left: This painting by François Duparc shows a young woman at her needlework, about 1770. Courtesy: The Print Collector.
This painting by Jan Garemijn shows a family at afternoon tea in about 1778. For young women, sewing was a social activity, not only a solitary pursuit. Courtesy: The Print Collector.