January 06, 2006

All About Samplers!

Latest WIP of Welsh Sampler
(shows work from 5 + 6 January 2006)

Hi there Cross-Stitch Friends!

I am really looking forward to showing off my work on the Welsh sampler - its probably the quickest I have worked on a piece of this size, it has been such a pleasure to stitch! I am praying that when I join up the two ends of the inside border, that they meet :-) The book does warn about this, so I have been really careful to count 23 stitches for each "section" of the zigzags - mind you, I admit I went into a bit of a daze today and ended up stitching 33 stitches before realising that I had go way over the stitch-count! As you can see from the above, I have started the top line of the Upper Case alphabet and only have about 1 hour's work to do on that, plus the border before finishing!! I cannot wait to publish my next WIP photo as it will really take shape by then.

Lili has asked me to explain about samplers, what they are and some background. So it is with much pleasure that I give some details here:

The origin of the English Sampler dates back to the 16th Century and were often stitched by young girls of between 8 and 14 years old as part of their education. As the name suggests, they are called Samplers because it provided a means of practicing a series of different stitches (hence, from the Latin work "exemplum") and a variety of letter types. The seamstress would often incorporate their name, date of birth, and year of creation onto the work - often it was the most reliable way of recording a person's birth-date (before official records were kept).

I guess I am a bit of a "purist" as far as samplers go, so I sometimes disagree with the way some magazines describe a birth and marriage cross-stitch piece as a Sampler, when the only connection with the original concept is that it has the Marriage date and Bride and Groom's names .... I only consider it a Sampler if it has the traditional lines of letters, numbers, maybe a few motifs and an attractive border.

There are a number of styles such as Band Samplers, Blackwork Samplers, as well as the original ones in full colour! They often on domestic themes such as 'Bless This House' or commemorating a birth - Brenda Keyes even does a special sampler for Twins!


There are many designers who are linked with Samplers, either because they have created authentic duplicates of original samplers or because they create their own charts. Here are just a few of my favourite people:

JANE GREENOFF - Jane has a very large (and I imagine priceless!) collection of samplers that she and her husband have purchased from travels around the world - mainly from antique or bric-a-brac shops. Jane has published many books, of which I have a copy of each, in which she has charted some truly sumptuous designs. Samplers are often displayed in stately homes owned by the National Trust, English Heritage and I often "drag" my very tolerant DH around to see them :-) He does admit that they are very charming, once I have him standing there, with his arm behind his back (or maybe its just a way of hurrying me up so that we can visit the Tea shop for a cup of tea and slice of home-made cake).
BRENDA KEYES - Brenda's book "Traditional Samplers" is full of beautiful charts of many styles of samplers dating back to the 1600's (my Welsh Sampler is one of her designs).
HELEN PHILLIPS - Helen has produced a number of really great books on Samplers and her style is very different to the above designers, because her charts are very modern and just wonderful to stitch for hanging around the home. She uses a mix of pastels and really vivid colours in her designs and usually does a line of repeating motifs with some lettering which is always very attractive

I hope that this is of interest to you.

Tomorrow I will do a review of Cross Stitch Collection - I have not seen any other reviews of this magazine on other blogs/websites so thought I would give some details - its great for large designs from a wide variety of Designers, especially Sue Cook, Maria Diaz and Joan Elliot to name a few.

Enjoy your day!


Lili said...

Thanks a lot, Ali! I'll have a look at these designers (only knew of Jane Greenhof). Thanks for all explanations, I was quite lost due to the extensive use of the word...

Von said...

Ali, quite an informative post today!

Stitch said...

Oh wow Ali!!! That's a lovely sampler you have there!!! Stunning!! Can't wait to see it all finished!