Samplers

Samplers

An alphabet sampler carries the alphabet as its main feature. This is a form of sampler that became popular in the seventeenth century in northwestern Europe. Often the alphabet is repeated in low case, high case and in various fonts. It should not be confused with a marking sampler, in which a simple alphabet in capital letters is embroidered. 

Band samplers form the oldest examples of European samplers and date from around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This form of sampler consists of a narrow (c. 15-23 cm) band of cloth, usually of linen, on which examples of needlework stitches and patterns were worked.

Most Western style samplers are made from a cloth ground with various forms of stitching or patterns worked onto it. Sometimes they also include beads or samples of beadwork (such as a nineteenth century Mexican sampler now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 57.122.264).

The Boston fishing lady embroidery series is a popular name given to a series of embroidered pictures dating to the mid-eighteenth century, some of which feature women fishing. Such embroidered images were popular in the Boston (Mass.) region of the USA and were made by female members of prominent New England families attending various Boston boarding schools, as a ‘certificate’ of their embroidery skills.

The Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin houses a sampler from Britain, completed in 1861 by Emma Marsh Langwith, who at the time was ten years old. The embroidery is worked in cross stitch, and the sampler measures 31.3 x 24.3 cm.

The Casdagli sampler is a form of trench art worked in 1941 by a British army officer, Major Alexis Casdagli. He was captured and imprisoned by the German forces early in the Second World War (1939-1945). After six months in a German Prisoner of War (POW) camp, Casdagli was given some embroidery canvas.

A commemorative sampler is a type used to commemorate one or more birthdays, weddings, funerals or special events within a family or community. This type of sampler was popular in Northern Europe and elsewhere from the seventeenth century onwards and is still being produced.

A feature of North European domestic needlework is the production of darning samplers. Darning samplers were made in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands between the eighteenth and early twentieth centuries. They were usually made by school girls as part of their education, either at home or in a school class.

The Textile Research Centre, Leiden, houses a remarkable darning sampler which dates to 1781 and originates from Zeeland, in the southwest of The Netherlands. It is worked in silk thread on a linen ground. It has M R V D B OUD 13 JAAR 1781 (MRVDB aged 13 years 1781) embroidered on it using cross stitch.

The Textile Research Centre (TRC), Leiden, houses a remarkable sampler (merklap) that dates to the eighteenth century or earlier and is made of linen worked with silk (pulled cross stitch).

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London houses a sampler from Mexico that dates to the late eighteenth century. The ground material is linen and the embroidery is worked in gilt and coloured silks, and with spangles. The sampler measures 12 x 15.25 cm.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam houses an English sampler worked by Mary Lane and dated 1766, which refers to two English eighteenth century songs, namely "Since all the downward tracts..." and "Since none can doubt...."  The sampler is made of linen with silk thread embroidery. It measures 41.5 x 35.5 cm.

Elizabeth Parker (1813-1889) lived in Ashburnham, Sussex (England). She was the daughter of a local labourer. Elizabeth Parker produced a unique text sampler, which contains a long lament about a teenager’s life in the first half of the nineteenth century. She became a teacher at the Ashburnham Charity School and raised her sister’s daughter. She died in the Ashburnham Almshouses in 1889, aged 76.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam houses a sampler made of a piece of net or tule that has been decorated with a variety of different patterns and techniques of embroidered net lace. The sampler measures 19 x 9 cm. 

An English sampler made in AD 1749 by an unknown embroiderer includes examples of Florentine work, notably three variations on the flame pattern. These are worked in black, green, red and white woollen thread on a linen ground. 

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam holds a remarkable sampler (acc. no. BK-NM-9987). It dates to the early eighteenth century and was made in the small town of Hindeloopen in Friesland, in the north of The Netherlands. The ground material is made of linen, while the embroidery is made with silk, using Algerian eyeletback stitch, cross stitch, double running stitchhem stitch and staying stitch.

Jane Bostocke's sampler is the earliest surviving British example of this type of embroidery. The sampler was worked by Jane Bostocke of Langley (Shropshire, England) and includes the date 1598. The sampler was made to commemorate the birth of her cousin, Alice Lee, two years previously.

The Textile Research Centre in Leiden houses a remarkable knitting sampler (in Dutch called a breirol), which may be one of the oldest extant examples in Europe. It is dated to AD 1791 and was acquired together with a large group of Hungarian embroideries.

The Loara Standish sampler is the oldest known extant sampler in the USA, and was worked probably in the 1640's. The sampler is embroidered on fine linen (c. twenty threads per cm) using blue, green, pink and red silk thread. It is 60 x 18.5 cm in size. The stitches used include: Algerian eyelet stitch, back stitch, double running stitch, long-armed stitch and Montenegrin cross stitch.

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