Current and coming: In Stitches at Colonial Williamsburg

Editorial Staff Current and Coming, Exhibitions

Detail of a sampler by Mary Rees, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 1827. All objects illustrated are in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Virginia; photographs courtesy of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

If there was one silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic that can be grudgingly acknowledged, it’s that the viral outbreak was largely responsible for a revival of widespread interest in what used to be called the “domestic arts.” Millions of people spent their long days in social isolation working on craft projects of one sort or another, many involving textiles and tools—needlepoint, crochet, rug-hooking, sewing, quilting, and more.

All of which is to suggest that Colonial Williamsburg should find lots of fresh pairs of eyes eager to appreciate its latest exhibition, Stitched in Time: American Needlework. The show at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum features some sixty examples of bed rugs, samplers, quilted petticoats, embroidered hand towels, crewelwork, mourning and commemorative needlework, and more.

Log cabin show quilt by Geneva Luela Richards Graves (1862–1915), Hampshire County, Massachusetts, c. 1890.

One highlight is a rare bed rug probably made in Norwich, Connecticut. Dated 1785, it is the work of an unknown maker who signed the rug with the initials “RD.” The early American needlework of the Connecticut River valley is justifiably famous, and this rug—in remarkably good condition—was masterfully darned with closely spaced rows of heavy wool yarn through a woolen ground, leaving most of the stitches visible on the surface.

Another particular treat is a silk-and-wool embroidered sampler crafted in 1827 by Mary Rees, a student at the school run by Elizabeth Robinson in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. This charming piece depicts a quiet farmstead with cows, sheep, birds, and a dog, accompanied by a cross-stitched poem in which Rees enjoins all living things to praise the Almighty.

Lastly, the popular, long-running exhibition The Art of the Quilter has been updated. The show now has an entirely new rotation of fifteen quilts, a dozen of which have never before been on display. Get thee to Williamsburg, thread-heads!

Stitched in Time: American Needlework • Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Virginia • to January 2, 2025 •

Embroidered bed rug stitched with the initials “RD,” probably Norwich, Connecticut, 1785. Dr. and Mrs. T. Marshall Hahn Jr. Fund.