Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Samplers from Top to Bottom - or Bottom to Top - or?


Whenever I look at early spot or band samplers with people they always ask me whether I think the sampler was stitched from the top downwards or the bottom upwards. A very interesting question! I know some stitchers who always stitch from the bottom upwards and because their work is on a roller, the stitched section is rolled safely away as the work progresses. Many stitching from a pattern will naturally read their pattern from top to bottom like any other printed material and so they will stitch from top to bottom, again rolling as they go. Looking at some of the early samplers it appears the stitcher worked from both ends towards the middle. And here lies a key to a practical problem. When working with a simple fixed frame without rollers, one can only stitch as far as one can comfortably reach - about half the length of a 'long' sampler. Is this why the work is turned? And so, for the sake of interest, I would like to add another possibility to the debate - sometimes the work stitched from side to side? This would mean that a horizontal band as it appears on the sampler was stitched in a vertical direction. Look at these old illustrations - particulary the black and white line drawing which shows a young girl evidently stitching bands but in a vertical direction. Or, the work was stitched from top to bottom or bottom to top but the frame was held sideways as in the third illustration. I would love to hear what you think.


  1. This is really interesting, since I stitch from the bottom or the top, depending on the piece I'm working on. I use a small hoop and so if the piece is fairly small, I usually start from the top, but if I'm working on a big piece or a long band sampler, I work from the bottom up, so the stitched fabric hangs loose and is not scrunched up in any way. I roll up the spare fabric at the top of my work and have that held in my left hand as I work.

  2. Sandra it is always so helpful to have a stitcher's insight when investigating these issues - it is so easy for historical discussion to get stuck at a theoretical level. I am always keen that we have a stitcher's eye looking at samplers with us to inform us. Thank you so much for posting this.