According to an eBay collecting guide, the term needlework refers to “any handicraft that uses a needle for construction.” Sometimes decorative, other times purely practical, “collecting antique needlework is a satisfying hobby for people who enjoy fine sewing from both sides of the needle,” it continues.
As with other types of antiques, however, knowledge is power. Kathy Neighbors was frustrated by her lack of information and background regarding a vintage textile she recently brought in to the Michigan Design Center for appraisal, where Brian Thomczek took a closer look. It “has a date (bottom right corner) of 1858 and two ruby stones in the little girl shoes,” she wrote in an email. “I inherited it after both of my parents died, I do know that it has been in the family for many years, first with my grandparents and then with parents. I tried searching the internet, but have failed to come up with any information.”
Featuring a needlepoint (“counted thread embroidery created by stitching yard through a stiff, open-weave canvas” according to eBay) image under glass of a sleeping girl in a red dress and a dog, it is made up of many intricate stitches and colors. Neighbors said that the piece came through her mother’s family, but she has little clue about the piece’s history before that. She was pretty sure that her mother had it framed, and wondered if framing the work had damaged it through the years.
Thomczek said that generally it’s better not to frame needlepoint or other pieces of vintage textile. “I’m afraid this has been framed for 40 years or more,” Neighbors told him. “It’s generally better to expose needlework to the air,” Thomczek explained.
Despite the glass, Thomczek said the work is in “remarkable condition” overall for its age. “It’s in really, really good shape,” he continued. “All it really needs is a light cleaning from an experienced textile conservator and maybe the removal of the glass.”
Unfortunately, the market for needlepoint is on the low side at the moment, he told her, adding that samplers remain among the most sought-after in the vintage textile arena. American samplers are generally considered more valuable than English, he added. “Samplers can really get up there in price, but needlepoint is in less demand,” he told her. Even with that, he estimated that her piece could bring $300-$500 at auction, more in a retail antique shop.
The subject matter, in part, adds to its appeal. It features a dog and a child — popular subjects both then and now, he says. “It’s really nicely done, and anytime you have kids and dogs, collectors love it,” he pointed out. “Although I have to say the dog doesn’t look especially happy.”
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About this item
Item: Vintage needlepoint
Owned by: Kathy Neighbors
Appraised by: Brian Thomczek
Estimated value: $300-$500 at auction