A Stitch in Time
by Maureen Storey
This article was published in the March 2000 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
In 1805 nine-year-old Elizabeth Soul embroidered a sampler which has since found its way to Australia and is now in the possession of John Ward. John would like to know who Elizabeth was. The only clues we have are her age as given on the sampler and that John believes his wife bought it in the Stonehouse area of Gloucestershire, where she lived before their marriage.
It is described as ‘48 cm x 34 cm in a gilt frame of plaster work, much chipped, with a glass front. There is a series of borders and much decoration inside them consisting of rose motifs and other flowers’. The text reads:
Jesus permit thy Gracious Name to Stand
As the first efforts of an infants hand
And while her fingers on the canvas move
Engage her tender thoughts to seek thy love
With thy dear children let her have a part
And write thyself upon her heart
My most indulgent Saviour This grace to me be given
I long thy love to find I nothing more request
To triumph in thy favour I ask no other heaven
And know thy spirit Than leaning on thy breast
I love them that love me saith the Lord
And those that seek me early shall find me
Now therefore hearken unto me O ye children
Blessed are they that keep my ways
John describes the work as wonderfully well preserved with the canvas and stitches still intact although a little discoloured in places. He also notes that it is remarkably good work for a nine-year old.
If Elizabeth was a Gloucestershire Soul (and we’ve only circumstantial evidence that she was) then I know of two possible candidates: one was baptised in Stroud in 1795 and another whose grandparents lived in Stonehouse although she was born in London in 1795. However, I know that sometimes knowledge of the existence of this sort of family heirloom is handed down the family long after it has passed out of their possession, so can anyone lay claim to Elizabeth?
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