What a special treat! We meet Margriet of The Essamplaire about learn about how she got started in stitching and her love of samplers and reproducing them. While our journeys are all similar we have all followed a different path to get to the same place, a love of reproduction samplers.
Margriet, how old were you when you first picked up a needle and who taught you to stitch?
*My mother taught me to stitch around age six or seven, the first thing I did was a stamped pattern.
Do you remember what sampler you stitched first?
*It was a sampler from a Dutch magazine and can't remember the name of it but it wasn't very large.
When do you find time to stitch? Do you sit in a set place and have favorite tools on hand?
*If I'm on a deadline I will stitch all day but generally I will stitch in the afternoon and in the evening. I move to different places for stitching, especially if I'm doing very fine work, then I tend to sit in front of a window for better light.
Is there a stitching method that you prefer, such as stick and stab technique, or a sewing stitch?
*I learned how to stitch using the sewing method and generally use it unless it is something that needs to be stretched then it's two handed and more often than not I end up with loops on the back that I end up stitching over.
Do you have favorite stitching supplies? A favorite linen? Do you prefer to use silk threads?
*I pretty much always use silk threads, I find that I'd rather use those if I'm spending all this time on it. I like Zweigart linen the most.
Is there a specialty stitch or embroidery technique you enjoy most?
*I like most stitches but to be honest queen stitch is my least favourite, looks nice but takes too long.
How did The Essamplaire start?
*I came across a sampler in a Dutch magazine and made it and then another one from a Dutch magazine. Then, I bought a kit, which I never did finish and thought I can do this. Whenever we would travel I'd make appointments with museums to look at their samplers and get permission to reproduce them. I started buying antique samplers, as well, and reproduced those. Early on I sent images of six samplers I had done to Country Living magazine and they featured them in one of their issues and the rest as they say is history!
What do you look for when choosing a sampler to chart for your collection?
*It has to be appealing to the eye, some have a naivety to them or a folky look and others are just pretty to look at. I also look to see if they belong to a particular school or area and preferably they have a variety of stitches.
What is your favourite period of sampler-making and why? Which designs appeal to you the most?
*Can't say that I have a favourite time period, it changes from time to time. For a while I really liked 17th century samplers and then after stitching those for a bit I need a change and do something a little simpler and less time consuming. But I do go back to them. I always like Scottish and Dutch samplers. Love some of the American ones.
Has working with reproduction samplers given you any new insight into the lives of the girls and women in the 17-18-19th centuries that you did not realize before?
*You can't help but learn about the girls and women's lives that stitched these samplers, you wonder where they were, physically, while stitching, if they enjoyed it or was it something that had to be done. Some girls hated it, I'm sure they would rather have been outside running around.
What aspect(s) of working with early textiles appeals to you the most?
*The history behind them.
How do you display your stitched samplers? Do you frame them? Hang them singularly or in groupings?
*I used to frame them but now they are rolled up or laying flat in an acid free box. I do have some grouped together on a staircase wall.
Do you collect antique samplers?
*I do collect samplers, I used to try and have one of every country and then that got a bit out of hand and I sold most of those and have focused on Dutch samplers only and now in particular only orphan samplers from one particular orphanage.
Apart from samplers do you collect anything else?
*Some pottery and art.
Do you enjoy any other types of hand work?
*I used to weave and knit but gave those up as it bothers my shoulder too much, occupational hazard from repetitive movement.
What other hobbies or interests do you enjoy?
*Love painting, I paint abstracts. It's a nice change from stitching.
Any guilty secrets to confess?
*I do drink tea and coffee when stitching and once red wine, which went down the wrong way and ended up all over the sampler. Fortunately it came out as I ran it under cold water immediately. I now do have some longer jumps on the back, I generally try not to have them longer than three stitches but they are longer from time to time.
What has been your worst needlework disaster?
*See above, the red wine over everything!
Do you have a favorite sampler or one that has special meaning to you?
*Not really, they are a favourite when I'm working on it.
Are you currently working on sampler or special project? What do you most enjoy about it?
*Currently working on Olivia Rebecca Parker, a sampler from the collection of Winterthur and stitched by a black girl.
Thank you so very much, Margriet! It is wonderful to hear about how you got started and learn more about The Essamplaire. Please visit The Essamplaire website at www.theessamplaire.com to browse their full collection of antiques and samplers. There are so many beauties, they will be hard to resist! Margriet also offers online sampler classes, a great way to learn advanced techniques!