World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Sampler (needlework)

Article Id: WHEBN0000049048
Reproduction Date:

Title: Sampler (needlework)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Cross-stitch, English embroidery, Smocking, Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts, Cross stitches
Collection: Embroidery
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Sampler (needlework)

Sampler from Salem, Massachusetts, 1791
Sampler worked by Catharine Ann Speel in silk on linen, 1805, Philadelphia

A (needlework) sampler is a piece of embroidery produced as a demonstration or test of skill in needlework. It often includes the alphabet, figures, motifs, decorative borders and sometimes the name of the person who embroidered it and the date. The word sampler is derived from the Latin ‘exemplum’ - an example.


  • History 1
  • Modern samplers 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The oldest surviving samplers were constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries. As there were no pre-printed patterns available for needleworkers, a stitched model was needed. Whenever a needlewoman saw a new and interesting example of a stitching pattern, she would quickly sew a small sample of it onto a piece of cloth - her 'sampler'. The patterns were sewn randomly onto the fabric as a reference for future use, and the woman would collect extra stitches and patterns throughout her lifetime.

16th Century English samplers were stitched on a narrow band of fabric 6–9 in (150–230 mm) wide. As fabric was very expensive, these samplers were totally covered with stitches. These were known as band samplers and valued highly, often being mentioned in wills and passed down through the generations. These samplers were stitched using a variety of needlework styles, threads, and ornament. Many of them were exceedingly elaborate, incorporating subtly shaded colours, silk and metallic embroidery threads, and using stitches such as Hungarian, Florentine, tent, cross, long-armed cross, two-sided Italian cross, rice, running, Holbein, Algerian eye and buttonhole stitches. The samplers also incorporated small designs of flowers and animals, and geometric designs stitched using as many as 20 different colors of thread.

Cross-stitch alphabet sampler worked by Elizabeth Laidman, 1760.

The first printed pattern book was produced in 1523, but they were not easily obtainable and a sampler was the most common form of reference available to many women.

The earliest British dated surviving sampler, housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, was made by Jane Bostocke who included her name and the date 1598 in the inscription. on, with religious or moral quotations, while the entire sampler became more methodically organised. In the Netherlands survived a sampler dated 1585 (in the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem). By the 18th century, samplers were a complete contrast to the scattered samples sewn earlier on. These samplers were stitched more to demonstrate knowledge than to preserve skill. The stitching of samplers was believed to be a sign of virtue, achievement and industry, and girls were taught the art from a young age.

Modern samplers

Samplers are widely stitched today, some using kits purchased from needlework shops, some from chart-packs, and many from patterns available on the Internet or through e-mail from designers. Patterns range from simple using only one stitch, to complex, using 15 to 20 and more stitches. Designs range widely in style, from accurate reproductions of historic pieces to much more contemporary and modern styles. Many sampler reproductions are also available, copying colors and imperfect stitches from the originals.

The word "sampler" is sometimes inaccurately applied to any piece of needlework meant for display.

Materials used include aida cloth, evenweave, and linen fabrics, in cotton, linen, and man-made materials combined in more and more ways; and fibers from cotton floss to silk, rayon, viscose, and metallic.

See also



  • Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York: Wardrobe Accounts of Edward IV at the Richard III Society site, retrieved February 20, 2007
  • Fawdry, Marguerite, and Deborah Brown, The Book of Samplers, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1980, ISBN 0-312-09006-4

External links

  • A brief history of embroidery samplers
  • Sampler history and design
  • Old Sampler - Virtual Museum of Textile Arts
  • Images of samplers from the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Samplers at the Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Victoria and Albert Museum Sampler story; Textiles
  • Some More Modern Examples
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.