Saturday, June 14, 2014

Unusual Artifacts: An Embroidered Pin Cushion, 1670-80

The Victoria & Albert Museum

I love little objects like this that tell a story and speak of the individuals who made them.  This embroidered pin cushion has an obverse of white satin embroidered in colored silks in a pretty design of flowers, a double-headed bird (of course) and the initials “ME.” The back is covered in a rich, deep midnight-blue satin while the edges are bound with a plaited cord of blue silk and twinkling silver thread.

This adorable and beautiful little object was among the contents of an embroidered casket used by a young girl called Martha Edlin, to store her small personal treasures. Needless to say, as young ladies of the Seventeenth Century did, she would have embroidered this herself.
  Curiously, neither the casket nor the pin cushion appears to have been used.

Through other objects in the Victoria and Albert Museum, we know that the girl in question, Martha Edlin (1660-1725). worked a number of fine embroideries during her childhood.
  Thankfully, these were cherished by her descendants and passed down through the female line in her family for over three hundred years. We owe these ladies a debt of gratitude as without their care, we’d not have them to enjoy today.  Other than this, little is known about Martha’s life, with the exception that she married a man called Richard Richmond and appears to have been a prosperous widow, with daughters and many grandchildren.  Later, she is known to have lived in Pinner in Greater London at the time she drew up her will.

Among the other objects which Martha embroidered are a multi-colored sampler which she created at the age of eight, and a more complicated piece in “whitework” and cutwork at nine. By her eleventh birthday in 1671,, she had embroidered the panels of this elaborate casket, and by 1673, she worked an impressive 
 beadwork jewelry case. 

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