What is a Sampler?

I have been fascinated by samplers since I began to stitch over 40 years ago.  This fascination has made me very interested in the history of samplers and more specifically, finding out what makes something a sampler.  I also wanted to learn about the different types of samplers.  As I was researching, I found the variety of definitions for sampler captivating.  Even the Loudoun Sampler Guild, “a group devoted to the preservation and study of sampler” did not have a single definition.  Of all the definitions that I found, my favorite is from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: “A decorative piece of cloth embroidered with various designs or mottoes in a variety of stitches, serving as an example of skill at needlework.”

What is your favorite definition of a sampler?  Please share with us.



During my research I used many references, here are my favorites:


  • Sampler & Antique Needlework: A Year in Stitches – Symbol of Excellence Publishers, Inc., 1994
  • Embroidered Samplers – Dorothea Kay, 1979
  • Cross Stitch and Sampler Book – Jan Eaton and Liz Mundle, 1985
  • Samplers: Five Centuries of a Gentle Craft – Anne Sebba, 1979
  • Traditional Samplers – Sarah Don, 1986


What are your favorite references?  Please share with us.


Our next discussion topic will be exploring the different types of samplers.

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