Nelly Yetts

Scottish Samplers

Nelly Yetts




This early Scottish sampler has several areas of moth damage, but the colours remain clear and bright. One of the areas with the most damage contains her date but Nelly's particular rendering of Adam & Eve also appears in a group of samplers made in Edinburgh in the 1730s and '40s. One of these, by Betty Plenderleath, and dated 1745, is in the collections of the National Museums Scotland and includes the name Mrs. Seton, presumably their teacher. The stitching on Nelly's piece is very difficult to determine given thread loss and fading, but we believe it to be Mrs. Setons, the Mrs. S being visible from the front and the remaining letters barely discernible from the back of the sampler.

As with Margaret, Nelly has placed a traditional wide undulating floral band along the top of the sampler, bordered itself by two narrower honeysuckle bands. While the verses on both samplers are not the same, the font stitched is quite similar. Nelly has placed her verse in a stitched box with curlicue accents. It is interesting to note that many, but not all of her letters "L" are stitched as capitals. Surrounding the verse is an intricate floral pattern, all in cross stitch over one, with red-breasted robins holding berry sprigs in their beaks, roses and a wonderful variety of variegated leaves.

The lower section of Nelly's sampler is a collection of spot motifs, including familial initials (IY, IH), Adam & Eve, a peacock, a basket of strawberries in queen stich, floral arrangements, birds and a pastoral hillock completed with trees, rabbits and a dog. A tidy border in red and green completes all four sides. At some point in this sampler's life someone has tried to stabilize it by machine stitching along both sides and doing some hand stitching along the bottom edge with blue silk to mimic the blue selvedge border. Recent conservation efforts have left these previous efforts and mounted the compilation onto linen.

Size (W x H): 10 3/8 x 12 5/8 inches

Stitches: Cross, cross-over-one, double running, satin, leaf, mosaic, Queen

Media: Silk on wool


Nelly is a nickname for Helen. John Yates, a wright, and Janet Haig, married 1711 Edinburgh. The couple had 12 children with assorted spellings of the last name so included for each child: Margaret Yeats (1712), Jean Yates (1714), Alexander Yeats (1716), Janet Yates (1717), Isobell Yates (1718), stillborn unnamed Yates (1719), John Yates (1720), Andrew Yates (1721), Mary Yetts (1723), John #2 Yetts (1724), Isobell #2 Yetts (1728), Ann Yetts (1729) and Helen Yetts (1731).

Nelly never married and died in 1812.


Make much of precious time whiLe in your pow'r
Be careful weLL to husband ev'ry hour
For time wiLL come when you shaLl sore Lament
The unhappy minute that you have mispent

Nelly yetts June 6 17(0)8 Mrs S

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(This sampler was added to the site on May 18, 2017)