[HNW] Regarding Samplers/Illiteracy

Allison263 at aol.com Allison263 at aol.com
Wed Aug 8 18:31:55 PDT 2007

In a message dated 8/7/07 5:22:11 PM, ewilson618 at tx.rr.com writes:

> samplers are dated after the Medieval period because more of the common 
> people did not attempt to learn their letters, but I expect that among the upper 
> classes that is exactly what they were used for. 
Ah. Pre 1600 Samplers rarely have letters or words, they were not used to 
learn to read. They were used to practice and perfect embroidery stitches and 
techniques and to serve as a record of how to do particular stitches. Remember, 
there were no "how to" books of embroidery stitches, only pattern books of 
designs. I *believe* the earliest how to embroidery book is "Art of the 
Embroiderer" by St. Aubin from 1770 (which although out of SCA period, is an excellent 
source for how to do period stitches). 

The Jane Bostock sampler is a rare example of an SCA period sampler that has 
words. There's a book of samplers from the V&A that has a few early 17th 
century samplers in it, and I don't recall any of the early ones having words (I 
could be wrong on that, I don't own that book.) I've examined three late 
16th/early 17th century samplers from the permanent collection of the Embroiderer's 
Guild of England, and only one of them (the oldest, dated 1668) had words and 
numbers. That one was all done in cross stitch, but the other two were mostly 
intricate flowers and knotwork motifs in silk and gold metal thread. The backs 
are a complete mess, btw.....(grin)


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