Update: this article was edited on the 23rd of November, as the lovely Jacqueline Holdsworth from Needleprint provided me with some very interesting insights in this particular sampler. All additional information has been inserted at the end of the original article.
It was in July this year that I stumbled upon one of my best finds in an antique shop ever: Sarah Storrs’ Quaker sampler, which she embroidered around 1795. I found the sampler in a small antique shop in Knaresborough, where it was hung high on a wall. As it was an unfinished sampler, and I estimated the work to be 20th century, I bartered a little and brought it home with me for very little. When I arrived home and started investigating the sampler, I found that the date on the work read 1795. I’d missed out on it, as it was embroidered in a colour now faded to the same colour as the linen.
As I looked closer, I realised that it was an actual 18th century sampler, and not, as I had previously assumed, a late copy! The owner of the shop could only tell me that he had bought it from a Quaker family from West Yorkshire. As Storrs is not a too common name, I thought I should be able to find who this girl was. On Ancestry.com I found one Sarah Storrs, who lived around 1795 in West Yorkshire. Records stated that she was baptised in Barnsley in 1789 – which make it a perfect fit, as the family was supposed to be from West Yorkshire.
When you look at the sampler closely, you can see that the work is far from refined – Sarah did not finish her sampler, and the work is rather course. A lot of the crosses don’t have the same direction, or are stitched over too many threads in parts. Also, the thread count of the linen is high: approximately 22 threads per inch (I tend to stitch on 32 count linen, but old work was stitched on much finer linen to show off the skill of the embroiderer). It is difficult to make assumptions when having such little details, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Sarah learned cross-stitch on this first sampler. Being very young, she would have copied work that she saw from siblings or her mother, or other girls in the school she might have attended. Also the fact that she didn’t finish her sampler makes me wonder if she had reached enough skill by that time to move on to something more refined.
Yorkshire has a very rich Quaker history, and is home to the famous Ackworth Quaker School near Pontefract. This school is only about 12 miles from where Sarah was baptised, so it is quite likely that she saw the famous samplers that were embroidered there. I’m especially thinking about Sarah Moon’s Ackworth School Sampler. When comparing Sarah Storrs’ sampler to Sarah Moon’s, you will find that quite a few of the tradition motifs are exactly (or nearly) the same! Sarah Moon embroidered hers only 4 years before Sarah Storrs did hers. I’d love to think that she might have seen Moon’s work, or might even have known her. Whatever the case, it is clear that these Quaker motifs were shared on many samplers made around that time.
I had been working for some time on creating a pattern based on Sarah Storrs’ sampler, using the elements she embroidered to create something with a more finished look. I re-assembled the patterns, added some original designs of my hand to it, and created something which is now available in my Etsy shop. The day I lay the finishing touches on my version of her sampler, I was writing down the date (the 18th of November). I thought I had seen it, and suddenly a light went up in my head: it was the baptism day of Sarah Storrs, baptised in Barnsley on the 18th of November 1789 – exactly 224 years ago!
So here it is now, for your enjoyment to stitch up. I’d love to hear what you think about it: don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts below!
Additional information: I’m so exited to share with you the wonderful information Jacqueline Holdsworth provided to me with regards to this sampler. As I mentioned in the post above, Jacqueline wrote an amazing article on one particular sampler that shares great similarities with this one. I thought it would be nice to share this post with her, and she provided me with the following information:
Sarah Storrs was an actual student at Ackworth school, and she was scholar 1244. Sarah and her sister Mary both attended Ackworth: Sarah for the school year of 1791 – 92, and Mary from 1789 – 91. They came from Wigley, in Derbyshire. I feel that there is still quite a lot to learn, and will see if I can, at some point in the future, pay a visit to Ackworth School!