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Embroidery Sampler : How to make one and why you should!

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Why everyone who loves embroidery should make a Sampler – 6 reasons

  • You can practice your embroidery stitches
  • You can show off your embroidery skills 
  • You can test your embroidery design, color, size etc.
  • You can use it as a reference later
  • It makes a good artwork on your wall
  • Teaches a lot of patience.

Because of these above-said uses, (and because there were no ipads, or TV or even schools for girls) in olden times, all the young girls (aged 6 to 15) would sit down daily regularly to complete their samplers. It was a rite of passage. They learned different hand embroidery techniques and then showed off their mastery through these samplers. A fruitful and relaxing way to pass time and make something beautiful.

After completing the stitches, it will be signed and displayed to all. A sampler proclaimed the wealth and status of a household.

For most girls, a sampler was a place to display their hand skill – it proclaimed that they are ready to run a household. After all, a lifetime of hand sewing awaited them – remember, there were no sewing machines or alteration shops or boutiques at every nook and corner. They had to do the mending, sewing themselves. So these were their practice pieces. 

The sampler also served as a reference for the many embroidery stitches they will be using later on. In the absence of embroidery design books or online references these samplers served as their reference points.

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Anatomy of an Embroidery sampler

If you want to try your hand at working at an embroidery sampler you can choose an Heirloom Sampler (an antique reproduction sampler) or a modern sampler. A band sampler is made on a narrow long fabric or ribbon with the designs stitched in rows or bands across the width of the band.

You can make a modern sampler to depict an event in your life – it will make a great gift for a loved one. You can also embroider a wording which means something to you. Or simply work the embroidery stitches you like.

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An heirloom embroidery sampler consists of bands of various embroidery stitches, embroidered letters, numbers, small motifs like houses, flowers, trees. animals, as well as geometric repeating patterns. These motifs were placed randomly or very symmetrically arranged to look like a picture.

Cross stitch, back stitch, running stitch, eyelet stitches and buttonhole stitches, French knots, Blackwork, Assisi work – all are used in samplers. Pulled thread work as well as cutwork was also used. A border was also added to the sampler. You can use different types of embroidery threads like metal threads, beads etc to embellish your sampler.

An even weave fabric with the same number of weft and warp threads for each square centimeter is used for making the embroidery sampler (Cotton, linen). A 28 and 32 threads per inch evenweave is preferred. But it is your preference what you make your sampler on. 

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When you have finished with the stitches, you can add a name or initials, or date at the bottom of the sampler

How to work the sampler

Mark the boundary of your sampler on your fabric; leave off extra and then cut the fabric. Overlock or zig-zag stitch the edges to prevent fraying – you may take some time to finish the sewing depending on the complexity of your design.

Mark band reference points – otherwise the stitching can look wonky. You can mark with chalk but many experts prefer making baste stitches. You will need to make top and bottom reference lines this way as well as inside lines.

Start your stitching and finish in your own time. Embroidery can be used as a relaxation technique and sampler stitching is the best for this. 

Embroidery Sampler  – references

Checkout the antique samplers on display online at these websites. You can take inspiration from any of these and choose to emulate the look and feel of these vintage samplers.

Art Institute of Chicago (Use the site search option )

Sampler Trivia : The word Sampler is derived from Latin (exemplum)  and means a model or an example for imitation.

Related post: Display your embroidery work the right way; Which fabric to embroidery on?; Make embroidery art on your pendants.

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Author: Sarina Tariq
Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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