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Friends of Haptic & Hue

Jan 13, 2022

Samplers tell stories in stitch, but whose tale are they telling? Perhaps the story of a young woman describing her family and choosing her own patterns and pictures, a child learning her alphabet and numbers by stitching. Or maybe it’s an anonymous sampler from a woman being prepared for a role in which she will spend a life stitching other people’s stories, effacing her identity, working as a seamstress or a servant.


This episode of Haptic and Hue looks at how women in the past were united by their ability to use a needle. From the grandest monarch to the poorest maid they could all sew, it was a common language – one that they were fluent in and often better at than forming letters and numbers with a pen or pencil. It gave them a way of thinking that we have all but lost.


But what they sewed divided them. Middle-class women were urged to create a home with berlin wool-work, firescreens, and antimacassars, or handstitched gifts demonstrating their skill and devotion. Even Queen Victoria stitched and gave away her handiwork while working-class women were prepared for a life of earning their living from the needle – working as seamstresses or mending clothing, stitching other people’s initials onto table linen, and family laundry.


Find out more about how the needle and sewing united and divided women in this episode of Haptic and Hue’s Tales of Textiles.


You can find a full script of this episode, on the Haptic and Hue Website at as well as links and resources to the people you hear in this podcast and the organisations they work for.