A History of Decorative Motifs Where I Discovered these Sampler Motifs. Years and years ago I did an educational exhibit for the Embroiders' Guild correspondence course I took on Crewel Embroidery. That course caused me to question the source of the designs I used and to question why the North American designs looked so similar to the modern European cross stitch motifs. What a Story the Answer Was! During the research I found that two motifs, the deer and the Acanthus leaf, have been in our collective decorative history for millennia. A gold deer was found in a seventh century B.C. Scythian grave in Tuva, Siberia. It was probably used as a headband ornament. Each grid on the chart represents a Cross Stitch over two fabric threads. The deer seen above is from the 1601 Nurnburg book Aus Johann Sibacher Schon meues Modelbuch, a publication meant for lace makers and embroiders. The Acanthus leaf, seen in so many designs, is an herb found around the Mediterranean Sea. The leaf covers space well, it can curl, coil or be doubled. In fact, in Victorian England its symbolic meaning in the meaning of flowers was art or artistic. Not surprising that the leaf is in so many embroideries or used by so many cultures. Each grid on this acanthus leaf chart represents a Cross Stitch over two fabric threads. Click on the name of the stitch to see how to do a Back Stitch. The net embroidery below with the unicorn and dragon have an acanthus leaf border coiling around them. The embroidery is Buratto Lace (or Filet Lace) from the seventeenth century. I also found the leaf used as an ornamental device back as far back as two thousand years ago on Sassanian columns in Persia. The Sassanians established a dynasty in Persia in 224 AD, they also exported to China a highly prized silk fabric. It is mentioned here because these silk fabrics had designs that eventually arrived in Europe. The fourth box from the left is the Chinese symbol for money. This is part of Julia's Sampler found at our blog. You can see it by clicking on blog. I thought the English sailors carried the motifs and stitches to colonial North America, but that could not be proven in my research at that time. And since I was also studying the North American revolution era I turned my research to Colonial or American blue and white embroidery, particularly a book called Deerfield Embroidery by Margery Howe. Margaret Miller, Ellen Miller, Margaret Whiting and Julia Whiting used colonial designs in their Blue and White Society in the late 1890's. They sold embroidered linens through their Deerfield embroidery company. These designs were based on their research of Colonial North American needlework. And in their art lectures they discussed the influence the Orient had on these designs. This is an example of American Crewel embroidery. While I was taking the course on embroidery studying the American Crewel designs, I dyed the threads and learned how to spin the wool into crewel thread. And along the way I realized that this embroidery style was not invented here in North America. This Colonial North American design is very much like the motif in the Dutch 1692 Sampler from the Zaanland Museum of Antiquities, Zaandijk. Next Chapter ©2000 Linda Fontenot, www.AmericanFolkArts.com All Rights Reserved, you may not copy this in any manner or any portion of this article, other than a personal copy for the individual only.