Where and How? The making of school samplers.

Sampler making was taught in schools across the country, as well as in Europe and also India.  Usually the school mistress would present the girls with a model sampler to copy, resulting in many similar versions of the original.  This gave a particular school a distinctive sampler style, such as samplers from the Bristol Orphan House and St Clement Danes.

The samplers that I am researching are typical of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English school samplers more generally as only a few needlework techniques are employed on linen or wool ground. As samplers were now mass produced in schools across the country less emphasis was placed on technical ability. Some of the techniques found in the Fitzwilliam school samplers are described below:

Cross stitch– two stitches forming a cross (X).

Satin/Filling stitch– a series of smooth stitches used to completely cover a section of a background.

Double running stitch– in a running stitch, the needle passes in and out of the fabric, and in double running stitch there is a second row of running stitches worked in a reverse direction in between the stitches of the first pass, making a solid of line of stitching.

Algerian eye stitch– eight straight stitches emanate from a central hole to create a star shape. 

Florentine stitch– straight stitch worked vertically including running and repeated patterns using counted threads. 

Four sided cross stitch– cross stitch variation which outlines the squares on the fabric.


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University of Cambridge Museums

Archive of projects, events and news from 2012 to May 2017

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