Anatomy of a Sampler


A cartouche is an embroidered decorative enclosure that included a schoolgirl’s name, date, age, and other personal information. This sampler has an unusual, irregularly-shaped cartouche.

Dividing line

A dividing line is a decorative device that separates lines of embroidered alphabets and numerals from each other for easier reading. They can be as simple as a single line of cross stitch or created from more complicated embroidery stitches forming elaborative floral or geometric motifs.

Embroidery floss

On this sampler, silk floss was used for all of the floral motifs, and cotton-linen blended floss for the dark blue letters. On most late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century schoolgirl samplers, linen floss was commonly used by young girls. Linen was readily available and economical, and as girls became more proficient in their sewing skills, they were allowed to use the more expensive silk. Blending linen with cotton was not an unknown practice when this sampler was made in 1820, but the practice may have been a method to stretch available resources by the teacher or mother of the schoolgirl.


The inclusion of numbers on samplers made by schoolgirls provided practice for the marking of household linens and a basic knowledge in mathematics.


The band format sampler is recognizable by the horizontal rows of design motifs. Other sampler formats are spot or darning.


Stitching a border was a decorative way to frame the design elements of a sampler. This sampler was given only a simple cross stitch border on its top edge.


Embroidering letters in a variety of scripts provided practice for the schoolgirl for the marking of household linens.