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  • Carolyn Welch

On the Top Shelf of Our Display Case Sits An . . .

Embroidery sampler ~

As we step inside the D.D. Collins House, we step back in time. Let's take a look at the special role of the sampler and how it served many important purposes back in the days before smart phones, computers, cameras, television, radio and all the electronic gadgets, more important, before the printed designs on textiles we are so fond of in today's world.


Excerpt from the Oxford dictionary:

noun: sampler; plural noun: samplers

  1. a piece of embroidery worked in various stitches as a specimen of skill, typically containing the alphabet and some mottoes.

  2. a representative collection or example of something.

An old Middle English (denoting an example to be imitated): from Old French essamplaire ‘exemplar’.

The sampler on the top shelf of our display case of smalls.

Why is a "sampler" so special?

As in today's world, back then, the entertainment of the day served multiple purposes. Before there were printed textiles, embroiderers and lacemakers needed to create a way to reference and record different designs (perhaps their own creations), stitches, and effects they so painstakingly stitched on textiles. The sampler was a perfect way to have a reference of their work to pass on to others and create a standard that could be shared far and wide, even between cultures.

18th Century Changes ~

Samplers became more than a reference for designs kept on a rolled up piece of fabric. They became more square shaped and combined many different needlework skills that could be framed and displayed on the wall like a painting or print. Repeating patterns and alphabets we placed within decorative borders, moral and religious verses as well as pictorial designs of the family garden, house and other personalized details.

Sampler displayed by V&A East, London of 18th Century sampler.

Of course, with any such tedious attention to detail, there arose a bit of competition between folk as well as for showing off the handiworks of the stitchers. Keep in mind, back then the entertainment was much more personal and a family event after dinner.

Picture everyone gathered round the fireplace and oil lamps flickering. Dad may be reading aloud by the crackling fire as junior played his violin to add bits of dramatic ambiance while mom and sister stitched away on the bodice of a Sunday dress. Mom may have said, "Now on the next part, we'll be doing the chain stitch in red under those white daisy stitches, keep them even and perfect, dear. Be sure to leave room for the stem stitches . . ."

Sampler stitched in 1843 on display at the D.D. Collins House.

The first example to be described in this collection is the needlework stitched in 1843.

The year 1843 has been stitched beneath a scene that depicts corn and flowers.

Considering its age, the piece is a fine example of embroidery textile work and created two years before the D.D. Collins House was built! Notice how the very delicate threads have faded from time. The fabric has a tea-stained look mainly caused by the substrate it rested against when previously framed, possibly in the 1930s.

Numbers and letters at the top of our sampler.

Look carefully to see the images in the close-up above. Numbers and letters were painstakingly created stitch by stitch.

Be sure to stop by the historic D.D. Collins House this Saturday, December 9th, 2023, to be one of the first to see the small that have been added to our collection.

The busy holiday season is upon us. This collection will provide you with a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season and worth your time to step back into the peace and quiet of some local history.

Remember the house is closed during the winter months of January and February.

Photos of the sampler and display case were taken by Paul Welch in November of 2023.

Next time gutta percha will be our fascinating topic of discussion . . .


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Phone:  Call Lavadna at 618.420.0288         

Mail: c/o 104 Irene Dr., Collinsville, IL 62234 

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