Sarah Willson 1837

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19th Century English Samplers
Origin and date: English 1837
Rated: Intermediate
Linen count and finished size: 35 or 40 count (please specify!) 24-3/4″x28″ or 21-1/2″x24-1/2″
Stitches: cross and backstitch
Source: private collection

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SKU: samp-208 Category: Tags: ,


An English sampler from a private collection. This singular sampler contains so many of the motifs and designs that one always associates with traditional schoolgirl needlework, from the fairly typical (but in this case quite elaborate) four-sided carnation and rose border, to the pious verse, and oddly outsized figures and animals in the lower scene. What is most curious about it are the two roughly dressed female figures towering over the house and trees in the lower scene, brandishing brooms. We have seen at least two other nineteenth century English samplers portraying similar human figures, and on one example, formerly in the collection of The Scarlet Letter, the figures’ mouths issued minutely stitched words, looking rather like bubbles from a comic book character’s mouth, saying “BUY A BROOM.” These are obviously working class women- peddlers- wearing coarse jackets, heavy stockings, thick skirts and rough caps covering their hair. But why do they appear on such an elaborate and finely worked sampler, the product of an upper middle class young lady’s education? It’s another one of those needlework mysteries that requires further research. Stitches used in this sampler are all counted thread stitches, mostly cross, with some counted satin filling, and a little backstitch. Because of its size, the project is recommended for intermediate level needleworkers, although it is not technically difficult to work.


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