Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Carmarthen bird samplers.

Carmarthen, the town and county have already been mentioned quite a few times on this blog and I am fairly sure they will crop up many times in the future.  It is an area in South West Wales which has a rich textile history and thousands of samplers were sewn there in the 19th century.

Many of its samplers have a pair of very large birds, sometimes the predominant motif but also accompanied by other major elements.  I am not sure where the pattern originated or what sort of birds they are but they are certainly distinctive.

These are some of the samplers - all come from around the town of Carmarthen and there are many links which can be recognised.

I have more of these on file and they will appear when I manage to digitalise the images.

This beauty has everything, the  house which is seen on many samplers from Carmarthen, also the shepherd and shepherdess and right at the top, not very distinct in this picture, cupids with bows and arrows!
Sorry about this awful picture, this is my sampler which comes from a village just north of Carmarthen called Bronydd Arms.  It too has the cupids and also some picturesque red ruins which can be found on other samplers from this area.
This one has a border of leaves and acorns, much favoured on Carmarthen samplers. 
This sampler is very similar to the first without the house, but has a version of the bluebell trees.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Yet another Church.

It seem that samplers are like buses, when one comes along, others follow. Here is another sampler featuring Wrexham Church which is full of interesting content and favourite "Welsh" motifs. 

Just look at those birds flying over the church - they look more like the "Red Arrows" doing formation flying but birds over churches is very Welsh!
Some of the birds have strayed and seem to be dive bombing the house! 
The central urn with the three over sized carnations is a favourite Carmarthenshire motif.

All pictures are by courtesy of and that link will take you to the website where there are a few more.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

From just over the Border!

I realise that sampler research isn't for everyone, just a few of us anoraks, but my intention is to record what I know about Welsh samplers so that anyone interested can learn about them with me.  No book can really compete with the Internet as a resource, because a book is restricted by the pictures that can be used, which also have to be of high quality.  The Internet allows pictures of all quality to used freely. 

So I was very excited when I found this sampler on Pinterest recently - let me try and explain its significance.

Note all the plants in line with the house and the two figures. These are favourites!

At first glance it's rather nondescript but it really made me sit up and take notice.  It was made in Dawley which is in Shropshire just on the border with England in 1745, but it contains motifs that were used regularly on Welsh samplers more than a hundred years later

I have always said that the motifs on Welsh samplers weren't Welsh but that it's their repetitive use on so many samplers in Wales that indicates Welshness. Here is some proof!

This little lady will appear again on this blog and the rosebud tree.
The shepherd with crook will also appear again and also the bluebell tree.

 This English sampler, albeit from a place very close to Wales, contains sampler motifs, mostly likely taken originally from a pattern book, these then spread across the border into Wales and were constantly repeated until they became endemic.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Berlin influence.

I have chosen this sampler by Rachel Thomas as an example of how things changed in the world of Welsh samplers around 1850 -

Note the two bell like plants in red urns. These were very popular on Welsh Samplers and occur again and again.

I am taking 1850 as a convenient date, samplers didn't suddenly change in that year but materials and motifs did alter around then and this sampler is a very good example of that transition.

In the above sampler Rachel Thomas has used two large Berlin motifs - the flower bouquet and the basket - as the dominant elements on her samplers.  She has, however, surrounded these with very traditional samplers motifs and border that appear so often on samplers stitched in Wales.

It looks as if is is worked on finer fabric than the canvas that became the favourite as the century progressed.  Samplers made in Wales before my 1850 watershed, would have been worked either on a wool or linen background but when Berlin Woolwork's canvas and wools with their much brighter colours became generally available, girls and young women began sewing samplers in enormous numbers mixing "Berlin" motifs with the motifs that had been traditional on Welsh Samplers for many decades.

Here is another less well planned in fact rather an haphazard design of around the same date -

Smaller bluebell trees are also favourite motifs on Welsh samplers.

This one has a lady feeding chickens at the centre, which is a very "Berlin" design flanked by two flower sprays from the same source, but squeezed in between are the two "bluebell" trees!  So although Berlin patterns were popular our favourite traditional sampler motifs weren't abandoned entirely.