Darning Sampler

Darning sampler, cotton, embroidered with silk, Zeeland, The Netherlands, mid-18th century. Darning sampler, cotton, embroidered with silk, Zeeland, The Netherlands, mid-18th century. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. T.186-1921.

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.

Darning samplers were used to teach girls how to mend worn places and holes in cloth used for domestic garments and household items, such as curtains and table cloths. The darning imitated various weaves, such as tabby weaves or twill weaves, of various types.

Surviving examples often have darned areas in the middle of the cloth, as well as along its edges. The simplest examples are worked with coloured threads in both directions, so that any mistakes can easily be seen. As the skill of the girl increased, one colour was used in both directions. The most testing form of darning was worked in white thread in both directions.

Some examples of darning samplers are plain and practical in nature and were intended to teach a useful, household skill. Other examples are embroidered in silk with decorative elements, and while they were intended to show the maker’s skills with a needle, it is unlikely that they would ever have had to darn their own garments. An example of this type of decorative darning sampler can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum (acc. no. T.36-1945), which was made in the late eighteenth century.

See also darning sampler from The Netherlands, 1781.

Source: BROWNE, Clare and Jennifer WEARDEN (eds; 1999). Samplers from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 6 July 2016).


Last modified on Saturday, 17 September 2016 13:34
More in this category: « Band Samplers Sampler Kit »