Small Talk Tag: Esther Robertson

A Game of Perfection

miniature chippendale furniture

In 18th century America, games and gambling were all the rage. This miniature game table, based off a c. 1770s Philadelphia Chippendale table, would have been perfect for tiny card games! Less than four inches tall, the table’s base was hand-carved by Wm. R. Robertson. The base, shaped from Swiss pear wood, features delicately curving ball-and-claw legs that support the functioning tilt-top surface.

Robertson’s mother, Esther Robertson, created the petit point stitched surface. Based on an Italian tapestry design, the tabletop consists of 33,000 stitches in 41 colors of silk thread. It took her three months to complete the design; when it was finished, she gave it to her son, who painstakingly attached it to the table. Esther Robertson was so nervous something would go wrong during the attachment process that she had to leave the house! Of course, the finished piece turned out beautifully, and the miniature game table is a testament to the amazing design and craftsmanship that goes into making a miniature.

A Tisket, A Tasket, A 17th C. Sewing Casket

miniature sewing casket

This 1:12 scale miniature sewing casket was inspired by a full-size sewing casket at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London that dates to 1671. The original was made by an embroiderer named Martha Edlin—at the age of 11 no less—and was passed down through her family for over 300 years. Cases like this one were often used by wealthy women of the time to store jewelry, sewing implements, and personal belongings, sort of like a 17th century Caboodle (remember those?).

Our miniature version was constructed by William R. Robertson from pearwood and has steel hinges and a mirror on the inside of the lid. Esther Robertson and Annelle Ferguson (both a few years older than 11) meticulously stitched the 26 petit point panels that cover the wooden structure. The miniature contents include a tortoiseshell needle case, a thimble, and various other ivory and mother-of-pearl accoutrements.