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Samplers & Tweets

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Looking for robins to photograph, I captured branches beginning to bud.

Birds and cross stitch go together like robins and springtime -- wrong! Although birds nest comfortably in samplers and other cross stitch, it's only a half-truth that robins are a harbinger of spring.

According to bird-watcher and blogger Chris Petrak, "We may hear the rattle of the robin on any day of the year -- even a mid-winter day."

On a recent morning I heard the rattle of the robin, but I was hard-pressed to find one to sit still long enough to photograph.

I was much luckier looking for birds in cross stitch. There's a flock of bird designs in the April issue of Just CrossStitch, including samplers with bird motifs (Birdsong Sampler, Henriette Barrat Sampler, On Pins & Needles), plus two fun and pretty projects (Hummingbird and Spring Chickadees).

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Have you ever wondered why so many birds appear in samplers? As it turns out, the long-ago girls who created the art of sampler making were like today's girls who "tweet": They used a form of shorthand to get their ideas across.

Bird shorthand appears in samplers as motifs with symbolic meanings. According to a feature from The Caron Collection, "Many traditional motifs depicted on samplers have symbolic meanings or associations, and art historians have studied these, arriving at different conclusions for the images portrayed." Among the motif/meaning combinations listed are: falcon: pride and nobility; parrot: talkativeness and gossip; phoenix: hope.

Doves are particularly prevalent in samplers, symbolizing "mercy, love, simplicity, eternal life (drinking in fountain), peace (olive branch in beak)," according to the Chicago History Museum (see Lesson 2, What Does It All Mean?).

Symbolic or not, there is sweet simplicity in Sharon Pope's Tweet Little Reader Cover, this update's free pattern. If you want to make an e-reader cover with this design or one of your own, see the How to Make an e-Reader Cover tutorial.

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