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.
The oldest surviving samplers were constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries. As there were no wills and passed down through the generations. These samplers were stitched using a variety of needlework styles
A border was added to samplers in the 17th century, and by the middle of the 17th century alphabets
became common, with religious or moral quotations, while the entire sampler became more methodically
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.
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.