Monday 5 July 2010

What Samplers Mean

I think we are all accustomed now to hearing that samplers were a means of controlling possibly wayward young girls and keeping them 'tidy' until their wedding day, of inculcating obedience and patience. And we know that works because we are all obedient and patient, aren't we?
And then, maybe there's another side. This ceramic pattern designed and sold by the famous Royal Doulton Company was called The Sampler - for obvious reasons - it is decorated with an idyllic country cottage (funny, I've just realised it looks a lot like home) surrounded by field  with cow and suckling calf and those distinctive, beautiful trees and a border of cross stitch ornament, all in honeyed tones. And the year it was launched? 1919. It does not seem at all astonishing that after the realisation of the mind-numbing  numbers of those killed, maimed, blinded in The Great War and perhaps the stories of what the front-line was really like, that there was a mass retreat into all the memory could conjure as safe, homely, secure, comforting, normal, sane, ordered, civilised, desired.... and to illustrate this: the one iconic image of The Sampler. Is that why young women, following the conclusion of the English Civil War in 1649, were enjoined to put down their pikes and take up their needles? Was a woman at her needlework perceived to be the cornerstone of sanity for society? If a woman or girl could sit stitching, did that mean the world was back to rights?And here you can see a memorial tapestry sampler from the same year worked by MM and dedicated to wounded embroiderers (and is this different to the embroidering wounded working with Louisa Pesel we have come across before?). This work is for sale by auction from Golding Young & Co. at The Grantham Auction Rooms on 7 July.

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  1. The sampler plate is darling. It makes me wonder-- Has anyone ever seen a round sampler on fabric? The closest I've seen are pieces meant to make the cover of a round or octagonal box, but I don't believe I've ever seen one meant for a round or oval wall frame.

  2. i've seen maps in oval frames, but i have not seen a round sampler. i would think it would be a bit harder to stitch, but could be fun to try. another one to put on my to do list!!