Last year I was spoiled! My friend’s mother moved back to Calgary and while going through her household she rediscovered some samplers she had purchased at the Kempton Market while living in England. Now she is the Mom that every group of friends needs. She’s the most generous, loving and thoughtful person; also has an amazing eye for design. Because I’m slightly crazy at the moment buried beneath a list of cross stitch and needlepoint projects she gifted me her samplers.
I previously wrote about the history of samplers and how I find them to be an interesting window into a community. Owning a sampler offers the unique ability begin a collection of historical significant for a fraction of what an original painting or sculpture could run you.
While you may start like I did with some basic alphabet samplers think about kind of collection you want. Would you like to bring one home regardless of design if you picked it up on your travels? Should you collect from a particular region or choose by design motifs? Choosing a specific collection focus will have the aftereffect of keeping you in budget as you won’t feel tempted to purchase every sampler you come across.
Begin looking at estate sales, auctions and antique shops while traveling or begin to investigate your own local antique stores. Your local shops will have the added benefit of potential unique gift ideas as well. It’s difficult for me to antique and not find the perfect piece of memorabilia to shadow box for a friend’s birthday or the holidays. Don’t forget to partner with your local historical society should you find an sampler dating around the time your city/state/province was founded. It’s possible they would have documents or history relating to the stitcher.
Once you have purchased a new sampler remember you have two enemies to your budding collection. Acid and light! Begin by removing any framing. Cut a piece of muslin or linen 4-6 inches larger then your sampler, center your sampler and long stitch in place. Take a matting board, specifically acid free, and glue or tape your muslin or linen to the back. You can reframe using the original frame or modernize the look to your gallery wall. You may encounter devotees that believe a sampler must be framed in the same style as it was stitched. I’m of the belief that it’s your personal choosing and simply safeguard the piece for another generation. Should you need to wash the sampler. Contemplate this over a cup of strong black tea because you’re about to increase the risk of accidentally damaging the piece. Should you decide to proceed watch the beginning of Titanic because you’re about the copy how they washed Jack’s drawing of Rose. Large tub, room temperature water, no detergent and keep the piece flat in the tub and lay flat to dry. Ironing may only occur if you use the damp cloth trick. If you don’t know this trick then Google it or call your mother and/or best friend. I called my friend.
Remember your investing in a piece that has potentially seen more history then yourself; you’re safeguarding. Have fun investigating it’s back story and message me with any amazing American folk art finds!
*Remember to read my history on American Samplers: