With Cunning Needle: Four Centuries of Embroidery

On view September 3, 2011–January 8, 2012

In 2006 Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts began an exciting and innovative project to accurately re-create a 17th-century embroidered woman’s jacket. The process of designing and making what has become known as the Plimoth Jacket has shed new light on the tools and methods employed by the skilled embroiderers of the 1600s. Using the Plimoth Jacket as a touchstone, With Cunning Needle delves into the designs, materials, techniques, and makers of embroidery over four centuries.

Explore each step in the process of creating needlework, from skeins of silk and pattern books to embroidered bed covers and silkwork pictures. Learn about the women and men who made these beautiful objects for themselves, their friends and families, and commercial sale. Discover “lost” skills that have been revived through the Plimoth Jacket project.

With Cunning Needle explores the history of embroidery and invites visitors to take a closer look at the wide array of styles, technology, and people reflected by this art form. 

Apron, England; 1730-40. Silk with gold and silver on silk. 1987.84 Gift of Drs. Irwin and M. Susan Irwin in honor of Florence C. Steigerwalt.


Pair of garters, worked by or for Mary Washington, Virginia; 1753. Silk on linen. 1965.2082.1,.2 Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.


Summer uniform of an enlisted sailor, worn by Warren Opie (born 1835). Probably made and worn on the Susquehanna; 1850-54. Burlington, New Jersey. Linen, silk, wool. 1967.933a,b Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont


Only known Philadelphia African American sampler made at the Lombard Street School by Olevia Rebecca Parker, dated 1852.