Annetje Band Sampler
As promised, more about the band sampler. In March last year, I bought a bundle of charts for old samplers, from someone selling up stock. One of them was a reproduction of a Dutch sampler from 1663
The original sampler was charted by Permin of Copenhagen – it’s a massive chart on two huge sheets of paper. Worked over two threads on 30 count fabric, the size of the whole sampler would be 61 x 57 cm! Their reference number for the kit version is 39-8406 “Sampler ‘Antique'”. (Stocked in the UK by Sew and Sew, if you fancy such a mammoth undertaking.) Back in 1663, it was stitched by 11 year old Annetje Muusdochter, who lived in Broek in Waterland, near Amsterdam.
I can’t do better than point you at this blog page from Ex Antiques, who specialise in old samplers and have researched the Broek samplers – sixteen surviving examples known so far. They have a picture of the original. Not the clearest of photos, but close enough to show that the Permin chart is very accurate. The Ex Antiques blog is a treasure trove if you are interested in old samplers, particularly Dutch samplers. There are other posts about the Broek samplers, and photos of many of them.
When I saw the sampler, two things caught my eye. The first thing was the long strip of voided patterns on the left of the sampler: oh, how I wanted to work those bands! (More about the practicalities of working them in a moment.) I definitely wasn’t interested in producing a copy of the whole sampler, although one or two of the motifs might be quite fun to adapt, and the lettering style is quaint, if not particularly easy to read. The other thing that caught my eye was the curious way Annetje had filled the gaps between the motifs and patterns – little shapes and signs made of straight lines. What were they? Some sort of code?
A bit of research found the answer. They are house marks, used to identify the house of a particular family: a sort of early trademark. The house mark enabled goods to end up in the right warehouse, enabled people to recognize the house and property of the family and functioned as an identifier in many situations. The main family mark could be handed down from father to eldest son, but a modification would be made to identify cadet branches. Fascinating. The things you can learn from looking at embroidery!
Anyway, technical stuff: I had a small piece of 30 count fabric in an oatmeal colour which I wanted to use for the sampler bands. If I had stitched over two threads, I would not have had enough room on my fabric, so I decided to work over single threads. That gave me room for almost all the bands – I found two that I felt I could easily omit, as they were very similar to others in the strip. I increased the width of each band, to show more of the patterns, and I centred each pattern to give a better balance.
I used silk, not cotton. Those who know me will not be surprised to learn that I stitched with two strands of Devere Yarns 06 silk. Learning to work cross stitch over a single thread was interesting, shall we say. It’s necessary to cross each stitch before working the next, and very necessary to watch which way the fabric threads cross so as not to let the stitches slip down into the weave and vanish. As well as the cross stitch, there’s a little four-sided stitch on the sampler, and that also had to be worked with care. I am crazy enough to enjoy this sort of challenge and it stopped the work becoming boring. Needless to say, there was a lot of unpicking involved in making this piece. Some days I seemed to be working backwards rather than forwards.
It has been stitched on trains, in bus shelters, on park benches and in hospitals. It has been squashed into my bag and taken to science fiction conventions and waiting rooms, on days out and to work. Sometimes I have even sat at home and stitched in my usual chair. I don’t yet know what my next carry-about project will be. Whatever I chose, I hope it provides as much amusement and necessary distraction as Annetje’s pattern bands.