Saturday, 21 October 2017

My sampler

A week ago I shared a post on Facebook.  It was about samplers held in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.  It was seen by lots of people on my Reensstitcher Facebook page and made me realise that I have a sampler I made which I should also share.  So here is a post about it.

In my last year at school I studied four subjects whereas some of my friends studied five.  (The education system in New Zealand is different from the UK).  This meant I had some spare time which had to be filled.  The headmistress suggested that I 'did' embroidery with the art teacher.  This was the best thing the headmistress ever did for me as it gave me a lifelong love of embroidery and started me on years of doing it myself.

What I did not know when I started was that the art teacher had taken City and Guilds Embroidery.  She still had all her notes which she shared with me.  She told me to make a sampler although I have to confess I never finished it because my academic work became m ore time-consuming as the year went on.  She made me design each piece of it myself so that was the beginning of my education in design.  I made the sampler on even weave fabric but I am not certain if it was linen or not. Somehow this sampler has survived for fifty years.  It came through our house fire because it was in the blanket box  in my bedroom.  The room was undamaged

As you can see there are still some tacking threads in it.

 I began with samples of stitches which I think I thought was all you usually did.

Later I moved on to examples of different techniques.  I think this was probably how I learnt about counted thread work, which I did a lot of in later years, as well as techniques such as Jacobean work (which I did not enjoy).

 Along the way I learnt about the history of each of these forms of embroidery. I already knew about Assisi work but Blackwork was new to me and I really enjoyed it.

I always had something 'on the go' but you need to remember that there was no television in New Zealand in my childhood.

One result of this study was that when I reached London several years later, I used to go to the Victoria and Albert museum to look at the embroideries.  I can remember asking to see some of the work they held as much of it was not on open display.  I also realised I 'understood' the textile work I saw in museums. There was. a museum in Sarajevo with a great collection of Balkans embroidery which we visited on our honeymoon.  I felt very sad when I realised it had been destroyed in the Balkan wars.  I was also inspired by these museums to make articles based on what I had seen there.  After Sarajevo I made a tablecloth with counted thread Balkan designs on evenweave linen.  I still have it although we have not used it for years.  Around 1970 I liked going to the needlework shop in Regent Street in London where I used to buy fabric and threads.  In fact I recently gave away an incomplete tablecloth based on a book I bought there and using their fabric.  Unfortunately I chose a finer count of thread than the one in the book so it took forever.  In the end, having stopped wandering around Europe, I put it away and never finished it.  So we all have UFOs.

The work I did in that year at school led to my making lots of birthday and Christmas presents for people in my youth.  There was the set of tablemats I made for a school friend's wedding present.  I had a holiday job in an office at a psychiatric hospital at the time and was very under-worked so I made them quite quickly while keeping them sort of hidden under my desk.  There were guest towels in the days when these were made of linen, not towelling.  And I even embroidered some of my clothes when I was a student.  I do not have any photographs but I remember drawn thread work on what we called a 'choirboy' blouse.  It was one way of having distinctive clothing at minimal cost.  Of course, these days people do not have time for interests such as this as there is so much else for us to do with our time.