The Legacy Of Samplers - The Art Of Embroidery

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The Legacy Of Samplers - The Art Of Embroidery

By: Debra Fernandez

All throughout history, both ancient and that which is being made today, man has had the desire to express himself and record history by using decorative stitching. This desire is only too evident when you study the art of embroidery and more particularly the history of the sampler.

The word sampler is derived from a Latin word, saumpler, which means to model, pattern, copy or imitate. While samplers of today are often associated with recording a historical event such as a wedding or birth by applying beautiful, intricate stitching to canvas, their original use was much more practical than sentimental.

The sampler finds its beginnings in an ancient time before printed books and embroidery magazines were readily available. During this time people learned different embroidery techniques by studying different embroidery designs which had been sewn onto cloth. These samplers were passed from hand to hand, and, after learning the stitches on the sampler, each person added a design or motif that they had learned for the next person to examine.

During the 15th and 16th centuries it became very popular to collect these samplers. And since embroidery was restricted to the wealthy (persons of poor economic standing did not have time to pursue leisurely activities such as embroidery), a great majority of samplers found their way into the hands of the well to do. Far from being the haphazard samplers that had been traded throughout the countryside, these samplers were highly prized pieces of art.

As such, old samplers and new ones were being created and hoarded, sometimes even being bequeathed to certain persons upon death like a priceless gem. The demand for printed needlework patterns led to the first commercially printed patterns in Germany during the year 1523. While these paper patterns were not readily available in the beginning, their popularity grew, and they eventually overrode the necessity, but not the fascination with and collection of samplers.

Samplers continued to be fashioned and evolved during different time periods to reflect the culture and personality of society at the time. During the early part of the 17th century, the alphabet began to be depicted on samplers, and it was believed that the sampler took on an educational aspect at this time. This can also be seen from the moral and religious inscriptions which are popular among samplers which were crafted at the end of the 17th century.

This trend continued, and by the turn of the 19th century, samplers were synonymous with education. In fact, school girls were required to complete a sampler depicting religious instruction, geography, English and mathematics before they were considered truly educated.

While samplers are not used in education today, they are still very popular among those looking for a unique, decorative and durable way to record family history. Today you can find samplers that depict family trees, births, weddings and other major lifetime events. These pieces of art are just as important to our culture today and the generations to come as were the samplers from which they received inspiration. And they are still as valuable to families as those hoarded by the rich in the15th and 16th centuries.

About The Author

By Debra Fernandez

Get more great embroidery tips and articles at Debra's website

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