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Monday, 11 August 2008
Stitching with hair
Foundling Hospital, London. Early 19th Century

Annie Parker. Circa 1880

Back in 1997 I was fortunate enough to visit the exhibit of British and Historic Embroideries 1590-1880 held at Whitney Antiques in Whitney Oxon. Amongst the samplers on display were two that stood out for me and these were the two that were stitched with hair! 

The first picture above was worked in hair on fine cotton and finished as a small pillow - 9" x 8 1/2". 

The London Foundling Hospital was established in 1742 by Captain Thomas Coram, a master mariner and philanthropist. He found himself shocked at the sight of so many children and infants abandoned by their parents in the streets of London that after persuading some ladies of nobility to assist him he set up the Foundling Hospital.

Admittance worked on a first come first served basis but as the number of infants increased a ballot system was set up. A mother intending to leave her infant at the Hospital has to draw a coloured  ball from a bag to decide it's fate. Black - mother and child were turned away. Red - the child went on a waiting list. White - the child was accepted. Only the first born of an unmarried mother could be admitted and this child has to be under twelve months old and deserted by it's father. The mother had to have been of 'good repute' before 'her fall'.

Accepted infants were sent to foster parents until the age of 4 or 5 after which they were returned to the Hospital where they were educated. At the age of 14 boys were apprenticed or joined the army whilst the girls were trained for domestic service. 

The second picture shows a sampler again worked in hair and stitched by Annie Parker. There are two other examples of her work; a pincushion in the Black Museum of Scotland Yard and a sampler in the collection of H M Prison Service in Newbold Revel near Rugby. 

Annie Parker was well educated but could not refuse an intoxicating drink and was before the magistrates charged with drunkenness over 400 times and therefore spent a great deal of time in prison. She died in 1885 of consumption. She had a luxuriant head of hair and whilst in prison worked a number of samplers as gifts. The pictured sampler was presented by Annie to Dr Dixon on the morning of her death.

Full credit for the photos and information to Whitney Antiques.

After seeing these samplers and having fairly long hair myself I just had to have a go so, after washing and drying my hair, I pulled some out and stitched a tiny alphabet. It was not easy to work with my hair as it's quite thick and springy. I have searched to see if I can find this small piece of work but we have moved house since then and I cannot locate it at present but I will keep up with the search and hopefully will be able to show you my effort of stitching with hair! 

Thank you for all your kind words for my ailing back. It's a lot better today although I still get the occasional twinge.

On the stitching front, I have been working on Ms Hannah and I will show an update shortly. I have also been crafting some more personalized thread drops. 

Thanks for visiting
Take care   

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Photobucket posted by Carol R at 16:21 | Permalink | Photobucket


  • On 11 August 2008 at 20:23, Blogger Barbara

    I've read about stitching with hair. I never thought to try it myself. LOL!

  • On 12 August 2008 at 06:20, Blogger Nic

    Hmmm - being a 'curly top', I don't think I'll try it but it was fascinating to read about it!

    BTW, did you see from my blog you've won the draw for my scissor pouch? Can you email me your address to nic[dot]wray[at]gmail[dot]com? Thanks!

  • On 12 August 2008 at 07:58, Blogger Rowyn

    That's something completely different! I hope you can find your stitched alphabet.

    Glad to hear the back is a little better.

  • On 12 August 2008 at 14:10, Blogger Karoline

    They are interesting pieces aren't they. If you're in London I recommend a visit to the Foundling museum, no stitching unfortunately but still a fascinating place

  • On 12 August 2008 at 19:27, Blogger Anne

    thanks for this post, it was really interesting to read about stitching with hair, I have never heard about it before!

  • On 13 August 2008 at 01:14, Blogger Meari

    Well hey... I throw away a handful of hair every single day. I shed like a dog, LOL! I have a thick head of hair, too.

    Those samplers are amazing. I'd love to see your sampler, too.

  • On 16 August 2008 at 14:40, Blogger Teri

    Thanks for such an interesting post! I've not seen or read about samplers stitched with hair, so I enjoyed reading about them and seeing the two examples. I especially like the verse on Annie Parker's piece.