Salt Lake City has a
familiar but still unique history in the West. Like many towns in the western
US, it was originally inhabited by American Indians until European Settlers
came and appropriated the land. In 1847, Mormon (LDS) pioneers from back east came
into the valley to settle permanently. With Brigham Young famously stopping at
the mouth of Emigration Canyon to say “This is the right place,” the European
emigration history of the area began.
Many Mormon pioneers made
the trek over the central US plains to Utah. Most walked with just handcarts
holding everything they had. A lot of the pioneers were also recent US
emigrants from other countries. Having made a harrowing journey across the sea,
they then made a harrowing journey across the plains.
A museum in downtown Salt
Lake City documents the pioneers’ journeys. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers
Memorial Museum is a hodge-podge of artifacts from the 19th century
pioneers. Run mostly by volunteers, the museum’s philosophy is “open storage,”
which means that everything is on view.
I love going to the museum
and searching through the overwhelming amount of objects for the one gem that
is a surprise. There you can find a two-headed lamb or learn about the pioneer
women doctors who paved the way for women in medicine. It is a quirky place
that is heaven for any textile or craft artist.
I recently went there and
spent almost all of my time in their sampler section. Many of the cross-stitch
samplers they have were made back East or in England or another country by
young girls and then brought across the plains. I am intrigued by this idea.
These samplers must have been very precious in order to have them be one of the
few items that could be taken with a young girl as she immigrated to a
completely unknown place like Utah.
The imagery on each sampler
is similar, and yet different. Most of them have flowers and trees along with
the requisite alphabet and numbers. But the variety of the floral elements is
impressive. I was struck by one sampler by Sarah Turner and the diversity of
designs she had in her sampler.
Sarah Turner was just 9
years old in 1840 England when she knit this sampler. After converting to the LDS Church she relocated to the Utah Territory. Sarah and her sister left
England alone, traveling by way of New Orleans and St. Louis. At the age of
eighteen, Sarah walked from Missouri to Utah Territory in 1850, and she carried
her sampler with her the entire way.
I want to utilize the
designs in this amazing sampler in something. I have been dying to learn a new
knitting technique called Roositud, an Estonian embroidery technique. I might
learn this skill with a new design of my own.