Weaverville is known for many things, but one of its greatest treasures is one you may not have heard of.
Sassy Jack’s Stitchery, owned and operated by Kimberly Young, resides in the heart of downtown, located at 30 North Main Street. Early last week, Sassy Jack’s hosted Nicola Parkman, a world-famous artisan, for an hours-long stitching seminar. The event drew attendees from all across the nation.
Young sat with the Tribune and described Parkman’s company, based out of her home in Cornwall, England.
“Nicola Parkman owns a company called Hands Across the Sea, and they do reproduction samplers,” Young said. For the uninitiated, a needlework sampler started as a collection of different embroidered or cross-stitched patterns, which was used to demonstrate the skills of girls of the 1600s through 1800s. The word comes from the Latin word for “an example.”
“They take antique samplers and create a reproduction chart,” Young said, which enables fans of the hobby to recreate their own version of an item crafted hundreds of years ago. Young proudly displayed some incredibly old pieces, including an authentic piece crafted in the mid-1600s.
High-quality samplers are usually made from silk, according to Young, giving crafted items a beautiful shine.
Last week’s seminar was filled to capacity, requiring Young to add another full day of needlework classes.
“All the motifs in a sampler, they all have meaning,” Young revealed. “A squirrel has a different meaning, a stag has meaning, of course there’s Adam and Eve. Motifs and side samplers had meaning for the girls.
“Depending on where they were and their culture, sometimes in Scotland for example, they might support the Jacobite king and it was very dangerous for them. You would find hidden meaning in their samplers that told what their alliance was.”
Stitching was a necessary and vital skill for girls in the 1600s and 1800s, according to Young. Being able to stitch proficiently was taken to mean the girl would make a suitable wife. Embroidering clothes or accents was symbolic of higher status.
“The girls did them [samplers] for two reasons,” Young said. “One is that they may have been in an orphanage or destitute. They learned to do this as a skillset so that they could go into an affluent household and embroider linens.”
“The other reason samplers were done was to help young women find husbands. If their needlework was really nice, then it was presumed that they had the skill set to run a household.”
Parkman lent her expertise to the conversation, illuminating the relationship between needlework and success for young women of the time.
“If you’re going back a few hundred years ago, you didn’t have an Ikea. The man might make an arm bench, but who made that bench comfortable to sit on?” Parkman asked.
The wife did, according to Parkman.
“If you couldn’t go to a fabric store and buy material to make clothes, the woman had to weave the fabric and then make that fabric into a pair of trousers,” Parkman said.
People traveled from as far as Texas, Arizona, Michigan and New York to attend Young and Parkman’s seminars, according to the women at last week’s event. A spot at one of Sassy Jack’s high-end needlework courses can cost up to $250.
Attendees agree that Sassy Jack’s is incredibly special, and that we’re lucky to have a place like it in town. Fans of the hobby keep this ancient art form alive while honoring its storied roots.
Parkman put into words the value of needlework.
“A man would build a house, but a woman would make the house a home.”