Written in January 2001 by Joan Betzold

In 1830, 171 years ago, when Blanch Hall Lee was 8 years old and stitching on her sampler, she never dreamed someone would come along with a magnifying glass and identify her every mistake, how she made mis-counts and then fudged her way back into her pattern. But that is exactly what happened.

Blanch Hall Lee was born in Harford County, Maryland on July 1, 1822. She was the seventh of nine children of William Dallam Lee and Ann Wilson. Her father was a Captain in the 7th Cavalry District during the War of 1812 and her grandfather, Parker Hall Lee, was a Lieutenant in the 4th Maryland continental Line during the Revolutionary War. She married James C. Worthington on April 8, 1846 in Harford County. James and Blanch had two children, James Moores Worthington, born 1847, and Hannah Pamela Worthington born 1855. James married Mary E. Scott and Hannah mawas a very lovely sampler, it was in need of conservation work and Joan thought that as that was being accomplished, perhaps, it could be charted and patterns sold to share with others who love old samplers. This could also serve as a way to raise revenue for the Hays House reconstruction. The search was on for someone who was capable of that level of work.

That was how Katie Franetovich came to meet Blanch Hall Lee and became her friend through her stitching. Katie, a resident of Bel Air, well known for her love of antique stitches and textiles, employed at the textile conservation department of the Walters Art Museum, listened to the plan and set to work. For over two years she painstakingly counted stitches and charted them. She spent hours trying to make the graph as close to the original as possible. It was a puzzle that included what colors were used because of the fading of the fabric and thread. The original sampler was done with silk threads on linen, which was very typical of the time.

Once the graph was complete, Katie sought out Mindy Plitt, an avid local cross stitcher to try her hand on the prototype. Mindy made suggestions for the final graph. The original sampler was mounted and conserved by Louise Wheatley. Both the prototype and the original were framed by Skevington Gallery of Bel Air, Maryland and are back on display at the Hays House Museum. Katie then enlisted help to create the kits. Susan Tobin took wonderful photographs of the original sampler that picked up detail unseen by the human eye. Henry Peden of the Historical Society of Harford County researched Blanch's life. It all has come together in a wonderful kit for cross stitchers to enjoy and relive Blanch Hall Lee's efforts of 1830. Kits are on sale exclusively at the Hays House Museum and are $15 plus shipping. Kits can be mail ordered. The Hays House Museum can be contacted at 410-838-7691 or by writing to Hays House Museum, 324 Kenmore Avenue, Bel Air, Maryland 21014.

Even if you are not a stitcher, the sampler is very unusual and lovely to see. The Hays House Museum is open year around Sundays 1:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m. and others by appointment.

Photographed in October 2003

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