Band Samplers

Band sampler, silk on linen, dated 1633, made by Mildred Mayow. Britain. Band sampler, silk on linen, dated 1633, made by Mildred Mayow. Britain. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, acc. no. T.194-1927.

Band samplers form the oldest examples of European samplers and date from around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This form of sampler consists of a narrow (c. 15-23 cm) band of cloth, usually of linen, on which examples of needlework stitches and patterns were worked.

Band samplers were initially used as references, when pre-printed pattern sheets or books were not widely available. During this period, cloth was expensive and these samplers were sometimes mentioned in wills and passed on from one generation to the next.

Sixteenth century English band samplers include a variety of stitches, such as a simple back stitch and cross stitch, as well as more complicated stitches such as Algerian eyelets, buttonhole stitch, flame stitchlong-armed cross stitch, satin stitch, tent stitch and two-sided Italian cross stitch. The stitches were often worked into geometrical designs, and sometimes animals and flowers were also depicted. The thread used for these early band samplers was normally a coloured silk form and occasionally a metal thread.

In the nineteenth century, another form of band sampler developed in (girls') schools in Northern Europe (especially in Belgium and the Netherlands). These so-called plain sewing samplers consisted of small rectangles of cloth sewn together. Each rectangle included one or more plain (structural) and decorative needlework techniques, such as buttonholes, inserts, mending, as well as embroidery of various forms. Such band samplers are usually about 15-20 cm wide and can be as much as 7 m in length, depending on the number of techniques represented. Sometimes miniature garments were also included in the band sampler, to show that a girl had mastered the various skills needed to make garments at home. This form of sampler continued to be made into the 1960's and then vanished from the school curriculums.

See also Martha Edlin.

Source: HUMPHREY, Carol (1997). Samplers (Fitzwilliam Museum Handbooks), Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 22 June 2016).


Last modified on Friday, 27 January 2017 17:29
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