We drove up to Cambridge this morning to visit the Fitzwilliam Museum to see their latest exhibit, Sampled Lives. The museum has a number of antique samplers in its collection, and has curated the best of them into a lovely and informative show.
As I’m currently working to reproduce the 1798 sampler that is part of the Labyrinthos collection (read about it here), this was an unprecedented opportunity to study the colours, threads, fabrics, and motifs from a wide assortment of originals. Oh, those tiny stitches… some more perfect than others, but all hinting at storied lives, unique personalities, and passing time. I find there is incredible intimacy in examining another woman’s handiwork; I’m looking straight into her soul when I examine her careful stitches, study the effect of her many choices about colours and motifs, and read the verses it must have taken weeks to work. Because stitching is such an important part of my self-expression, I can read deeply from a carefully preserved sampler that someone else has stitched centuries before I was born.