School Girl Samplers

Date: 2/10/2008
Time: 1:30-4:00
Type: Meeting
Location: Glen Ellyn Library
Teacher: LMSG-Carol Schaal

Carol Schaal will be presenting her own ABC marking sampler collection. If you have any reproduction or original schoolgirl samplers that you would like to share, please bring them along to the meeting.


Katie Simmer, our president, began the meeting with some announcements. She reviewed the 2008 individual stitching contracts and offered a form to anyone who has not yet completed one. If you receive the online newsletter by mail, please allow 5-7 days to receive it.

Katie then turned the program over to Carol Schaal to review our program schedule for 2008:

  • March – Mary Ann Anderson will present a program on how to make the little paper sampler boxes that were included in your anniversary surprise from the Phine Phriends.
  • April – Carol Humphrey will present a slide lecture titled Samplers as Documents.
  • May – Carol Schaal will present a program on fibers from a historical perspective and describing what is available to us today.
  • June – Tricia Wilson Nguyen will present a workshop titled 17th Century Band Sampler and there will be a lecture on the Plimoth Plantation Jacket Project.
  • July – Picnic
  • August – Kathy Matthews will present her experiences at the Royal School of Needlework.
  • September – tag sale
  • October – workshop by Catherine Theron and our tenth anniversary party.
  • November
  • December – holiday party

Our February program on Schoolgirl Samplers was presented by Carol Schaal. She brought her personal collection and several other members shared their own antique and reproduction pieces. In the mid 17th century and early 1700’s, there was more emphasis on education so that alphabets, numbers and verses began appearing on samplers. Schoolgirl samplers were used by schools as a way to teach young girls. Skills learned included marking stitch, buttonholing, herringbone and darning stitches. Carol showed us samplers from her collection which contained examples of these stitches.

Carol explained that the quality of the materials used is a good indication of the type of school that the girl attended. Private schools used fine linens and colored threads. The samplers were sometimes trimmed with silk ribbons or backed with silk material. Poor church schools, orphanages and Quaker schools often used coarse linens and black or red thread because these were less expensive. Some were stitched on Bristol paper or Penelope (a coarse canvas) using wool threads. We saw examples from Carol’s collection of the different quality of materials including linens, threads, silk ribbons and backing.

In the 17th century, samplers were made by young gentlewomen who could afford to attend private schools. By the 1800’s, schoolgirl samplers were made as an illustration of a young girl’s skills so that she might obtain suitable employment. The sampler might be fairly large and consist of row after row of alphabets and numbers, borders, dividing bands and religious verses sometimes stitched in a single color. Or stitches might be done on smaller pieces of material that were assembled in a notebook or sewn to a larger piece of material. The girl would show them off to a potential employer to illustrate her skills. Carol explained that the notebooks are very rare and are often taken apart. She showed us samples of the type of pieces that would have appeared in a notebook and of individual stitching samples sewn on a larger piece of material. She also had a small apron with many different types of tiny exquisite stitches that was another way for a young girl to show off her abilities.

We really enjoyed viewing Carol’s collection and learning about schoolgirl samplers. Thank you, Carol, for sharing it with us.

We hope you will be able to join us for our March meeting. You won’t want to miss the secrets for making “Paper Sampler Boxes”, presented by Mary Ann Anderson.