Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Farewell to needlework icon, Susan Burrows Swan

I recently learned of the death last month of Susan (Sue) Barrows Swan, a noted needlework authority. Sue was a former curator at Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, Delaware. She also wrote several excellent books on needlework, including Plain and Fancy: American Women and Their Needlework, 1700-1850 and A Winterthur Guide to American Needlework. Both books should definitely be part of your personal library if you are interested in needlework history. An internet search will help you locate the books.

Linda Eaton, the current textile curator at Winterthur, and Amy Finkel, of Finkel and Daughter, have written lovely tributes to honor Sue. You can read them here.

One of my favorite quotes from Sue's book, Plain and Fancy, originally appeared in The Young Lady's Friend by Mrs. Farrar in 1837. I leave it here as my tribute to Sue:
A woman who does not know how to sew is as deficient in her education as a man who cannot write. Let her condition in life be what it may, she cannot be ignorant in the use of her needle. [Needlework is] truly feminine employment, a moral power which is useful to the sex. There is a soothing and sedative effect in needlework; it composes the nerves, and furnishes a corrective for many of the little irritations of domestic life.

Although the use of the needle is not deemed as important today as it was years ago, many of us greatly enjoy it. Perhaps you too can feel "a soothing and sedative effect" when you stitch and can even "compose" your nerves, if need be.


Valerie said...

A worhty tribute to a wonderful woman. I have both of her books and they are indispensable! She will be greatly missed.

Sandra said...

I totally agree with the quote, even in this day and age, it certainly composes my nerves.

SimplyStitchingintheGarden said...

Thanks for letting us know of this loss. Great book and thank you for the quote.

dixiesamplardesigns said...

So sad to lose such a wonderful woman...our prayers are with her family!

Have seen references to her books for years, now I'll have to be sure to get a copy of them. Thanks for the titles.

Babs in Alabama said...

thanks for sharing this...the quote is so true and I will definitely have to get at least Plain & Fancy.
I appreciate all the info you share...I just don't always comment :)