Trash or Treasure: “Stumpwork” example of 19th-century handcraft
“I'm always taken in by handmade items, including old quilts, hooked rugs, needlepoint items, Indian bead work and whimsies,” Sandy McCarroll admitted to expert Bob DuMouchelle at a recent appraisal session held at the downtown gallery and auction house.
She also explained how and where she acquired her framed work. “A good friend was selling many of the antique items she had collected over the years and asked if I would be interested in purchasing some items. Included in the group I bought was the stumpwork picture. It seemed like a remarkable piece of old needlework.”
While it didn’t explain the origin of the unusual name, the website needlenthread.com by Mary Corbet had a handy definition of the type of work known as stumpwork. “Stumpwork is a dimensional embroidery technique that originated in the mid-1600’s in England. This type of embroidery uses attached, pre-stitched pieces of embroidery, raised stitches, and even stuffed areas to create impressive and realistic floral designs as well as stylized scenic pictures that sometimes include animals, flora, people garbed in elaborate clothing, and even buildings (castles, tents, etc.). The stitches used in stumpwork range from simple line stitches to more complex filling stitches and lace stitches. Practically any ground fabric is suitable for stumpwork. Threads commonly used include wool, cotton, and silk. This style of embroidery is enjoying a great resurgence of popularity these days.”
DuMouchelle agreed with most of the information McCarroll had about the piece, including its type and age. “I do believe this is stumpwork and that it dates to the late 1800s,” he said. “I’d put this to somewhere around 1890s to 1910. The colors are nice and strong and the work is quality.”
“Unfortunately, this type of work is not as popular as it had been about 15 years ago, when it was at its peak. We used to get a lot more money for it.”
That said, he said it’s still “very decorative” and there would be collectors who would be interested. “This is strong because of the multiple colors. It’s very labor intensive, and whoever created this really knew what they were doing”
In the current market, he said it would command $100 to $200 at auction. “Sometimes pieces with a patriotic theme bring more.”
McCarroll said she bought two pieces from her friend but doesn’t remember what she paid. “I’ll probably keep one and sell the other.”
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About this item
Item: Vintage “stumpwork” embroidery
Appraised by: Bob DuMouchelle
Owned by: Sandy McCarroll
Estimated value: $100 to $200