This was the first sampler stitched as a student at The Royal School of Needlework in 1951.
At 17 years plus a few days old, it was one huge undertaking to travel in and out of London each day and actually spend my time doing something that was both interesting and demanding. (Believe me, it was joy after attending what was a prestigious and appalling school.) My eyes were good and I was in ‘the smaller the better stitches’ phase in my life. As such, I now need a magnifying glass to identify some of these stitches.
This is particularly true of some of those in the darkest of the wool threads. There are some interesting Trellis Filling stitches but you can take a closer look at some of the details.
These samplers were mounted on masonite this being the only mounting board available at the time No one knew or understood anything about acidity and the conservation of fabrics and threads. On taking these samplers apart for acid-free remounting, I found that the fabric that wrapped across the cut edges of the masonite to be more discoloured than the main part. The white sheeting wrapping the board and underneath the sampler was brown as if plunged into tobacco smoke though no one in this house has smoked near them. In fact they have been behind glass for protection for many years.
The new mounting on acid free board covered with clean and freshly laundered white cotton underlay has been a huge amount of work. But I reckoned that if I did not do this, no one else would and that in another 50 years the condition of the fabric could be terrible. The threads have generally survived well though there was some minimal damage from moths that I was able to repair.
As you can see, there was not a lot of fabric available outside the design lines. After it came off the slate framed on which it was stitched, it was blocked. We used carpet tacks for this and you can see the holes and rust caused by this. I think that it would be almost impossible for a sampler such as this to exist without incurring damage from blocking, mounting and framing. It is sad to see this as I do remember, and remember well, what the samplers were like when pristinely new and not been ‘processed for presentation’.
I hope you are enjoying and are interested in these Real Glimpses from the Past. Not too many stitchers from that era are still alive and I want to pass the views as well as the experience on before it is lost.
The next sampler to go online will be our second one. I am planning to include the directions on how to create immaculate Padded Satin Stitch. Like most of these techniques, it is not difficult once you know how.
Happy New Year.