Friday, May 6, 2016

Stitching Stories: An Interview with Erna Hiscock of Hiscock & Shepherd Antiques!

For our May interview we ‘visit’ with Erna Hiscock of Hiscock & Shepherd Antiques in England!  Erna tells us about how she started collecting antique samplers and shares a few of her favourites with us!

Erna, when did you start collecting antique samplers?

*I started collecting antique samplers over 40 years ago, in about 1971. 

Do you remember what antique sampler first caught your eye?  Is it still in your collection?

*Yes!  A miniature memorial sampler commemorating the life of twins.  I do still have them, I consider my samplers as individuals bought for £22.

What special attributes do you look for when choosing antique samplers to add to your collection? 

*My girls are all individuals and so must have a personality. I do particularly love miniature samplers and those associated with school work.

Can you explain how quality, age and origin determine the value of a sampler?

*There are so many aspects of a sampler that determine its value.  Yes, a 1799 sampler is probably more than an identical 1801 but also look for finest, stitch type colour and condition, but also historical significance.

What was the most unlikely place that you found/obtained an antique sampler?

*In a lot of wooden boxes, folded, and probably untouched for 200 years.

How many samplers do you have in your collection? 

*Probably 100!

Can you perhaps share two or three of your favorites and tell us about them? 

*Here are a couple of favourites, it is a bit like asking who is your favourite child!

1803 Heart, was bought for me by John.  It relates to a particular School I’m interested in, the girls were allowed to sell needlework items for pocket money. 

The 1841 sampler is the most perfect miniature of a larger sampler only 9.5 x 12.5 cm and was made in a school in Van-Demon land in Australia.

Mary Catharine Harris 1873 - who couldn't love that Zebra!

What is your favourite period of samplers and why?  Which designs appeal to you the most?

*I do like all samplers so no real period, possibly the late 18th and early pre 1840 School samplers for their historical history in the development of education. The Samplers of Ackworth, Bristol and Cheltenham orphanages.

Has collecting antique 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? 

*Yes, with research now one can rarely connect with my girls and their lives, I find it amazing that these young children long forgotten are now being talked about loved and admired in a way they could just not imagine.

How do you display your collection?  Do you keep the in the original frames?  Hang them singularly or in groupings? 

*We hang them in groups, occasionally a larger one is hung on its own. We do keep their original frames if possible.

Is your collection on display in a gallery?  If so, where… so we may all visit!? 

*Our collection is displayed in our home, and yes, we can arrange visits.

Have any of your samplers been reproduced?

*No, they have not been reproduced.

Apart from antique samplers do you have other special collections? 

*I do love associated sewing items, pin balls, and watch samplers and early needlework.

Thank you so very much, Erna!  It has been an absolute pleasure to hear more about your antique samplers and when you began collecting.  Thank you for sharing your favourites from your collection.  They are quite unique and endearing. 

For those of you with a subscription to Homes & Antiques magazine, take a peek inside to see more of Erna’s collection featured in the May issue.  And, to keep up on fairs and exhibits where you can enjoy seeing their wares in person in the UK please visit her website at!


  1. I enjoyed reading your story Erna, you do have treasures and am sure you never get tired of admiring them xx Thank you for sharing!

  2. I was fortunate enough to visit Erna and John's home with Linn Skinner many years ago. Her sampler collection is amazing and Erna is so generous to allow others to see it. Not to mention what a lovely person she is. I must confess that I have bought several darning samplers and perforated paper items from Erna.


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