Cornucopia of Canvaswork

Many countries and cultures have a celebration giving thanks for their harvest and good fortunes. Canada has already celebrated their Thanksgiving Day which occurs on the second Monday of October. This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day for Americans. Abraham Lincoln had proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be the official holiday. That was later changed by Franklin D. Roosevelt to the 4th Thursday of the November.

The original Thanksgiving meal was quite different from today’s "traditional" dinner. According to Kathleen Curtin, Food Historian at Plimouth Plantation, their menu may have looked like this:

  • Seafood: Cod, eel, clams and lobster
  • Wild fowl: Wild turkey, goose, duck, crane, swan, partridge, and eagles
  • Meat: venison, seal
  • Grain: wheat flour, Indian corn
  • Vegetables: pumpkins, peas, beans, onion, lettuce, radishes, carrots
  • Fruit: plums, grapes

Besides food, people often associate the cornucopia with this holiday. This word dates back to 1508 from Latin, cornu copiae meaning a horn of plenty. We often see it used as a centerpiece overflowing with fruits, nuts, and vegetables. (reference link)

Cornucopia of Canvaswork

Reflecting the menu from the first Thanksgiving.

Let’s start with the cornucopia. We know there were baskets used to gather and serve folds. Most of them were probably woven so these stitches come to mind: basketweave and woven.

The Basketweave Stitch »

The Woven Stitch »


For our meat, here are some possibilities-the Turkey, Herring(bone), and Shell(fish) Stitches.

The turkey on their table was much different from the commercially grown turkey of today. It had a very colorful plumage which Columbus associated with the peacock.. He referred to the bird as "tuka" which means peacock in India. Another source said that the name came from the Native American’s word for the bird, "firkee". Yet another source said it came from the Hebrew word "Tukki" which means large or big bird.

The Turkey Work Stitch »

The Herringbone Stitch »

Shell(fish) of various types were part of the celebration. Let’s add them to our "menu".

The Shell Stitch »


Our cornucopia will have a variety of leafy vegetables and something the colonist called wild rice.

First let’s explore our leaf stitches, which are very versatile.

The Leaf Stitch »

Next we have the wild rice. According to the International Wild Rice Association "Wild Rice is (not really a rice, but) an aquatic cereal grain that grows ‘wild’ in isolated lake and river bed areas located primarily within the continent of North America. This evolutionarily ancient grain has been found in layers of the earth dating back some 12,000 years." (reference link)

Just like the rice recipes we have today, the Rice stitch has many variations.

The Rice Stitch »


The Colonists had corn and wheat flour available to them for their baked goods. We use Indian corn today as decoration primarily because it is a very hard corn, taking a long time for preparation. The Indians at the First Thanksgiving were from the Wampanoag tribe.

The next two stitches are very similar in construction.

The Wheat Stitch »

The Corn Field Stitch »


Pumpkin pie would not have been on the First Thanksgiving menu, but pumpkin soup was a staple on many tables throughout the year. A pumpkin is a member of the squash family, so does that make it a fruit or a vegetable? It is a fruit, which is defined as being a seed or containing seeds. Therefore, nuts, peas, tomatoes, and even beans are really fruits. Vegetables are plants that don’t have seeds. They include leaves, such as cabbage or lettuce; roots, like carrots; bulbs, like onions; and tubers such as potatoes.

Not many sweets would have been present at that first meal. One reason is because sugar and flour were expensive and hard to come by. One possible dessert was a Betty which was a baked pudding where the fruit was layered with bread crumbs. A Cobbler was another probable offering where the fruit is put in a pot and biscuit dough was dropped on top then baked. Both of these desserts were baked probably in a Dutch oven.

We will finish with the Double Dutch stitch.

The Double Dutch Stitch »

Hopefully you enjoyed this Thanksgiving Day twist. There is so much you can learn about that first Thanksgiving and about Canvaswork, with hundreds of stitches and variations. Check out these fun resources to learn more on either topic.

Many resources were used to compile the stitches and information in this article including:

History Channel has a lot to say about Thanksgiving at their website.
Visit Brownielocks and the Three Bears website to take a Thanksgiving Trivia quiz.

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was published by Nordic Needle in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their newsletter, visit”

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