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Title: Linen sampler
Item Name: School and Education
Maker: Phillips, Ann


This sampler is made of linen and coloured wool with stylised birds and flowers, with a blue wool poem in the centre. It was embroidered by Ann Phillips in memory of her sister Hannah who died September 4th 1857, aged 3 years.

Year: 1857
Materials: linen, wool
Measurements: W:45.5cm, L:73.5cm
ID_Number: ERYMS : 1993.486

Related Exhibitions

Samplers - Art in needlework
The practice of decorating a piece of fabric with stitched designs has been around since at least the early centuries of the Christian era - examples are known from the Nazca culture in Peru and from Coptic Egypt for example. In Europe the practice of producing samplers dates from at least the 16th century. Their purpose, styles of decoration and the materials/techniques used have evolved continuously over the centuries since they first began to be made.

The word sampler comes from the old French word 'essemplaire' meaning example. They were originally a way for craft workers to record their patterns, so they could accurately reproduce them later. Also, demonstration pieces were produced by girls as part of their education and to prepare them for married life, as the ability to do needlework was seen as virtuous and a useful domestic skill. This became more important in later centuries as opportunities for girls to acquire education expanded and became more formal.

There are various types of samplers. 'Spot samplers' featured randomly placed motifs across the piece of cloth (usually linen, later more commonly wool). On 'band samplers' there were repeated rows, for example letters of the alphabet, perhaps interspersed with floral patterns. Other features might include the names of the maker and the date.

From the 18th century samplers were typically square, rather than rectangular, making it easier to display them on a wall. They could have moral or religious verses, pictorial motifs like a house and garden and decorative borders. Geographical map samplers were also sometimes produced. 'Darning samplers' were designed to demonstrate the creator's skill in needlework, a useful domestic ability - for repairing clothing for example.

By the 19th century school produced samplers were much more standardised, generally using simple cross stitch as teaching exercises. However some professional examples were produced for use by others to do home embroidery.

In the early 20th century samplers drastically declined in popularity, surviving mostly through art schools and needlework groups. However, recently there has been a revival in interest in this craft, including popular television programmes about sewing techniques.

Samplers in the East Riding Museum Service collections mainly date to the 19th century, there are also a couple of 18th century examples, along with a few practice pieces from the 20th century.