There is, of course, a story behind the Sarah Maydman sampler, which I can remember seeing for the first time over 35 years ago. My ‘little sampler business’ (as one of my neighbours insisted on calling it) was growing well and I was selling my very limited range of kits in shops in and around my home area. I had the use of the car one day a week, so my son James and I would set out to visit any town I could reach and return from with a small child. As a result of a visit to The Ladies Work Society in Moreton-in-Marsh, I found myself teaching sampler design classes once a week.
It was at the second of these classes that Lucy Evans, one of my pupils, suddenly jumped up and exclaimed, “Oh! I forgot I have something to show you.” She rushed to the public car park to her unlocked car and brought back a sampler. You could have heard a pin drop as we gazed at what was an early band sampler signed by Sarah and stitched in 1693. It had been sitting in the car in full view. Lucy had no idea how much the sampler was probably worth and was amazed at our reaction.
Years later she lent me the sampler so that I could chart it before she passed it on to her son. I was thrilled to be able to use it as a project with The Cross Stitch Guild. (The complete chart for this design is available on the CSG Download Store if you fancy stitching it.) Sarah’s sampler is worked on linen and includes cross stitch, Montenegrin stitch, Holbein stitch, satin stitch, French knots, Gobelin, Algerian eye and long-legged cross stitch. We referred to it as the ‘Boxer Sampler’ because Sarah had worked funny little figures in checked trousers and weird head-dresses, which are often featured on early band samplers, although Sarah’s Boxers are quite rare. They were usually depicted facing each other in rather a pugilistic pose hence the name. In fact, they were generally intended to be bearing gifts rather than fisticuffs.
Lucy and I have remained friends for all these years and she has been so kind and generous. Because she and her husband were farmers and the school summer holidays were filled with the harvest, they had a swimming pool in the garden where we often spent an afternoon when the children were small. I have pictures of my son James driving the combine harvester when about four years old.
Lucy is now in her nineties and is still planting trees in the garden knowing that she will not see them full grown. Last time we met, I took her out for the day to visit Witney Antiques. I had told her I intended to buy myself a band sampler if I could find one that could come out of my pension pot! I did buy a sampler that day – more about this another time – but Lucy had a surprise for me. She gave me a band sampler from her collection stitched by 10 year Ann Holden in 1730. You can imagine my surprise and pleasure. I included an image of this sampler in my book Cross Stitch Antique Style Samplers.
My recreation of Sarah Maydman’s sampler had made its way to the loft, where I rediscovered it and took the brave decision to send it to Kate Bowles to become part of her beautiful notebooks. See if you can spot which pieces she has used when creating my notebook treasures.