Sunday, 4 October 2009

Would You Buy This?

A Norwich Shawl Counterpane cut up and remade to make a valance. An act of 19th century vandalism, or the creation of a new valuable textile furnishing? While attending a recent textile exhibition, I saw a number of cards like this on a trader's stall. They attracted many people, and I too was captivated by them and spent quite a while perusing them. However, I became very uneasy - particularly when I saw more than one fragment had been cut from the same piece. On the one hand one could argue the democratisation of the ownership of textile pieces, on the other hand such a degree of fragmentation renders the item more and more unintelligible. One could argue that pieces were small to start with and were not precious, on the other hand one might ask if there was not a demand for the small 'relics', would items ever have been divided and might they have remained intact? Mmmm. Would you buy this?


  1. I think I'd be fascinated at first too and be tempted, but it seems ashamed that they cut up a whole sampler to sell the fragments in this way. Do they make more money this way? Does it make it more affordable for buyers to have a small portion of history? I think my answer to purchasing one of the fragments would have to be "no," since it's more important to keep stitching history intact.

  2. Yes I would buy it and every other piece that appeared to come from the same original sampler. My goodness...

  3. This is a very good question. On first glance I would be curious and excited to find a piece, any piece of an real sampler. If the discovery lead to a multitude of small pieces from one individual I would also be concerned as to why so many small pieces. I might have a difficult time with the reason as to why the pieces exist in such a state but I think that I would purchases the pieces as to rescue them in whatever state they may be and secondly to try to puzzle piece some state of originality to the pieces with the intention to reproduce as much as might be possible an original type sampling. Foremost I would take it on as my duty to all surviving samplers that might be in harm of being cut up in such a fashion as to educate and bring understanding to the individual and to a community at large of the need not to do such a task.
    As a quilter and seamstress, I have not only rescued tatered quilts but also used pieces of found decorative trim textiles to embellish other projects. I have used these many pieces in various ways to educate and spur-on appreciation and understanding for what an individual is gazing upon. As a stitching community and sampler loving individuals we can understand the crime in the distruction of the piece as a whole. But also we must weigh the sense of preservation that comes in making sure that at least something survives to bring appreciation for what has come before. My question back for thought is- "Is it more important to have at least one small piece survive than for the entire piece to be seen as non-disirable and subsequently banished to the rubish pile forever?"
    Thank you for sharing your experience and the motifs with others and bring the question to the table for review and understanding.

  4. I just can't say. Today there are plenty of people repurposing, reusing, recycling textiles.

    Carriage House Samplings has on occasion put out calls to stitcher for donations of UFOs. She cuts them up and uses them in jewelery. Granted these are all contempory.

    As to cutting up antique works... if the seller is selling these fragments at such a small cost I can't imagine they paid much for the whole at the start. And if they hadn't bought it to cut up what would have become of it then? Trash bin, back to the attic, off to the charity shop? Who can say?

    This has been happening for forever and a day with books. Maybe those who can not afford the whole will be happy to have just a piece. I know it drives the historians & collectors crazy; but I would argue that the sacrifice of some samplers to spreed the love of them is worth it.

  5. Wow - is that sale recent? It gives me a funny feeling just looking at it. I've seen samplers that were clearly cut into two parts so there would be two to sell - one polychrome, the other whitework. I thought that was bad, but I feel almost like the little girl who stitched this has been torn into pieces!

    Yes, I'd buy it - just to "save" it, I think. I know I couldn't turn away.


  6. I would not buy it, mainly because I would lament over the vandalism of a piece of textile art and history. When it comes to textiles, I have found that most people do not know the value of textiles throughout history, as an expression of creativity, or otherwise (representations of wealth and trade, teaching pieces, regligious and cultural affiliations, clothing, class distinction, art, etc.).
    Do we stop to think of where the cloth came from (plant, animal, chemical), how the cloth was processed, who wove it, embroidered it, dyed it, or designed it? Each one of these items a world all it's own with fascinating knowledge and process to keep you enthralled for some time. Or do we see something that is old and worn - worthless unless the worn is "culled" and only the worthy pieces kept to be sold off in small swatches? The majority of which will eventually be relegated to the garbage bin.

  7. I am sure i would NOT buy it. I am just a simple stitcher, not an expert in any way, but i do compare it wirh FUR. As long as there are people that buy it, there wil be fur for sale...
    Maybe this piece is cut from a dammaged sampler, or ... not, but if there are clients, maybe the next pieces wil be cut from a beautiful old sampler, ??? My sister (and i hate to say this) argumes about fur"wy should i not buy this jacket, the animals are already dead, nothing i can do agains this fact. How short-sighted can one be???
    So I would certainly NOT buy this
    (I am dutchspeaking from Belgium, so sorry for my english :-(((

  8. I am overwhelmed by your very thoughtful comments - it really helps to appreciate all the different viewpoints, doesn't it?

  9. i would NOT buy it either...and i agree with long as people do buy these bits and pieces, sellers will continue to cut them up...which i think is tragic...much like the cutting up of old quilts...i would much rather admire an old quilt in its entirety from afar than own just a small piece of these cases, the sum IS bigger than its parts and it makes me sad they are not whole as they should be...

  10. I'm not sure what I would do in this case, but it brings to mind a question that I have had for some time - What to do with inherited UFOs. I have pieces from my late mother and from a dear friend that were incomplete at the time of their deaths. All came to me without the necessary charts to finish them, and no identifying information to track down the designs. (Mom passed 25 years ago, and my friend 10+ years ago, so odds are everything is OOP.) They are not in near enough states of completion to display them, so what would you do in this situation?

  11. I can not think of anythink that would make me feel sadder.