I always find vintage textiles to be fascinating, but this haunting cross-stitch sampler from Elizabeth Parker, a troubled nineteenth century nurserymaid, that’s on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in the UK is unusual in both its size and subject matter.

In tiny cross-stitches, this incredibly detailed piece of needlework tells the tale of a desperately unhappy young woman who, at 13, left home to work as a nursemaid. Suicidal and unable to write down her story, she committed her frustrations and the cruelties that she suffered to cloth in a visually stunning and moving show of creativity and skill.

The poignancy of Elizabeth’s words is heightened by their painstaking depiction in letters formed of tiny cross stitches, in stark red on a plain linen ground, and by her breaking off mid sentence – what will become of my soul – followed by blank space.


Here’s a closer look at a section of the sampler. More photos and a detailed description of Elizabeth Parker’s life and history can be found on the Victoria and Albert Museum site.

[Via Dances with Wools]