Questions & Answers
While we cannot and will not do any appraisals, we are always happy to comment on your personal samplers. Submit a question by using the form on our Contact Us page. Please feel free to send a digital picture directly to email@example.com.
Hello, I happened upon your site via a sampler link on Pinterest. However I noticed you don't allow pinning of the samplers featured here and that is understood but I was wondering if you would allow pinning of your homepage so that we can share a link to this wonderful site. I have a Pinterest Board titled, "Fav' Sites" and I would like to add you to it. If not, I fully understand. I thought I would ask anyway. :o) Thank you so much!A.
Thank you so much for asking - we really appreciate it! With the way Pinterest works, we aren't sure if our site will "pin" since we have blocked the images. You are welcome to try it. We struggle with Pinterest because the images are so prolific and often copied, trodding the heck out of all types of ownership and copyright legalities. We walk a fine line between sharing the collection while protecting the integrity of the individual pieces.
I found a 'sampler' at Thrift store its a small 4x6 possibly in frame? wondering if i should take it out of frame to see if theres possibly anyother markings its a cabin with two pine trees dated 1789A.
By all means take it out of the frame and check it out. We often take pictures of the various accessories that accompany our pieces - handwritten notes or newspapers stuffed into frame are a great source of amusement.
I have a sampler done by my great great grandmother in 1837. The quote is faded to barely readable. We know what it is because it was written down. Can the color be restored for future generations to enjoy? If it can, does it decrease the value if the sampler. Is there a way to determine if the sampler will hold together if it is taken out of the frame? I have been told it may disintegrate. Thank you!A.
Fading of thread colour is one of the biggest issues of older samplers as so many were exposed to direct sunlight through poor quality (if any) glass. Restoring the colour will damage the integrity of the work and therefore the value, so it is not recommended. If the linen is very fine, almost gauze-like, there is a good chance it will disintegrate if unframed. Worse, it could stick to the glass if it was flush-mounted and then you have a mess on your hands and no more sampler. Document the verse, as well as the pertinent family history, and mount that information in a clear sleeve to the back of the frame.
Do you know of any accounts (e.g. diaries, letters) written by girls while they were making samplers, in which they discuss their work? Are there any extant writings by their teachers? Also, are there any novels which mention samplers? I'm referring to sampler-makers from prior centuries,17th, 18th and 19th.) Thank you! Much appreciated.A.
We know of two: - The Complete Marjory Fleming, Her Journals, Letters, and Verses transcribed and edited by Frank Sidgwick, published in 1934. A Scottish girl who died at aged 9, born in 1803. A good perspective on the life a young Scottish girl. - The Memoirs of Susan Sibbald 1783-1812 edit by her great-grandson Francis Paget Hett. Covering only the first 29 years of the writers life, Susan lived until 1866. Originally published in 1926 by John Lane, The Bodley Head. Kessinger Publishing has a reprint available (ISBN 1436676967 www.kessinger.net)
I am trying to figure out what this sampler verses says/is. Some of the words are very worn. Can you tell me what the missing words are? The sampler is with another family member and the photos they are giving are not very good. "Patience will wipe away the streaming thay; and hope will paine the pallid cheek of fear; Content will (?) happiness supply; and (wittlie?) call a blessing from on? high" The sampler was made in 1839 and is American.A.
We are often asked how we do our research, and truly, we are not rocket scientists. We usually start with a simple internet search of a portion of the verse (placed in quotes). This verse pops up as: "PATIENCE will wipe away the streaming tear, And hope will paint the pallid cheek of fear, Content will always happiness supply, And virtue calls a blessing from on high". While we cannot attribute the author as of yet, the source was MISCELLANIES, MORAL and INSTRUCTIVE, in PROSE and VERSE COLLECTED FROM VARIOUS AUTHORS FOR THE USE of SCHOOLS AND IMPROVEMENT OF YOUNG PERSONS of both SEXES printed in both London and Philadelphia. The reprint we found was from the 1830's.
How rare are samplers from the New York Female Association Schools? Betty Ring mentions that at the time, there were only about a dozen known examples. Still true? Are they more rare than Nine Partners Boarding School examples?A.
We consulted with an authority, and the answer is "Very rare, although probably 15 - 18 might be known now. Yes, they are more rare than Nine Partners.
When I was on vacation at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, I saw a presentation that gave a great deal of information about sampler making. They said that samplers were made so that the back was the mirror image of the front. Do you notice this in your samplers, or was this only done under a teacher?A.
This question took some research! Fully reversible samplers were primarily done in the 16th and 17th centuries, and are not at all common in America. There are only a few embroidery stitches which lend themselves to being exactly the same on both sides of the fabric -- cross and double running being the most common. Perhaps the lecture addressed specific samplers, rather than samplers from Williamsburg as a whole. We have no official and fully reversible samplers within our 700+ collection and would refer you to the sampler by Loara Standish dated 1650 in the collection of the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which is pictured in Betty Ring'sGirlhood Embroidery Vol. 1, plate 27.
Is it common to find the queen stitch strawberries as seen in Sarah Hutchinson's sampler from the mid-18th century to the 1780s? Are they commonly seen from the southern states? This must seem like an odd question, but I'm very interested in sampler motifs, and this is the only sampler I've seen made before 1827 with queen stitch strawberries.A.
We checked with one of our favorite experts on this subject! Queen's stitch strawberries certainly do appear on other American samplers from the 18th century and many from the first decades of the 19th century, probably mostly from the mid Atlantic states. Probably mostly from Pennsylvania. Definitely not predominantly from the South. They were certainly used by teachers in the Susquehanna Valley (see Betty Ring's Girlhood Embroidery Vol II, pages 410 - to 423 for samplers made between 1797 and 1838 with strawberries in the borders).
What kind of characteristics in a sampler do you look for when deciding if it is of Scottish origin?A.
No single element alone will suffice, you must have a combination of certain features. First and foremost is the use of familial initials. In combination with the knowledge that Scottish woman kept their maiden surnames after marriage, the initials make the needleworker that much more easy to identify through genealogical research. (And, no pun intended, thank God for The Church of Scotland, whose parish records are quite detailed!) Font styles are another good indicator of Scottish origin -- there are filigreed style alphabets and ones with the decorative bars above the capital "A" that are prevalent in the port towns (although not unique to Scotland). You want to be able to find certain motifs: thistles, certain styles of peacocks, certain styles of buildings (i.e. the pedimented house). There is also a folksy quality to the motifs that is consistent throughout Scottish samplers. Colors: look for lots of red, green, sometimes black. Thread - you do find more wool in Scottish samplers than in other areas but this alone is not a good indicator.
"Pictures of some samplers are available for the private, limited, non-commercial use of members upon request and approval of Gold Level membership." What exactly does 'limited, non-commercial' use mean? : ) Can I stitch a portion of or an entire sampler from the photo to hang on my own wall?A.
The brief and quick answer to the last question is, No, please, not without permission. While elements of our samplers are common and are not limited to just our pieces, we still own the pieces displayed on this website and therefore the right to decide who can "copy", which is what we mean by commercial (for profit) or non-commercial (not for profit). Patterns to some are available through the Essamplaire. Please send an email to us about a specific sampler you are interested in reproducing.
Are American samplers more valuable than European samplers?A.
Not necessarily, but a combination of many things will influence price. In addition to all the things we said in an earlier question about evaluating sampler we would like to add several points, in no particular order. (1) there were many more European schoolgirls and they made many more samplers so they are more common. Specifically, English samplers can tend to be more formulaic and evidence less individualism or "follkiness" which is a quality that many collectors value highly in a sampler. (2) American collectors of many different things (furniture, silver, glass, paintings) do have a preference for things made in the U.S. (national chauvinism?). The fact that American makers can often be identified and traced is of fascination to many as this is so rarely able to be done with antiques of any sort, and American samplers tend be more regionally identifiable and therefore can be grouped and tracked (thanks to scholars like Betty Ring and many others) and this has made them more interesting.
I have a sampler dated 1806 which is probably from Europe. It is missing the letter "J" in its two stitched alphabets. I was told by an antique dealer that it is missing because people were not allowed to print "J" because it stood for Jesus. Is this true? I have noticed online that there are several samplers that are missing the "J".A.
We think the "J" for Jesus is an urban legend but who knows for sure. The "J" was the final letter added to the Latin alphabet in the Middle Ages. Visit Wikipedia for more information.
I have a sampler dated 1876, done by a girl living in Bampton, England, who did this sampler in school. I have actually found the girl who did it, she emigrated to us 1905 or so. How do I get a value on this?A.
We are getting numerous questions about valuing samplers and have decided it would be good to cover some pointers to help. Valuing a sampler can be tricky. A very valuable sampler can come up at an auction that is attended by few people and so it sells for a very low price. On the other side a mediocre sampler could be up at a very well attended auction and go for a high price. Auction prices are therefore not always reliable for values for samplers. If you know and trust a dealer you can ask them if they would be willing to give you an estimated value. A good specialized dealer is often a valuable resource and is willing to teach and help. They have much more at stake than an auction house as they will continue to sell samplers and want to have long term relationships with collectors. Many samplers with real problems will end up at an auction, waiting for an inexperienced collector. All of that said, here are some things to consider that can affect the value of a sampler: (1.) Condition is the most important consideration. Remember that if you fall in love with a sampler in terrible condition and pay dearly for it you are not likely to get that money back if you decide to sell the sampler. Conditions that diminish the value of a sampler are thread loss, color loss, ground fabric damage, stains or discoloration and more. Never buy a sampler that has been re-stitched or has had color added to enhance it. (2.) 1845 is an arbitrary cut off date. Most collectors seem to be interested in samplers earlier then this. 18th century samplers will generally be more valuable than 19th century ones. (3.) In general the more pictorial a sampler is, the greater the value: houses, animals, people, flowers , lawns, etc. (4.) Higher quality workmanship (workwomanship??) will always add to the value (5.) While English samplers are more often of better workmanship then American ones the American ones seem to fetch higher prices. (6.) Scholarly identification of the maker (not just smoke and mirror guessing) will always add to the value. Any family materials or personal things from the maker add to the value as well. Look for these things as pluses to the valuation: (1.) The maker's name. (2.) Parent's names and/or initials. (3.) Date (4.) Age of the maker (helps when combined with the date to locate the maker's genealogy). (5.) A place name or a school name which can also help with the genealogy. (6.) Other things such as real buildings, real places and current events (such as Tom Thumb on our Catherine Lydgit sampler). (7.) Another feature that can increase the value is finding another sampler or samplers that match making it part of a group of samplers or a family unit.
What is a teaching sampler? If I have an 18th century American one, how can it be authenticated?A.
We use "teaching sampler" to indicate a piece probably taught at a school. In discussing American samplers, Betty Ring says (pages 16 & 18)..." that it was not unusual for a girl to work two samplers at a dame school between the ages of five and nine. Basic marking samplers would be considered "plain work," and she would definitely be learning practical stitchery. If her education continued, and her parents could afford the fees for accomplishments, she would then undertake fancy embroidery....While there is no question that the majority of samplers were made at schools, kept by women prepared to teach needlework, there is sound evidence that samplers were occasionally worked at home." To truly authenticate your sampler you need to go to a reputable authority on American samplers, such as M. Finkel and Daughter (see our links). There are also certified appraisers linked with various national needlework guilds, but we do not have personal experience with any so have not provided any links. You could also go to a larger auction house, such as Christies or Sotheby's, who would have a textile expert on staff.