Title: Samplers & Samplermakers: An American Schoolgirl Art 1700 - 1850
Author: Mary Jaene Edwards
About the Book: The history of samplermaking in this country is inextricably tied to the history of women's education, for samplers were made in classrooms and were often the first -- and sometimes only -- step in a young woman's education.
Samplers, which are oblong pieces of linen embellished with patterns embroidered in silk threads, were first brought to America in the seventeenth century by settlers from England and northern Europe. Their very existence is evidence of early schooling for women in this country.
The first samplers stitched in America were nearly identical in style to their Old World counterparts, but within a few decades they began to take on distinctively American characteristics. The traditional long, narrow format became larger and wider; brilliant colors were employed with abandon; patterns grew more elaborate; and gradually, the staid vignettes of European embroidery gave way to lively, whimsical scenes of great charm and enormous originality. By 1776, the formally patterned, exquisitely stitched British sampler had disappeared from the colonies, leaving in its place the most delightful sampler embroideries the world has ever seen.
For over two hundred years, a multitude of remarkable women teachers guided the development of this art form in America, carefully composing the beautiful sampler designs and supervising their execution by young female pupils. Despite the domestic nature of the craft, samplers were not made at home but were taught and made exclusively in private schools for girls. As school mistresses and the locations of their early American classrooms have gone largely unrecorded, these astonishing embroideries - which are usually signed, dated, and even sometimes inscribed with the names of the towns in which they were worked and the names of the embroiderers' teachers - serve as historic documents, attesting to the existence of colonial education for women.
My thoughts: As you may have guessed by the name of my blog, I enjoy many forms of needlepoint and samplers have always interested me. I was very naive in what I knew about samplers though and never realized the importance they played in documenting a young girl's education. I thought they were taught at home, to teach a girl the alphabet and numbers and also sewing skills at the same time. I never considered they were taught in schools.
It was interesting to learn that you can tell what area of the country as well as when a sampler was stitched based on the patterns and symbols used in the design. This book contains more information that can possibly be absorbed in one reading. It also contains pages upon pages of beautiful samplers, many of them over a hundred years old.
I have a feeling that this will be a book I revisit as I continue to explore different forms of needlepoint and begin to experiment with making my own samplers.
Samplers & Samplermaking
Publisher/Publication Date: Rizzoli International, 1991