This schoolgirl embroidery was done by a 10-year-old child at Wattlesborough School in 1850. Ann Roberts chose to set up her sampler by dividing it into two main sections. In the first she practiced her alphabet in counted cross stitch in fine silk floss. Her first alphabet practice was done in a more ornate script style with many of the letters worked in two colors. Her second alphabet was done in block style, but again in counted cross stitch to show off her skill. Toward the end of the row, she ran out of room and had to squeeze in smaller versions of “Y” and “Z”, which only adds to the quirkiness of the sampler. I especially like her placement of two angels, one on each side of her second row of scroll alphabet.
In the larger second section, Ann used a religious verse, working it in red silk floss in counted cross stitch. However, it is below this short verse where she really shows off her talent as an embroideress at her young age. She placed a bevy of wonderful motifs scattered throughout this section, including several types of birds, large flowers, seated cats, small vignettes of young ladies in gardens, dogs, flowering jardinières and fancy work.
In the center of this section, she placed an urn-type of jardinière with a small dog embroidered in the mid-section of the urn. Below the dog she wrote “Fan,” the name of a well-known spaniel in Victorian times. Around her alphabets, verse and various motifs is a beautifully worked border of scrolls. She did the border in two colors and even inserted a small linear, but twining decorative stitch border before the wide, meandering border to give the work better framing.
Ann signed her work at the bottom: “Ann Roberts, Aged X, Wattlesborough School, MDCCCL.” Although unusual, I have previously come across other samplers using Roman numerals for the dates. However, I don’t recall a child indicating her age with a Roman numeral.
The sampler is made even more decorative with its carved oak frame. The oak was turned and carved, adding another design element to it. It retains a sheet of antique glass with bubbles and waves helping define its early origin. There is some old paper on the back that I left as it helps keep out dust.
The sampler is in excellent condition for its age of 168 years. It is overall age-toned, but this has resulted in a very nice soft gold color. There are two old rust spots, probably from the rusting of old nails, but these are not very large and do not detract from the overall charm of the piece. There are a few minor age spots, and also a small area where the threads were pulled tight near the bottom resulting in some separation in the linen. These condition issues are minor, however.
One of the most outstanding attributes of this sampler is its amazing color retention. The silk floss has not only kept its luminosity, but also its deep color. The reds are still rich and noticeable. The blues are deep, as are the greens. The golds are also quite noticeable, which is unusual as they often are the first to fade.
It measures 17 inches square, including the frame.