A Not-so-Short History of Embroidery Samplers, part 5

During the 17th and 18th centuries samplers continued to evolve, and eventually their primary purpose was to serve as showpieces for the stitcher’s skills. Other changes took place as samplers began to more closely resemble paintings. They became wider and shorter, and contained carefully positioned images that reflected a new concern with design and composition. Pictorial elements, many taken from the Old Testament were becoming increasingly popular. Biblical scenes and historical allegorical images were considered appropriate for young girls to stitch, since they contained images that encouraged good moral behavior. The many portrayals of Adam and Eve that are featured on samplers of this time were used as a way to teach young girls their role in the family and society. This example stitched by Elizabeth Summers in 1808, when she was an 11 year-old child, includes a verse from Genesis. The images and verse were thought to teach the young girls who stitched these samplers the proper relationship between men and women.

Elizabeth Summers 1808 Adam & Eve Sampler

The time between 1720 and the early 1830’s was the height of the sampler. This is when the most iconic of the American ‘schoolgirl’ samplers were created. It is this type of sampler that comes to mind when samplers are discussed.  Elizabeth’s Adam & Eve sampler is an example of a schoolgirl sampler. Other schoolgirl samplers depicted maps, calendars, lists of government officials, and family genealogies. They were used to teach letters, geography and the practical sewing skills that the girls of this era would need in their future lives.  Day schools and Boarding schools that educated girls commonly included several hours each day of needlework as part of their curriculum. These samplers often included an alphabet and basic numbers, along with a morality verse and a picture and sometimes randomly scattered spot motifs that could be used later to decorate household items. These samplers hit all of the marks. They were most often stitched in cross-stitch, with other fancy stitches sometimes included. The complexity of these samplers would depend on the skill level of the embroiderer and her future prospects. A young lady who was of the working class would have been taught plain sewing, while the daughters of the wealthy trained in more ‘fancy’ stitches. Each girl began with the simpler stitches and motifs and then moved on to more complicated techniques, as their needleworking skills improved. By the end of the 19th century, samplers had moved from the workbasket to pride of place on the walls of upscale homes, serving as a showcase for the skills of the daughters and wives of the household. More importantly for historians, it became a common practice for the women and girls to sign and date their work.


Huntley, Richmond, “Flashback: In Samplers Little Girls Express Themselves”, American Collector, April 1942, reprinted 20 March 2009, Collectors Weekly, http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/in-samplers-little-girls-expressed-themselves/  6 Feb. 2013.

Welcome

Hi – I am Dawn Peschke and I would like to Thank You for stopping by DP Stitchin’.  I love to stitch and hope to share my excitement with you.

I started this blog so that I could share some of the cool things I have learned about embroidery and connect with others who share my love for this work – no matter where in the world they are. I know I am not the only one out there who is  crazy about stitchin’,  so introduce yourselves – I would love to get to know you.

I took a degree in Studio Art with most of my work being done in the areas of Teaching & Textiles, but I also have a strong interest in Art History. I think it is important to understand the role that embroidery in all its various forms, has played throughout history. The work  of our sister stitchers* becomes a resource for our own work and connects us to our stitchin’ roots while acting as a window into their worlds.

So, join me on my journey . . . the adventure begins!

*yes, I know there have been guys involved at times, but we both know that stitchin’ is still mostly a gal thing, which is too bad. Gonna have to do somethin’ about that!

A Not-so-Short History of Embroidery Samplers, part 1

Samplers have been around a long time. ‘Sampler’ or ‘exampler’ is from the Latin ‘exemplum’ and the French “essemplaire” meaning: ‘an example, model or pattern to copy’. Early samplers were used as records of pattern and stitch and were valued as a library of sorts by their owners. Over time, samplers began to develop more complexity. They were used as a practical reference, but also passed along skills as a teaching tool. Samplers became testaments to the stitcher’s skills and were believed to build moral character in the young women who stitched them. In modern times, samplers have become treasured as art pieces and as a resource for historians trying to understand the times in which they were created. This multifaceted nature keeps us intrigued to this day

The earliest known sampler was created in Peru.  Unsurprisingly it is in pretty bad shape, but considering that it was stitched sometime during the 2nd century, I’d say it looks pretty good!

Peruvian sampler, 2nd C

The Peruvian sampler is a good example of a ‘spot’ sampler, which is a sampler made up of single stitched motifs. Because the stitcher was interested in capturing ideas, rather than in the aesthetics of the finished piece, the motifs were stitched singly with no regard for pattern or composition. It is simply a record of patterns for future use. One thing I love about it is how the motifs reflect the Peruvian culture. There is no mistaking this for an 18th C American schoolgirl sampler! Yet, there are common threads between the two. Each is communicating a message in a unique language but I feel a connection between them.  I think that the use of similar materials and methods is a thread that connects us as stitchers, even across the barriers of time and distance. The idea that we can communicate with stitchers from the past is part of the reason that samplers remain a fascinating topic today.


Thank you to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the image of this lovely sampler. You can see it at http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/50005755?rpp=20&pg=1&ft=206.889&pos=1