Samplers: education AND art

Discussion in 'Education' started by Yeates, Jul 23, 2013.

  1. Yeates

    Yeates Active Member

    Offline
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    194
    Location:
    Wisconsin, USA
    sampler2DSC_0292.JPG Our family has two heirloom samplers. One adorns on my living-room wall; the other “lives” at the home of a cousin. Samplers speak as much as a photograph. Hours of a life went into these textiles. Ancestors’ hands held this cloth, manipulated the needle, decided on colors and what fanciful rendering of objects to use. The proverb or stanza used points to their life values. Pride is indicated by the triumphant embroidered name, age, and date. In the case of one sampler, the signatures were of both my distant cousin and her mother, my distant aunt---started by my aunt as a girl (dated 1837), to be finished by her daughter (dated 1864).

    I like the banner of random photos coursing the Top Dog home page. Once a sampler photo appeared, and I clicked on it. As interesting as the sampler (I have Daft Cat’s permission to guide you to: User Albums—Daft Bat’s Album---Smith on pg 3 of Albums), was the preceding image. I studied the sampler sewn by 10-yr-old Ann Mascal. Then I studied Ann’s photo at age 73. Her hands (that fussed over the sampler 63 years earlier) are large, one resting (lightly clenched) in her lap, the other gripping the chair (maybe body-language saying “I can’t wait until this ordeal is over.”) The smallest smile on her face softens the tension of posing.

    Whether interested in samplers as genealogical records, historic textiles, or works of art, I highly recommend a privately-funded web site. It is FREE but requires registration (I have been registered for two years without any problems of undesirable Internet imps). This site is an exhibit of many, many samplers. It is interesting that each sampler has been traced to include as much of the genealogy of the needleworker as possible. The home page even features a sampler designed as a genealogical record. The site can be searched by country (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, USA) or by time period. Examples range from the quaint and naïve to the supremely beautiful, almost uncanny in their detail and skill. I used this site for ideas of color and design elements when rendering a pattern off a photo of the sampler my cousin has.
    http://www.
    antiquesamplers.org/

    My sampler is a band sampler common in the 19th century (mine is dated 1798) as an educational tool for the young needleworker. It was long and narrow, usually, as is evident in the thumbnail photo I’ve attached. In mine, the educational aspect is obvious as letters of the alphabet are repeated before Eliza was allowed to go on to the next. As the number of times a letter was repeated differs, I speculate her mother or teacher had to approve each before she was allowed to continue. The entire alphabet is repeated several times varying the type of stitch used and the size of the letters. My Eliza was 8 years old when she embroidered her name at the bottom. Fortunately, this sampler is early enough to have been linen instead of wool----saved from moth damage (a great problem with later samplers worked on wool.) Young girls, especially if destined for service, needed to know how to embroider household linens.

    I have glued an envelope onto the paper-back of the frame containing a letter to whoever inherits the sampler. I’ve included a copy of the original note from my great aunt delineating the family tree down to this distant cousin. I’ve included how it was presented to me and how my father took it to a museum for restoration. I’ve included care instructions cautioning subsequent owners to NEVER fold it as the linen fibers could break. Only roll a textile on an unbleached-muslin-covered cardboard roll. Cleaning or restoration work must only be accomplished by a professional as recommended by a historical society or museum. NEVER expose it to undue ultraviolet light; NEVER hang it by the fibers themselves as gravity will tear or damage the fibers. If it is ever appraised, I will include that documentation.

    The sampler in my cousin’s family (and which I have made a pattern from onto graph paper) is a spot sampler. It includes an alphabet but its focus is scattered designs of animals, flowers, vases, geometrics, and people. Copyright law was not yet influencing what could and could not be copied from books, other textiles, artwork, and atlases. This spot sampler, started in 1837, most likely commemorating the young Queen Victoria, has what appears to be a shepherdess. It must have been the only figure the young needleworker found to represent Victoria. Next to her is a crown; and she holds a shepherd’s crook, which the child either thought symbolic or simply did not know to leave off. Prince Albert also appears---much shorter than Victoria (representing different status?) also with a crook. It is charming and not without humour, although maybe that is patronizing to these young needle artists.

    My cousin’s spot sampler is missing the “J” in the alphabet. I have been able to find several reasons for this. One points to the fact the ‘j’ and the ‘u’ are the most recent additions to our alphabet and this could have been reflected in 18th century samplers. Most likely is the tradition that an intentional mistake is made to exaggerate the idea that no one, not even a little-girl needleworker, is perfect.

    Daft Bat’s sampler seems to be a combination of the band and the spot sampler. It starts out with the alphabet in bands at the top half, but the bottom half has randomly place images.

    Please check out the sampler web site (one of those gems we occasionally stumble across on the Internet) as well as Daft Bat’s Smith album. Meanwhile, I slowly ruin my eyes (even though I don welder’s magnifying headgear) as I enter the 2nd year of embroidering the sampler I copied from my cousin’s spot sampler---and, yes, I resist fixing the mistakes of these learner embroiderer’s---Victoria will still carry her crook. The only thing I have done differently (simply couldn’t let myself do this) is carry the thread in the back as it shows through. My young ancestor needleworkers had large strands of thread showing through joining one element to another. Not perfectionists, these particular embroiderers. Oh….one last thing….I got important color clues from the faded threads by looking at the back of the sampler. The back threads, protected all these years from the sun, were often still more vibrant and accurate than those on the front. It is a goal of mine to be embroidering by name and the date by the end of this year.---Yeates
     
  2. Londoner

    Londoner Will always roll up her sleeves and dig around

    Offline
    Messages:
    649
    Likes Received:
    2,571
    Location:
    Cornwall
    I was contacted by a sampler enthusiast who had spotted one on a sale site that matched a name in my tree. Not a close relative so I didn't splash out but I was able to add the image to that persons profile.
    Its great to know that such enthusiasm and creativity still exist.
     
    Yeates likes this.
  3. gillyflower

    gillyflower Always caring about others

    Offline
    Messages:
    873
    Likes Received:
    2,020
    Location:
    Lincoln, Lincolnshire England
    Samplers are so wonderful. When you think of all the work - usually done by a young person [who happened to be so much better than I can ever be at sewing] I am full of admiration. Thanks for the link.
     
    Yeates likes this.
  4. Yeates

    Yeates Active Member

    Offline
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    194
    Location:
    Wisconsin, USA
    Having the image is great. Were you able to get a close look at it to judge the workmanship? I know the market for these textiles is 'through the roof' for the better ones as the designers like to get there hands on them.
    Right-on for enthusiasm, but I wonder about the eyesight of those children who worked on these so long ago. To duplicate the sample my cousin has, the stitches are so small (can't remember the threadcount now, but it is ridiculous...) I can't work on it without magnification; must have natural sunlight; and limit sessions for only 1 hour at a time.---Yeates
     
  5. Yeates

    Yeates Active Member

    Offline
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    194
    Location:
    Wisconsin, USA
    If you have a chance to check that web site you will be amazed at some of the work---how would such stitching even be possible by anyone, any age?---Yeates
     
  6. Londoner

    Londoner Will always roll up her sleeves and dig around

    Offline
    Messages:
    649
    Likes Received:
    2,571
    Location:
    Cornwall
    I had the same thought when looking at some fine lace and embroidery on display in a stately home a while back. How many hours did it take and how did they get the stitches so small. Recently I cam across part of the explanation in an inherited work box; needles so fine and short my clumsy fingers cant even hold them for long let alone thread them!
     
    Yeates and Ma-dotcom like this.
  7. Ma-dotcom

    Ma-dotcom A Bonza Little Digger!

    Online
    Messages:
    6,168
    Likes Received:
    15,717
    Location:
    South Australia
    Also what type of light were they working under?
     
    Yeates likes this.
  8. Yeates

    Yeates Active Member

    Offline
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    194
    Location:
    Wisconsin, USA
    You know, I hadn't considered the needles. This led to spending some time this morning (the dishes can wait, right?) on the Internet. I found a fascinating archive.org item History and description of needle making from 1862 complete with of-the-times advertisements. That lead me to finding the Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch---maybe I can convince my husband that we add this to our trip itinerary next year. Then, there was the sewing blog bemoaning the fact (it was a blog; hopefully their search has not been thorough enough...) that while packs of needles claim to be English, they do not actually say anymore "Made in England", and that needle-making is another outsourced item.
    Thanks, Londoner, for opening up this tangent for me.---Yeates
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice