New Year, New Project...or should that be old?

Crowns and Flowers Sampler - probably English and from the early nineteenth century

I've always loved classical history and art but missed the chance to study Latin at school. So I saved up and a few years ago, I embarked on an Open University degree. Seven years later, I proudly marched across the stage of Birmingham's Symphony Hall in sparkly shoes and a flowing navy gown, graduating with first-class honours in BA (Hons) Humanities with Classical Studies (including a smattering of Renaissance art history!)

It wasn't my first degree (a blog for another time) but juggling part-time study with a very demanding full-time job was certainly one of the hardest and most rewarding things I've done.

My wonderful parents decided my achievement should be celebrated with something special, and tracked down the most beautiful antique sampler. The talented stitcher hadn't signed or dated her work, but the style and motifs are similar to other English samplers from the early nineteenth century. The dusky pinks, olive-browns and blue-green colours and colour and texture of linen are also similar to other samplers from the same period. For example 12 year old Grace Hastwell finished this sampler in 1837:

  Sampler stitched by Grace Hastwell and dated 1837         Detail of sampler stitched by Grace Hastwell and dated 1837         Detail of sampler stitched by Grace Hastwell and dated 1837

(Photographs: author's own - with thanks to Compton Verney Art Gallery, Warwickshire)

The flowers, pots and border are similar in style, and although the colours are more faded than my sampler, look closely between the threads and you can see similar pinks, greens and olive-browns.

Emily Catchpole's 1824 sampler (from the Fitzwilliam Museum collection in Cambridge) and Jane Gee's 1827 sampler (from the Goodhart Sampler collection) are just two other examples. There are many more!

So I've tentatively dated this to the early nineteenth century but would love to hear other ideas! Please drop me a line in the comments box and let me know what you think.

The Reproduction

I've now charted this delicate cross stitch flower garden so everyone can have a piece of springtime on their wall! There are many little motifs from the attentive dogs and hungry birds to the dainty crowns and blowsy carnations - just one or two would decorate a birthday card, pincushion or needle-case.

The closest fabric match to the original is 36ct Zweigart linen in Cream (it looks lighter in the pictures because of my choice of mount and frame). This will give you a sampler that measures 12 inches by 11 inches, if stitched over two linen threads. Of course you could stitch it on any other size and colour - it would look very striking on dark green! You could use aida for this piece as it is almost all full cross stitches (there are two three-quarter stitches which could be full if preferred). I'm currently stitching a tiny version on 36ct Zweigart linen in Cream over one thread instead of two because I'm running out of wall space...

I've recommended DMC six-stranded cotton together with DMC Light Effects and DMC Cotton Perle No.5. You won't need much of the DMC Light Effects or the DMC Cotton Perle so you could swap these for something you already have in your stash. Some of the original crowns were stitched with gold thread and there are a few stitches where a heavier weight thread similar to DMC Cotton Perle surrounds two hearts, and I decided to keep as close to the original as possible. You could swap the DMC cotton for silk - I like the feel and colour range of Au Ver du Soie but there are many beautiful silks available.

The pack for the Crowns and Flowers Sampler costs £11.95 and includes the charts, stitch diagrams and instructions, together with close-up shots of the original sampler. Click here for details...

References and further reading:

Beck, T., The Embroiderer's Story: Needlework from the Renaissance to the Present Day, David and Charles, Newton Abbott (1999)

Beck, T., Gardening with Silk and Gold: A History of Gardens in Embroidery, David and Charles, Newton Abbott (1997)

Humphrey, C., Sampled Lives: Samplers from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum Enterprises Ltd, Cambridge (2017)

Phelan, D.B., Hansson, E-L. and Holdsworth, J., The Goodhart Samplers, Needleprint (2008).

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