Cynthia Cotten, Virginia Childrens Author, fiction and poetry

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cover art copyright 2006, Beth Peck

Abbie in Stitches is a picture book about an early 19th century girl who is stitching her first needlework sampler and hating every bit of it--she would rather have books than needles and threads.

Background: Cynthia Cotten learned to stitch when she was a teenager. Unlike Abbie, she enjoys stitching. Like Abbie, though, she loves books much more.

(Reading and Language):

Vocabulary: Define words you might not be familiar with, such as border, bunched, coarse, complicated, and homespun. Come up with synonyms and read them in the sentences they appear in. Why did the author choose the words she did instead of the synonyms?

Wh- word questions: Talk about wh- words: who, what, when, where, why. "Who" questions are answered by people; "why" questions are reasons, etc. Come up with wh- questions related to the story.

Find excerpts from Gulliver's Travels and stories by Washington Irving. Contrast to what you like to read.

Are there other books about this time period that you like? Tell the class about it and why you like it.

Writing Activities:

Imagine the story is fact. Write a newspaper article telling about it.

Write a paragraph or a story about a time when you had to do something you didn't want to do and how you handled it.

Write a journal entry as if you were Abbie.


Find out where linen comes from.

Find out how silk thread is made. How about other kinds of thread, such as cotton or wool?

Find out what was used to make dyes in Abbie's time. How were cloth and thread dyed?

Critical Thinking:

Abbie's mother was worried about what other people might think of what Abbie's sampler said. What are some examples of what they might have said?

Find example of sayings on old samplers. Why do you think they're so serious in what they say?

Social Studies/Economics:

Research the time period (early 1820s).

What was going on historically at this time?

Compare and contrast school then with school today. What were schools like then? How long was the school year? What subjects were studied?

The needles and scissors Abbie's parents gave her and her sister came all the way from London. Find out why. How much did they cost? How does that compare with what they cost today?


Find pictures of samplers in books or online.

Make a sampler of your own. Make it look like an old one, or make it contemporary for today. Use graph paper and colored pencils or markers, or do it on a computer.

Bulletin Board Ideas:

Display some student samplers.


How are the events in Abbie in Stitches similar to your own life? To people you know? How are they different?

Does Abbie remind you of anyone? Who? Why?

Do you think the conflict in the story is realistic for that time period? Why? What kind of conflict might you have with a parent or a teacher today?

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