Deerfield embroidery was a style that developed in colonial New England, specifically the town of Deerfield and the surrounding area. It was a form of crewelwork using wool on linen, and the designs were stylized flowers and leaves, often shared with neighbors.
In the late 19th century, the town became interested in its own history, including the arts and crafts of the colonial era, and two women -- Ellen Miller and Margaret Whiting -- founded the Deerfield Society of Blue and White Needlework. Its purpose was to document and preserve all embroidered works and patterns that they could, and also replicate the designs for their own use or for sale. Wool threads were harder to get at that time, so they used instead linen threads (of a much better quality than we can get today) but stuck to the mostly blue and white palette. Miller and Whiting were accomplished embroiderers who expected the best from their stitchers, and for several decades this artistic community thrived.
With the Bicentennial fever of the 1970s came a renewed interest in all things colonial, and in 1976 Margery Burnham Howe published this book documenting this history of Deerfield and the Society and devoting a good chunk of it to patterns, stitches, and stitch guides. It's a wonderful resource.
So why am I interested in it? I grew up in western Massachusetts, and went to a private school right in Old Deerfield. We often visited the local museums and restored houses, and of course being little kids we were especially fascinated by the Deerfield Massacre. The first style of embroidery I learned was crewelwork, in a class at my school (every trimester we picked a Friday elective). All this to say, this book made me quite nostalgic.
I intend to buy my own copy (I got this one from the library) so I can stitch several of the patterns; Polly's Parrot in particular is calling to me. In the meantime, I stitched a badge with the logo of the Society, a flax wheel:
I don't actually like blue, so I picked the purpliest blues I had from my stash of crewel wool. The D is in satin stitch and the rest is in New England laidwork, aka Roumanian stitch. Several of the stitches were known by different names then, including buttonhole which was called the spike stitch. The Deerfield embroiderers also invented their own stitch, a variation of herringbone; I hope to learn and use that in the next project.
This book is well-worth adding to your stitch library.