Vivian Treasures–Variations on a Theme

Last year I inherited a large collection of vintage  linens from my friend Vivian.   Vivian’s mother was born in Germany in the 1920’s. Vivian’s grandmother was born in Austria. They came with their family early enough before WWII to bring  lots of the things that made life elegant .

Occasionally I will write about some of the treasures given to me by Vivian. I am particularly fond of the two cloths pictured below.


Both are linen and both are embroidered with the same motifs of gryphons.

The upper cloth is made out of a relatively fine linen. the gryphons are delicately drawn . The embroidery is fine using just a couple of strands of embroidery floss. The sinuous Art Nouveau  lines in the piece make me suspect that this piece was embroidered in the early decades of the 20th century, probably before 1925.



The design, the workmanship and the colors are all pretty sophisticated.

The other cloth is made out of a heavy rough linen. the design elements are similar, but much cruder in the cross stitched cloth. SAM_1727

Those cross stiches are big and done with many strands of floss. Cross stitch is one of the first embroidery stitches taught to a child.  The colors used in the second  cloth are unsubtle and slightly crude.

You can see the difference between the two cloths here.


Because both cloths came from the same household, I believe that I can make a few assumptions about the two cloths and their relationship to one another. I believe that the person who embroidered the cruder cloth knew the more sophisticated cloth well. The cruder cloth looks like it was a young person’s attempt  to replicate the older gryphon cloth.


It’s a learning piece. ( The big ugly knots on the back of the piece remind me of my own work from when I was learning how to embroider)  My sister did similar embroidered cloths  when she was young. These sorts of cross stitch cloths teach you how to stitch consistently. the large stitches allow you to complete the piece in a reasonable amount of time.


Yes, I do use them both, I just washed and ironed both of them. I love having their embroiderers talk to me through  their labors completed generations ago.


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