This is the third in our series of MTS Blogs about samplers we have conserved from the New Hampshire Historical Society. Sarah’s sampler is a simple upper and lowercase alphabet stitched with silk thread on a piece of undyed linen. She stitched only the numerals 1 through 4 but spent quite a bit of time perfecting the decorative floral border--perhaps nine- or ten-year-old Sarah adored flowers more than numbers. According to the NHHS digital catalog, Sarah Folsom Cochran lived from 1811 and 1844 in Pembroke and Epson, New Hampshire. Although she did not record the date she made her sampler, she did include her exact birthday as August 26th, 1811. So happy 204th birthday anniversary Sarah! (August 26th also happens to be Director Camille Myers Breeze's birthday, though she's a bit younger.)
In the early 19th century, all the dyes used to color Sarah’s bright silks would have been made from natural substances like madder for pinks and reds, and indigo or woad for blues. Many natural dyes, and the natural fibers of silk and linen, slowly degrade over time, losing their intensity and saturation as a result of things like light and heat. However Sarah's sampler is almost the same color on the front as on the back, indicating that it has been well cared for.
We know that Sarah's sampler was once framed because it came to Museum Textile Services glued onto an acidic board. Moisture in the top-left corner had caused soil and discoloration to migrate, but fortunately not the dyes. Prior to cleaning, Conservator Cara Jordan removed as much of the cardboard and adhesive residue from the reverse with mechanical action. Director Camille Breeze then used the suction table to flush deionized water through the sampler and control any potential dye bleeding. The first blotters showed a great deal of discoloration coming out of the sampler, which was exhausted after several rinses. The sampler was allowed to fully dry on the suction table beneath a piece of blotter. It was then hand stitched to a fabric-covered mounting board for display at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Sarah’s gift to history was her sampler, and Museum Textile Services is pleased to restore some of the light and delicacy back to her work. If you are concerned about your own historic textile being damaged due to light exposure, pests, or acidity, take a look at the our MTS Handouts on Choosing Storage Materials and Displaying Textiles, located on our website.