Preserving an Antique Sampler

Dear Donia,
What is the best way to preserve an antique sampler?


Q. Dear Donia,

I have a sampler that my great-grandmother made that is stitched on linen. What is the best way to preserve it? Thanks, Susan

A. Dear Susan,

What a wonderful piece to have in your family! Samplers are one of my favorite pieces of history.
The best way to store this item is, ideally, flat and unfolded in a box such as one of these from our sponsor Hollinger Metal Edge. The sampler should be placed in the box that has been lined with acid-free, lignin-free, buffered tissue that can then be folded over it. Wadded tissue should then be put in the box on top to ensure that the sampler doesn't shift. If space is an issue, the sampler can be folded to fit in a smaller box. To do this, the box should be lined as before and sausages made of tissue should be placed in the folds of the sampler. These sausages will help prevent the folds becoming weak or breaking points for the linen threads. Store the box somewhere where you are comfortable like a bedroom closet.  Do not store in an attic or basement.
If you would like to frame and display this sampler, as with storage, any matting and mounting materials should be acid-free, lignin-free, and buffered. There are many good quality museum rag mat board suppliers out there (Rising, Alpharag, and Peterboro to name three) and the board comes in a range of tones so that you can find one to set off your sampler. Typically, your framer would mount the sampler by marking out and making holes in the matboard to stitch the sampler to the board with a sympathetic cotton thread. Do not use fishline or a synthetic as they can be too sharp and can damage the piece. The mounted sampler should have a window mat cut for it so that the fabric does not come into direct contact with the glazing or the frame. It would be best to use UV blocking glass or Plexiglas for the glazing to add another layer of protection. Once framed, do not hang in direct sunlight and try to avoid hanging on exterior walls where condensation may occur, leading to mold.
Thanks you for asking!