Object of the Month – December 2011
Sampler 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.