Object of the Month – December 2011

Sampler by Mary Shipley, 1797Sampler by Mary Shipley, 1797

There are at least 60 samplers in the Herbert’s textile collection and this is a particularly beautiful example. As the Herbert has so many samplers and only a few in the galleries, we are starting a project to mount all the ones in store. This means they can be safely handled and much more easily displayed. Staff and a group of volunteers from NADFAS (National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies) were trained at the end of November and have started work on the project. A special mount padded and covered with acid free material has to be made before the sampler can be positioned and attached. With each mount taking about 2 hours to prepare and stitch the sampler to it, it may be some time before the project is finished!

Samplers began in the 1400s or 1500s as a way of remembering different types of stitches or patterns. Over time they evolved into a right of passage for young girls, proving their knowledge and patience. Ones like Mary’s – with an alphabet, picture, biblical verse and the girl’s name and date – are what most people imagine when they think of a sampler.

This sampler is has particularly fine embroidery in silk threads. Unfortunately with the fine background, delicate silk and existing damage, Mary’s sampler will not be able to be mounted as part of this project but will be kept safely in store as it is one of the nicest in the collection.


Posted on 06/12/2011, in Object of the Month and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Laura Meir

    I’m really excited to hear the news that you will be carrying out work on your textile collection. I was born and raised in Coventry and have spent any happy hours at the Herbert Gallery and look forward to returning to my home town to view the textile collection.
    Please can you tell me if there are any plans to chart any of the samplers in your care, I would be very happy to purchase any such charts.

  2. Hi Laura
    Thanks for your interest in our project. We will be digitising the samplers as part of the projects and the images will be available – possibly through our flickr account initially. We have no plans at the moment to produce charts and I wonder if the images would give you enough information to reproduce the patterns yourself?
    Keep an eye out on our blog but it may take us some months to photograph all the samplers and prepare them for viewing.
    If you are visiting the Herbert before the end of January you may be interested in seeing a new exhibition which includes textile based artwork – the pictures are amazing!

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