For our July interview we travel to Berlin, Germany and sit and chat with Sabine Taterra-Gundacker! Sabine is sharing with us her journey in stitches and we hear how she began charting reproduction samplers. There is much inspiration to be found in her beautiful samplers, which also includes some Scarlet Letter samplers! Enjoy!!
How old were you when you first picked up a needle and who taught you to stitch?
Oh, that was a long time ago. At that time, my mother wanted me to stitch her an Easter tablecloth: printed bunnies, daffodils, decorated Easter eggs – always along the lines! I think I was 12 or 13 years old. She must have kept it for more than 50 years and often used it.
What was the first sampler that you stitched?
In 1981, there was a modern version of a sampler to be reproduced in the German women’s magazine Brigette, with typical elements – alphabet, house, tree, flowerpot, flowers, figures. And I enthusiastically stitched my first sampler! In addition, I heard about the meaning and the function of samplers and I saw small pictures of historical samplers. In my working life I was stitching plenty of little somethings like flowers, wreaths, Santas, Easter bunnies, birth pictures, needle cases with heart and soul and for recreation. The first complete sampler?! I was hooked!
What is your favorite time of day to stitch?
My favorite time to stitch is the hour after breakfast: The table is cleared and my husband reads to me out of the newspaper and I stitch without paying much attention – calm and relaxing.
Do you sit in a set place and what tools do you like to have on hand?
I sit at our small kitchen table – a pane of glass on top of an old iron sewing machine stand. The natural light is very good, even in bad weather or in winter. Two or three little scissors and my needle magnet lie on the window ledge. I take my notebook to this place and feed new charts into the computer.
I look at a typical Berlin back yard of an apartment building and into my tidied kitchen. As of late, I need a magnifier tightened at the pane of glass in order to see the fine stitches of the originals.
Do you prefer to stitch in hand, or with a hoop or frame?
To stitch in hand is the most practical method to me: I am able to move to another place in our home, e. g. while cooking, and I can uncomplicatedly take my needlework on a bicycle tour or on vacation.
What is your favorite linen and thread?
In the past, I used to make large crosses. Over the years, they have “become” smaller – but always on white linen. I do not like artifically aged fabric and I do without antique yarn, too. I prefer Zweigart linen in 36 ct or 40 ct. The white background and the plain framing should form a “point of rest” for my very different “stitching loves”.
My yarn came from MEZ/Anchor, from a department store or from a needlework shop. I received the full palette of DMC step by step as a colorful bouquet for birthday or wedding anniversary by my husband, as a souvenir from journeys or by my best friends. Now, I do have all colors by both companies. My basis!
If I have the chance to lay colors at the original piece in a museum, I take with me the cut color charts. At an earlier time, I had my yarn cases with all colors on me.
When did you start charting reproduction samplers? What was the first sampler you charted?
Some antique samplers were hanging in the apartment of my friend Marina. She loaned one to me in 1990. I was allowed to take it to my home: I “laid” and chose colors, drew symbols on graph paper and worked my first reproduction – “DS 1842”. I was really proud.... Two magazines published it! I even got money for my pleasure and for my work.
Can you tell us about your creative process of reproducing samplers?
The important part of the creative process is the decision: Why exactly this sampler? It is a very individual and emotional decision since I do not know what sampler lovers would like to stitch.
Pretty much the same is wonderful but also trying work to choose the colors: Why this shade and not the other one? What do I do with the light damages?
Sometimes a shade of color is missing and then I use floss colors by both companies.
When did you discover the Scarlet Letter? What was the first Scarlet Letter sampler you stitched?
After my first sampler I was in search, I was hooked as you know, for providers of reproductions. Permin of Copenhagen, The Scarlet Letter and The Essamplaire were offering reproduction samplers, too. I was collecting catalogues, ordering charts and purchasing needlework kits. I worked lots of reproductions like a maniac and with great pleasure! My first Scarlet Letter sampler I was working in 1995 – “Sibmacher 1763”.
The second one, “Continental” in 1998.
What is your favourite period of sampler-making and why?
I cannot say which century or which European region I prefer. I am a stitcher in the main: When I am fretful I cannot stitch samplers from the Biedermeier period – too many color changes so my glance goes to graphically clear samplers or monochrome pieces – school samplers, darning samplers, samplers from the 17th and 18th century. When I am balanced and well, I am not shy of 30 to 35 colors. It makes no difference to me whether in colorful Vierlanden samplers or Biedermeier samplers, in samplers from the Netherlands or Scotland.
Which designs appeal to you the most?
I am fascinated by the creativity of young girls/women who got the task or who made it their business to turn an empty piece of fabric into a sampler no matter if she had a private teacher or if she attended a convent school, if she was well-off or poor, if she was living in an orphanage or attended a public school.
How do you display your stitched samplers? Do you frame them? Hang them singularly or in groupings?
Each of my finished samplers is being framed and gets its place. In the beginning, my first samplers were scattered on the wall together with photos, bead bags, and souvenirs. Now, I hang them in groupings: my Biedermeier room, our 17th century/18th century living room, the Vierlanden-Ackworth-wall, and the red-blue walls.
Do you collect antique samplers? Or have any other collections special to you?
My husband would say: “What do you not collect? It is simpler to itemise.” I have a small collection of whitework samplers – I cannot stitch them.
I own a variety of needlework scissors and my antique patterns. I finished collecting and processing ancient fabrics, they do not “grow again” and have become very expensive. In the past, I produced patchwork blankets, cushions, and patchwork kits.
I offer the last beautiful pieces at the Textile Art Berlin because women love to see and touch the textiles.
What other types of hand work do you enjoy?
I like to patch in front of the TV in the evening – watching newscast, detective stories – or as a passenger in the front seat of our car on long journeys.
Any guilty secrets to confess?
Sometimes, I miscount while stitching or I have made a wrong selection of colors and I realize the fault much later. I rant and rave about my mistake! My husband always advises me to cheat. But I show photos on my website and on Facebook.
What has been your worst needlework disaster?
Mistakes and frustration apparently do belong to needlework, undoing and proceeding, too. None of my samplers deserves to become a skeleton in the closet when I am no longer in the mood for it. I was told in a Berlin museum that plenty of their samplers in the archives met this fate.
If you can pick just one, which is your favorite sampler that you stitched? And why?
“BW 1880” and “BKRM 1779” currently are my favorite samplers.
Both of them impress with a harmonious composition without repetition in the motifs. One can see on these samplers that the stitchers had a lot of fun creating them in those days. And it also was a pleasure for me to count, chart and stitch them.
But there can be a change at any time: “MAMAN 1880-1890” and “Mary Gunter 1811” are pushing their way to the front.
|Mary Gunter 1811|
Thank you so very much, Sabine, for sharing your story! Your samplers are a feast for the eyes! It is wonderful to hear about your process to charting samplers and your love of needlework. To learn more about Sabine, her samplers, and her future endeavors please visit her website European Reproduction Samplers – click here!