My Catherine Archer Sampler

Catherine's original sampler was worked over one thread of the fabric – equivalent to 45 stitches to the inch!

I may have mentioned once or twice before that I am obsessed by stitched samplers. I hope this is something we have in common, so you will forgive me dedicating this Jotting to one sampler in particular. It was stitched by Catherine Archer in about 1865 and is one of many hundreds of so-called ‘Bristol’ or ‘Müller Samplers’* and is now very collectable.

I first heard of the George Müller Foundation when I became the proud owner of this sampler and I applied to the Trust for more details about the stitcher. I discovered that Catherine Archer, an orphan, stitched the sampler while she was living at Ashley Down Orphanage, one of the Müller orphanages in Bristol, UK. Catherine was born in Shotley, Northumberland (UK) and her mother died within six weeks of her birth. She stayed with her father until he died three years later and then there is a gap in her history until she entered the orphanage in 1865. I am thrilled to be able to look at my sampler with even this small amount of provenance. 

Catherine’s original sampler was worked on ecru non-evenweave linen in one strand of red thread. The design was worked over one thread of the fabric – equivalent to 45 stitches to the inch! This is even more amazing when you consider that Catherine had no electric light or magnifier to help her.

I’ve been working on a way to recreate a taste of Catherine’s diligent work and came up with the idea of being able to print it on fabric. I had the screen made for me by Screens 4 Print and bought the appropriate inks and squeegee – and I cannot tell you how much mess I made. You can see from the images that I even succeeded in printing on my oak worktop! I am also not going to tell you how I ruined the first batch of colour or how much fabric I threw away… Anyway, with a great deal of patience I managed to create a small batch of printed fabric. The result can be seen on the front of my new Treasured Workbooks, in the form of an appliqué heart. 

*George Müller was born in 1805 in Prussia (now Germany). By his own admission he was a liar and a thief who stole from his family and friends. His heavy reliance on alcohol eventually caught up with him and he spent time in prison. However, in November 1825 he was converted to the Christian faith and his life took a completely new track.

In 1829 Müller travelled to England to work as a missionary, and it was in England that he started his extraordinary work amongst the orphaned children of Bristol. In 1836, Müller opened his first house for thirty girls and over the next thirty-five years, he opened five orphanages on Ashley Down, Bristol, housing more than 2,000 children altogether.

All Müller children were smartly dressed, well fed and educated. (Müller was accused of robbing the mills by educating the poor above their station.) Boys stayed in the orphanages until they were fourteen, girls until they were seventeen. When they left the orphanage, all children were found employment, and given clothing and a Bible.

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