Liberty Lifestyle: How Colonial Women and their Embroidery Skills Created Job Opportunities

In Eighteenth Century America, needlepoint was an integral part of our founding country. As early as the age of 5 or 6, girls were taught how to sew samplers. There were two types of samplers colonial young women would sew.

A marking sampler, which taught basic stitches and their alphabets, subsequently teaching them to read and write.


And Decorative Pictorial Samplers, which depicted a girl and her family’s values for a potential suitor. Marking samplers were usually taught at home with the supervision of a mother or grandmother. Decorative samplers were usually products of ladies boarding schools, which only the wealthy attended. Therefore, decorative samplers were a sign of status to potential suitors communicating to them that their family was wealthy. The messages on decorative samplers emphasized the importance of female virtue, the value of education and obedience to one’s parents and God.



Once married, women become responsible for the day-to-day living and their stitching talents were used to keep their family clothed and provide linens for the home. Some women used embroidery to decorate their homes with wall hangings and bed covers, while others used their skills for upholstering household furniture. Projects like bedcovers or furniture upholstery could have been made by teenage girls who were preparing to be married, or by married women who were wealthy enough to have servants to complete household chores, thereby allowing them the leisure time in which to embroider. But in some cases, embroidered household textiles were actually “professionally made”: during the eighteenth century, talented embroiderers are known to have sewn for their neighbors in exchange for money or goods. Sewing paved the way for some of the first paying job opportunities afforded to women during this time.



Betsy Ross began her career apprenticing for an upholstery under John Webster. It was in this profession where she met and fell in love with fellow apprentice, John Ross. After marrying, they opened up an upholstery shop but soon John Ross joined the militia and after just two years of marriage, Betsy Ross became the widow of an American Revolutionary War soldier.

Betsy continued to run the upholstery shop after her husbands death working for the Continental Army patching uniforms, tents and flags. It was in this shop where she received her first visit from George Washington who commissioned her to sew our Nation’s first flag, the Flag of the Thirteen Colonies. Betsy Ross, became a patriotic icon in the late 19th Century when stories surfaced that she had sewn the first flag of the United States.



Our historical past is so important to Liberty Stitching Company and why we’re committed to honoring the tradition of embroidery. Our mission is to preserve the skills of our nation’s past with modern prints that highlight the beauty of our nation’s present. When you buy a kit from Liberty Stitching Company, you join this preservation of our past by passing on the skill of embroidery to our next generation. Join us today!

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