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Needlework Techniques

The samplers presented in this exhibition are typical of 18th- and 19th-century English school samplers because they display a limited number of needlework techniques. By this period, samplers were made in great numbers in schools across the country, with considerable variety in the ability displayed by individuals and institutions. Some of the techniques found on the Fitzwilliam school samplers are described below.

Cross stitch - two stitches forming a cross (X)

Detail of Jane Reeder Cole’s sampler. (no. 13, 1852)

Satin stitch - a series of even, smooth and close stitches used to completely fill in a shape or background.

Detail of Mary Derow’s sampler.(no. 7, 1723)

Double running/Holbein stitch - in a running stitch, the needle passes in and out of the fabric, with even length spaces in between each stitch. In a double running stitch there is a second row of running stitches worked in the reverse direction of the stitches of the first pass to make a solid of line of stitching.

Detail of Mary Derow’s sampler.(no. 7, 1723)

Algerian eye stitch - eight stitches form a star-like shape.

Detail of Mary Derow’s sampler.(no. 7, 1723)

Florentine stitch - straight stitches usually worked over four horizontal threads of canvas, each stitch rising or falling two threads above or below the last, creating zigzag and geometrical patterns.

Detail of Hannah Bowtell’s sampler. (no. 10, 1812)