When you think of cross stitch, even as a seasoned cross stitcher, you probably think of a sampler. In fact, you probably think of one sampler in particular.
You may have had to explain what cross stitch was to people in the past, and used it as an example, or probably stitched one yourself, but the fact remains, that cross stitch is, and probably always will be, linked to the simple ‘Home Sweet Home’ sampler. By why?
As all cross stitch stories start, we need to talk about something totally random. This time, we’re going to talk about opera. This opera has its own story, but importantly, in 1823, the Maid of Milan, or Clari to give its authentic name, and it was liked. Not well enough to be a massive hit, in fact, they stopped performing it in 1830, however one part of this opera, the song “Home! Sweet home!” was a hit. In fact, it sold over 100,000 copies once sold, which was truly a marvel at the time.
But due to the way publishers wrote contracts, almost all the money from this was made by the publisher, and not the original artists, John Howard Payne and Henry Bishop. Whilst Payne was known for his lack of business sense, Bishop decided to take action, and relaunched the song as a parlor ballad in 1852. Thanks to American history, we know that this time was massive for America, with a lot of patrons going to parlors, understandably, it became a massive hit. By the time that the American Civil War broke out in 1861, it was known as a classic song. With soldiers on both sides pining for home it became a popular song sung to keep morale up (although the Union army banned the song to avoid desertion at one point).
This, is finally where we get into the world of cross stitch. In our history of cross stitch post, we mentioned how cheap German wool exports decreased the price of thread and increased the prevalence of cross stitch in England. After the civil war in America, the German wool and cross stitch reached American shores, where cross stitch started to take off. Initially, post-war, a lot of samplers were focused on god, America, and home. Most commonly, statements like “God bless this house” come from this period. But with more and more soldiers returning from the front, they brought back with them the songs they have sung.
‘Home! Sweet Home!’ was quickly adopted as a common phrase for a series of things at this time. In fact, the famous “there’s no place like home’ from the Wizard of Oz also comes from this song. However, in addition, they also took the title (which doesn’t actually feature in the song) and cross stitched it up. As America recovered from the war, and connections with England improved, samplers came over from the US and in turn, the phrase was incorporated into English cross stitch samplers too, even if they didn’t quite know why (the song was never as popular in England).
But then it died down. As many new phrases came into fashion, and the breakout of world war one came, cross stitch fell aside. The next time cross stitch became really popular was the 1960s, in fact during this time cross stitch was the most popular its ever been, and they took old samples and cross stitched them, giving them modern twists and art. But the phrase “home sweet home” remained. In fact, during the newest cross stitch revolution in the 2000s, this was also the case. By this time the phrase was simply associated with cross stitch, and its original meaning was lost. But that didn’t stop people taking the phrase and making it their own, just like I did with my Pokemon Home Sweet Home Cross stitch.