Kirklees Image Archive

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A sampler is a piece of textile, cotton or linen, with different sewing stitches. Samplers dating from the 15th and 16th century were used to demonstrate skill, preserving knowledge of the craft by copying existing patterns via hand to hand exchange. Later samplers used templates with standard elements such as the alphabet, numbers, animals, flowers, people and decorative borders, sometimes with the name and date of embroiderer.

Samplers were sewn by young girls at home or in school as a part of their education. Sewing was thought of as a refined art for young girls to practise. It taught the girls sewing techniques, numeracy and literacy. For example the sampler made by Hannah M Stubley aged 9 in 1880, at Purlwell Infants School, Batley, with alphabet and numbers (see left).

Samplers were also used to teach girls the practice of religious virtue and could include moral elements such as Adam and Eve, The Tree of Knowledge, Noah's Ark and Solomon's Temple. The sampler signed Lydia Booth 1834, consisting of an elaborate design with religious motto in the centre, Adam and Eve, the Tree of Knowledge and a serpent illustrates this.

When samplers include the name and date of the embroiderer they can be very useful when studying the social history of an area, or when researching family history. For example Ann Campenot's 1857 work on display in Tolson Memorial Museum could be an important link for a family with a rare surname.

Some samplers were used as memorials for deaths within the family and usually consist of the names of the mother and father and the children who died within their family. The name of the child, their age and date of death is stated in chronological order; see for example the sampler signed Sarah Hague 1834, commemorating Edward Hague, his wife Hannah and their ten children.

A selection of the samplers in Kirklees Museums and Galleries is on display at Tolson Memorial Museum, Huddersfield, and the Hannah Stubley's sampler (top left) is on dispay at Bagshaw Museum, Batley. This website is an opportunity to display many more.

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