Before the 20th century, needlework such as samplers were one of the primary means of displaying a girl's skills. Although large quantities were produced, many textiles from the 18th century and earlier have not survived in good condition. Those pieces can be valuable.
In general, 19th century textiles are less desirable than earlier pieces. This is not simply because they lack age but because, as a rule, quality declined during the 19th century. Many Victorian samplers are worth less than £100.
Late 19th century or early 20th century woven or embroidered textiles by design reformers such as William Morris are often more valuable than early 19th century pieces, although exceptional early 19th century examples can fetch higher price.
Quality of design is important when valuing textiles. Those that embody the style of the period are often highly prized - this is particularly true of 20th century textiles. The 1950s and 1960s are currently popular and prints by definitive designers such as Lucienne Day or Emilio Pucci sell well. With earlier pieces, the best prices generally go to lively designs. Skilful embroidery can add value, but naïve compositions are appealing and can sell for more than technically proficient pieces.
The type of object can also affect value. Haute couture fashion, rugs and tapestries are some of the most valuable textiles, as they were expensive objects when they were produced. Conversely, British quilts are often worth less than £100 as there are many on the market and few interested buyers.
Similarly, the lace, which was once so rare that it was regarded as a status symbol, is now often worth little, although museum-quality 17th and 18th century pieces and large 19th century lace dress flounces can command high prices.
If you have an intricate or early textile or an example of haute couture fashion, it should ideally be sold in a specialist auction such as those held by Kerry Taylor Auctions and Christie's South Kensington. Most general auction houses accept good examples of 19th century and earlier textiles. Other items, particularly 20th century pieces, could be sold online. Good conditions is generally essential if a textile is to achieve the highest price possible. Wear and damage decrease the value.