One Thread from Home

The November/December issue of PieceWork honors the immigrants who arrived in the United States, carrying traditional needlework of their homeland across the seas: at least one thread from home to hold on to, bringing comfort in the new American experience. One of many examples of this unfolds in the story of Anna Anderson that Laurann Gilbertson of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum shares in this issue:

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Anna Anderson with the tablecloth that she began stitching in 1907. Photograph courtesy of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.
A gorgeous cutwork tablecloth with tatted edging started by Helen Wojnar Znamierowski in Poland and finished after she arrived in the United States. Photograph by Joe Coca.

There are as many reasons for picking up needle and thread as there are types of needlework. You can create and beautify objects. You can keep your hands busy and your mind relaxed. You can express your artistic impulses and spiritual values. And you can, like Anna Sjøthun Anderson, maintain connections when far from home and family. When Anna left Norway by herself in 1907 at the age of seventeen, she carried a needlework project with her to work on during the lonely times.

Anna grew up on a small farm adjacent to the village of Solvorn, on the Luster Fjord in Sogn on the west coast of Norway. Her father, Hans, was a tailor and ran a shop in the village. Her mother, Ingeborg, was a skilled seamstress. The fourth of eleven children, Anna was the eldest daughter. When it was time for her to leave home, she decided to go to America. “It wasn’t unusual at that time for many of our people to move to the United States,” she later recalled. Economic and social opportunities were the primary reasons why many young Norwegians, families as well as individuals, emigrated.

Anna borrowed $78 from an uncle and aunt in Minnesota to pay for the trip. Among her belongings, she packed fabric, pattern, scissors, needle, and thread for doing hardangersøm (Hardanger embroidery). “My mother gave me the tablecloth when I was leaving, and told me that when I was feeling lonesome I should work on it. She knew what I would be facing, leaving my family behind.”

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Learn the rest of Anna’s story and embroider the Hardanger project inspired by her beautiful tablecloth. Also in this issue, discover the stories of several other brave and amazing women who arrived from Wales, Ukraine, Italy, or Poland with their needlework legacies.