Questions and Answers

While we cannot and will not do any appraisals, we are always happy to comment on your personal samplers. Please feel free to send a digital picture directly to contact@antiquesamplers.org.

  • Q.

    Hello, I happened upon your site via a sampler link on Pinterest. However I noticed you don't allow pinning of the samplers featured here and that is understood but I was wondering if you would allow pinning of your homepage so that we can share a link to this wonderful site. I have a Pinterest Board titled, "Fav' Sites" and I would like to add you to it. If not, I fully understand. I thought I would ask anyway. :o) Thank you so much!

    A.

    Thank you so much for asking - we really appreciate it! With the way Pinterest works, we aren't sure if our site will "pin" since we have blocked the images. You are welcome to try it. We struggle with Pinterest because the images are so prolific and often copied, trodding the heck out of all types of ownership and copyright legalities. We walk a fine line between sharing the collection while protecting the integrity of the individual pieces.

  • Q.

    I found a 'sampler' at Thrift store its a small 4x6 possibly in frame? wondering if i should take it out of frame to see if theres possibly anyother markings its a cabin with two pine trees dated 1789

    A.

    By all means take it out of the frame and check it out. We often take pictures of the various accessories that accompany our pieces - handwritten notes or newspapers stuffed into frame are a great source of amusement.

  • Q.

    I have a sampler that has the following on it.The initials KBH 1828 on the bottom right.It also has the initals AG-CG-GS WITH 2 banjos or guitars on each side in the middle towards the bottom. On the bottom left are the initals CEG.The top contains the ABC"S PLUS 1 through 15.Any idea of its origin?

    A.

    Please send a picture of the sampler to contact@antiquesamplers.org and we'll give it our best guess.

  • Q.

    I have a sampler done by my great great grandmother in 1837. The quote is faded to barely readable. We know what it is because it was written down. Can the color be restored for future generations to enjoy? If it can, does it decrease the value if the sampler. Is there a way to determine if the sampler will hold together if it is taken out of the frame? I have been told it may disintegrate. Thank you!

    A.

    Fading of thread colour is one of the biggest issues of older samplers as so many were exposed to direct sunlight through poor quality (if any) glass. Restoring the colour will damage the integrity of the work and therefore the value, so it is not recommended. If the linen is very fine, almost gauze-like, there is a good chance it will disintegrate if unframed. Worse, it could stick to the glass if it was flush-mounted and then you have a mess on your hands and no more sampler. Document the verse, as well as the pertinent family history, and mount that information in a clear sleeve to the back of the frame.

  • Q.

    Do you know of any accounts (e.g. diaries, letters) written by girls while they were making samplers, in which they discuss their work? Are there any extant writings by their teachers? Also, are there any novels which mention samplers? I'm referring to sampler-makers from prior centuries,17th, 18th and 19th.) Thank you! Much appreciated.

    A.

    Apologies for the very long delay in answering this one! We know of two: - The Complete Marjory Fleming, Her Journals, Letters, and Verses transcribed and edited by Frank Sidgwick, published in 1934. A Scottish girl who died at aged 9, born in 1803. A good perspective on the life a young Scottish girl. - The Memoirs of Susan Sibbald 1783-1812 edit by her great-grandson Francis Paget Hett. Covering only the first 29 years of the writers life, Susan lived until 1866. Originally published in 1926 by John Lane, The Bodley Head. Kessinger Publishing has a reprint available (ISBN 1436676967 www.kessinger.net)

  • Q.

    I have a sampler that has been handed down through the family on my mother's side. The girl who made it was called Margaret Davies. She was Welsh and I believe lived in Wales rather than England, although the sampler is in English. The inscription is: Margaret Davies finished this work Anno Domini 1818. I am interested in the social history and conditions of girls stitching samplers at that time. I am guessing that they would not have been working class as those children would have been out working in the factories or on the farms. So I'm assuming they would have had some financial status, sufficient to educate their children and permit pursuits such as fine stitching. Can you help me?

    A.

    Thank you for your interest. We have focused primarily on the social history in Scotland, but as you can see by the Welsh samplers in the collection Wales has an interest for us as well. Most of the samplers in the collection are from Northern Wales where we know there were numerous schools for girls. They were often allowed to go to school to see if they had a competency for sewing as well as to learn their ABC's. It was considered a good occupation for a girl if she could sew well. Welsh samplers have some distinctive features. Would you send us a photo (to contact@antiquesamplers.org)? Also, as you might guess, Margaret Davies is a fairly common name, so do you know where in Wales she was from?

  • Q.

    I have two darning samplers, one dated 1891 and the other 1717. I am looking for other examples of darning samplers, but not found any.

    A.

    While darning samplers are not our main interest, we do have at least four for your to look at -- Ann Alsop, Swan Darning, M.W., Elizabeth Gardner #4. A good place to view others is at the website for Erna Hiscock Antiques (www.ernahiscockantiques.com)

  • Q.

    I am trying to figure out what this sampler verses says/is. Some of the words are very worn. Can you tell me what the missing words are? The sampler is with another family member and the photos they are giving are not very good. "Patience will wipe away the streaming thay; and hope will paine the pallid cheek of fear; Content will (?) happiness supply; and (wittlie?) call a blessing from on? high" The sampler was made in 1839 and is American.

    A.

    We are often asked how we do our research, and truly, we are not rocket scientists. We usually start with a simple internet search of a portion of the verse (placed in quotes). This verse pops up as: "PATIENCE will wipe away the streaming tear, And hope will paint the pallid cheek of fear, Content will always happiness supply, And virtue calls a blessing from on high". While we cannot attribute the author as of yet, the source was MISCELLANIES, MORAL and INSTRUCTIVE, in PROSE and VERSE COLLECTED FROM VARIOUS AUTHORS FOR THE USE of SCHOOLS AND IMPROVEMENT OF YOUNG PERSONS of both SEXES printed in both London and Philadelphia. The reprint we found was from the 1830's.

  • Q.

    How do I submit pictures and information about antique samplers that I own.

    A.

    Thanks for the question. We are working hard on a forum side to our website so that all our members can share the samplers they own. Our goal is to get the forum up and running next summer, so keep your fingers crossed!

  • Q.

    Is there a source, other than Betty Ring, where I might find a listing of sampler verses?

    A.

    Bolton & Coe, details listed in our bibliography, are particularly helpful. When we come across a verse we've not seen before we make full use of the internet -- Google has been a true friend!

  • Q.

    Is it known why Solomon's Temple shows up on so many samplers?

    A.

    We do not have a good answer, however, there is a book coming out shortly and we will post the information as soon as it become available.

  • Q.

    Are there samplers in your collection from the Atlanta Georgia area?

    A.

    Sarah Hamblet was born in Troup, Georgia. Troup is about 80 miles north of Atlanta. That is our only sampler we've been able to verify is from Georgia.

  • Q.

    What is the sampler verse that contains ".....the criss cross row ......"

    A.

    We were not familiar with that one but got a tidbit from a member from a Google search: E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898. Criss-cross Row (Christ-cross row): The A B C horn-book, containing the alphabet and nine digits. The most ancient of these infant-school books had the letters arranged in the form of a Latin cross, with A at the top and Z at the bottom; but afterwards the letters were arranged in lines, and a + was placed at the beginning to remind the learner that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” “Mortals ne’er shall know More than contained of old the Chris’-cross row.” Tickell: The Horn-Book.

  • Q.

    I have recently inherited 8 samplers dating from the oldest 1774 to the youngest 1894 approx all in good condition. I want to insure them but am unsure as to how much they would be worth for insurance purposes. The 1774 is sized approx A4 with two others the same size dated 1806 & 1831. Th remainder are the same width but are approx 18inches long. Please can you help?

    A.

    We advise you to find a local textile expert to look at your pieces. Your local museum may be able to recommend someone.

  • Q.

    I purchased two cross stitch samplers at auction. One is dated 1841 and the other is probably of that same age. They are done on some strange fabric that looks like peg board (not Aida cloth) but it is fabric. They are framed and behind glass, but at the edge of the back of the frame pieces of the fabric peek out. It's dry and flaky. Is it cloth? Thanks so much.

    A.

    Update 10-22-09: We have heard from a member who suggests your ground may be perforated paper. The older stuff is thick and does resemble cardboard. The Victorians liked to use it for bookmarks and framed mottoes. We believe the paper was introduced about the 1820s or 30s.

  • Q.

    Just a comment for the person asking about the letters on her German sampler. Some PA German samplers contain letters that stand for O Edel Herz BeDenk Dein Ende which means O Noble Heart Consider Your End. Ref: Samplers of the Pennsylvania Germans by Tandy & Chas. Hersh, a publication of the PA German Society 1991.

    A.

    Thanks!!

  • Q.

    I have a sampler done in the Lincolnshire area of England in 1827. The sampler is under glass and an antiques expert could not determine the fiber content of the stitches. It was done on linen. What other fibers were used at that time besides silk thread?

    A.

    The thread could have been silk or wool - no other options exist to the best of our knowledge. Cotton was only used in whitework pieces at that time. We recommend contacting your local museum for a recommendation to a textile expert.

  • Q.

    I found a sampler in the garbage at a thrift store. There is a name and date, Rebecca Bennett and date 1784 across the bottom. The border actually looks like the border across the top of your page. The material has yellowed should I clean it and if so, what would be the best way?

    A.

    Yellow is usually "age", not dirt, so no amount of cleaning can help your piece. We do not recommend self-cleaning; a local textile expert can recommend your next steps.

  • Q.

    I purchased a sampler at a recent estate sale. The previous owners were collectors from the central Kentucky area. The sampler I purchased has a name and date (Mary Ann Baker, 1847, seven years old) and states that she was a pupil at the Hill Top school. Without submitting a picture, can you direct me to a good location to begin research? I've located several Mary Ann Bakers' (no surprise, rather a common name) of the correct age on familysearch.org but nothing to narrow it down as of yet. I was wondering if the Hill Top School rang a bell? Any help you can provide would be appreciated.

    A.

    If this was us, we would start by locating an historical society for the approximate region. Kentucky isn't really one of our focus states, so we are afraid we can't be of further assistance. Please do let us know (email to info@antiquesamplers.org) how the search goes.

  • Q.

    How rare are samplers from the New York Female Association Schools? Betty Ring mentions that at the time, there were only about a dozen known examples. Still true? Are they more rare than Nine Partners Boarding School examples?

    A.

    We consulted with an authority, and the answer is "Very rare, although probably 15 - 18 might be known now. Yes, they are more rare than Nine Partners.

  • Q.

    How do I find out the prices of samplers I am interested in?

    A.

    Our samplers are not for sale.

  • Q.

    How would I go about searching for the person who created a sampler? It is signed and dated.

    A.

    For American samplers, we start with two specific websites: www.ancestory.com and www.familysearch.org. It always helps if you know the city/state or origination as well.

  • Q.

    This site is incredible! How are you funded?

    A.

    Thank you for your kind words. We are a private collection - privately funded.

  • Q.

    Is there any one book that explains the meanings of motifts in a sampler? Such as a dog means loyalty. Guess I'm looking for a dictionary explaining the meaning of different figures in a sampler.

    A.

    November 2009: Updated with information from a member. Thank You!! The best book I know of for this is Embroidery Motifs from Dutch Samplers by Alberta Meulenbelt-Nieuwburg - you need to check first to make sure it's in English (assuming that's your language) it was published in Dutch and then re-released later in English - it can be difficult to find, but is a wealth of information. Naturally, the same motifs from different parts of the world have different meanings, so no one book will do, but this is a great start and helps with most European samplers.

  • Q.

    I have a picture (Sacred Heart) that the note on the back states that it was stitched in 1870 on English Bristol board. What is Bristol board? The piece is crossed stitched with wool, I think.

    A.

    We consulted an authority who gave us this bit of information: Bristol Board was very much like the punched paper which was indeed used as a base for samplers / needlework in the 1850's to 80s - here and in England. Stiff board with little holes pre-punched in it and much easier to work than a linen or wool ground. There were various grades of it available with tiny or larger holes. Thanks for asking!

  • Q.

    When I was on vacation at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, I saw a presentation that gave a great deal of information about sampler making. They said that samplers were made so that the back was the mirror image of the front. Do you notice this in your samplers, or was this only done under a teacher?

    A.

    This question took some research! Fully reversible samplers were primarily done in the 16th and 17th centuries, and are not at all common in America. There are only a few embroidery stitches which lend themselves to being exactly the same on both sides of the fabric -- cross and double running being the most common. Perhaps the lecture addressed specific samplers, rather than samplers from Williamsburg as a whole. We have no official and fully reversible samplers within our 700+ collection and would refer you to the sampler by Loara Standish dated 1650 in the collection of the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which is pictured in Betty Ring'sGirlhood Embroidery Vol. 1, plate 27.

  • Q.

    Are there any chart(ers) of any sampler?

    A.

    The Essamplaire is the only vendor licensed to carry "our" patterns, and currently offers three: Marianna Lignani (#275), Augusta's Bristol Orphanage Sampler (#268) and Isabella Cook 2 (#300). Go to links for The Essamplaire's website.

  • Q.

    I'll be travellling to England in Sept.08. I have just found in my Mom's possession a sampler from 1882. It is part of my heritage.......it's in good condition...unframed......how do I preserve for the next generation?

    A.

    Have it appraised first by a certified expert in the field. We recommend stabilizing samplers on linen, and then have the entire piece conservationally mounted, which among other things will keep the glass from physically touching the stitches and fabric. Research the framer very carefully, they are not all created equally! (Maybe a referral from a local museum would help; stay away from chain stores even though the price would be less.) You could then attach your genealogical research to the exterior of the frame backing in a clear plastic sleeve so that it stays with the sampler, or file it in a binder that is clearly marked. Make sure you get the sampler included in your homeowner's insurance policy, especially if the value is substantial. Don't forget to declare a destination for the sampler in your will to further guarantee it stays in the family. Have a great trip!

  • Q.

    Is it common to find the queen stitch strawberries as seen in Sarah Hutchinson's sampler from the mid-18th century to the 1780s? Are they commonly seen from the southern states? This must seem like an odd question, but I'm very interested in sampler motifs, and this is the only sampler I've seen made before 1827 with queen stitch strawberries.

    A.

    We checked with one of our favorite experts on this subject! Queen's stitch strawberries certainly do appear on other American samplers from the 18th century and many from the first decades of the 19th century, probably mostly from the mid Atlantic states. Probably mostly from Pennsylvania. Definitely not predominantly from the South. They were certainly used by teachers in the Susquehanna Valley (see Betty Ring's Girlhood Embroidery Vol II, pages 410 - to 423 for samplers made between 1797 and 1838 with strawberries in the borders).

  • Q.

    What kind of characteristics in a sampler do you look for when deciding if it is of Scottish origin?

    A.

    No single element alone will suffice, you must have a combination of certain features. First and foremost is the use of familial initials. In combination with the knowledge that Scottish woman kept their maiden surnames after marriage, the initials make the needleworker that much more easy to identify through genealogical research. (And, no pun intended, thank God for The Church of Scotland, whose parish records are quite detailed!) Font styles are another good indicator of Scottish origin -- there are filigreed style alphabets and ones with the decorative bars above the capital "A" that are prevalent in the port towns (although not unique to Scotland). You want to be able to find certain motifs: thistles, certain styles of peacocks, certain styles of buildings (i.e. the pedimented house). There is also a folksy quality to the motifs that is consistent throughout Scottish samplers. Colors: look for lots of red, green, sometimes black. Thread - you do find more wool in Scottish samplers than in other areas but this alone is not a good indicator.

  • Q.

    Is there a sampler with a Latin phrase?

    A.

    We have a few with Latin phrases, such as "Anno Domini", but none in our collection are fully in Latin. We presume there are samplers with text in Latin in existence, especially those from traditional European Catholic schools.

  • Q.

    "Pictures of some samplers are available for the private, limited, non-commercial use of members upon request and approval of Gold Level membership." What exactly does 'limited, non-commercial' use mean? : ) Can I stitch a portion of or an entire sampler from the photo to hang on my own wall?

    A.

    The brief and quick answer to the last question is, No, please, not without permission. While elements of our samplers are common and are not limited to just our pieces, we still own the pieces displayed on this website and therefore the right to decide who can "copy", which is what we mean by commercial (for profit) or non-commercial (not for profit). Patterns to some are available through the Essamplaire. Please send an email to us atinfo@antiquesamplers.org about a specific sampler you are interested in reproducing.

  • Q.

    Are American samplers more valuable than European samplers?

    A.

    Not necessarily, but a combination of many things will influence price. In addition to all the things we said in an earlier question about evaluating sampler we would like to add several points, in no particular order. (1) there were many more European schoolgirls and they made many more samplers so they are more common. Specifically, English samplers can tend to be more formulaic and evidence less individualism or "follkiness" which is a quality that many collectors value highly in a sampler. (2) American collectors of many different things (furniture, silver, glass, paintings) do have a preference for things made in the U.S. (national chauvinism?). The fact that American makers can often be identified and traced is of fascination to many as this is so rarely able to be done with antiques of any sort, and American samplers tend be more regionally identifiable and therefore can be grouped and tracked (thanks to scholars like Betty Ring and many others) and this has made them more interesting.

  • Q.

    How can I tell if my sampler is American or European? The 1806 sampler that I own has several crowns across the top and then initials under each crown.

    A.

    Research -- try to trace the genealogy of the stitcher. Crowns and initials do tend to be one (and only one of several) trait of Scottish and English samplers. We recommend discussing this further with an authorized dealer.

  • Q.

    I have a sampler dated 1806 which is probably from Europe. It is missing the letter "J" in its two stitched alphabets. I was told by an antique dealer that it is missing because people were not allowed to print "J" because it stood for Jesus. Is this true? I have noticed online that there are several samplers that are missing the "J".

    A.

    We think the "J" for Jesus is an urban legend but who knows for sure. The "J" was the final letter added to the Latin alphabet in the Middle Ages. Visit Wikipedia for more information.

  • Q.

    I have a sampler dated 1876, done by a girl living in Bampton, England, who did this sampler in school. I have actually found the girl who did it, she emigrated to us 1905 or so. How do I get a value on this?

    A.

    We are getting numerous questions about valuing samplers and have decided it would be good to cover some pointers to help. Valuing a sampler can be tricky. A very valuable sampler can come up at an auction that is attended by few people and so it sells for a very low price. On the other side a mediocre sampler could be up at a very well attended auction and go for a high price. Auction prices are therefore not always reliable for values for samplers. If you know and trust a dealer you can ask them if they would be willing to give you an estimated value. A good specialized dealer is often a valuable resource and is willing to teach and help. They have much more at stake than an auction house as they will continue to sell samplers and want to have long term relationships with collectors. Many samplers with real problems will end up at an auction, waiting for an inexperienced collector. All of that said, here are some things to consider that can affect the value of a sampler: (1.) Condition is the most important consideration. Remember that if you fall in love with a sampler in terrible condition and pay dearly for it you are not likely to get that money back if you decide to sell the sampler. Conditions that diminish the value of a sampler are thread loss, color loss, ground fabric damage, stains or discoloration and more. Never buy a sampler that has been re-stitched or has had color added to enhance it. (2.) 1845 is an arbitrary cut off date. Most collectors seem to be interested in samplers earlier then this. 18th century samplers will generally be more valuable than 19th century ones. (3.) In general the more pictorial a sampler is, the greater the value: houses, animals, people, flowers , lawns, etc. (4.) Higher quality workmanship (workwomanship??) will always add to the value (5.) While English samplers are more often of better workmanship then American ones the American ones seem to fetch higher prices. (6.) Scholarly identification of the maker (not just smoke and mirror guessing) will always add to the value. Any family materials or personal things from the maker add to the value as well. Look for these things as pluses to the valuation: (1.) The maker's name. (2.) Parent's names and/or initials. (3.) Date (4.) Age of the maker (helps when combined with the date to locate the maker's genealogy). (5.) A place name or a school name which can also help with the genealogy. (6.) Other things such as real buildings, real places and current events (such as Tom Thumb on our Catherine Lydgit sampler). (7.) Another feature that can increase the value is finding another sampler or samplers that match making it part of a group of samplers or a family unit.

  • Q.

    What is a teaching sampler? If I have an 18th century American one, how can it be authenticated?

    A.

    We use "teaching sampler" to indicate a piece probably taught at a school. In discussing American samplers, Betty Ring says (pages 16 & 18)..." that it was not unusual for a girl to work two samplers at a dame school between the ages of five and nine. Basic marking samplers would be considered "plain work," and she would definitely be learning practical stitchery. If her education continued, and her parents could afford the fees for accomplishments, she would then undertake fancy embroidery....While there is no question that the majority of samplers were made at schools, kept by women prepared to teach needlework, there is sound evidence that samplers were occasionally worked at home." To truly authenticate your sampler you need to go to a reputable authority on American samplers, such as M. Finkel and Daughter (see our links). There are also certified appraisers linked with various national needlework guilds, but we do not have personal experience with any so have not provided any links. You could also go to a larger auction house, such as Christies or Sotheby's, who would have a textile expert on staff.

  • Q.

    My friend says samplers are all done by aliens, much like crop circles. I maintain they were done by young girls to teach them needlework and also moral lessons. Which of us is right?

    A.

    You both are. In an early attempt at world domination, samplers were done by young alien girls to learn needlework skills and the human sense of morality necessary to blend in to 17th - 19th C European society.