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Sampler

Sampler
What was it used for? To teach stitching and sewing techniques
Where is it from? UK
When was it made? 1801
How was it made? Hand sewn
What was it made from? Linen and silk
Size: L 203mm, W 197mm.
Museum number: G.522

Samplers were often made by young girls as a way to learn how to sew. By the 19th century, when this sampler was made, they were used more as decorative items and only a limited range of stitches were used. Was the sewer, Margaret Briant, allowed to use it to decorate the 'asylum' she mentions?

This sampler is made of fine linen and silk. This means that the stitches sewn are very fine. Margaret only used a stitch known as cross-stitch. This is typical of the 19th century. Margaret's focus was on making this a decorative item. Like other samplers of this date, it has a symmetrical pattern with popular designs of plants, animals and birds. Sewers also often included pictures of buildings. The building on this sampler was probably an orphanage, the 'asylum' Margaret mentions. Sadly, we do not know how old Margaret was when she made this sampler in 1801. Girls as young as five years old record themselves making samplers.

The word 'sampler' comes from the French word 'essamplaire', which means any work to be copied. Samplers were first made before books were easily available. Sewers used them as a way to remember various stitches and sewing techniques. Girls and women were expected to be able to make and repair their own and their families' clothes and household linen. Girls could also use the skill to get a job. Girls included letters on their samplers to help them learn how to read. It was also practice for a job in a 'big house', marking linen with an employer's name.

We do not know who Margaret Briant was, or where the orphanage was in which she grew up. There were many orphanages in Surrey in the 19th century, but their number began to decline as adoption and fostering became more common in the 20th century.