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Samplers

Samplers are pieces of embroidery produced to master a particular pattern or display the skill of the maker. They often illustrate a variety of needlework elements, including a decorative border, motifs, figures, the alphabet, narrative scenes, the name of the embroiderer, and the date of completion.

Samplers were first used in Northern Europe during the early 16th century. Surviving samplers, depictions of samplers in paintings and books, and written references indicate that most early examples depicted Late Gothic and Early Renaissance motifs and border patterns. By the 17th century in England, samplers were important educational tools embroidered mostly by young girls between the ages of seven and thirteen. The tradition of sampler making quickly spread to the North American colonies, where young girls used strips of linen to learn the alphabet and practice different stitching and open-work techniques.

Following a period of decline during the 18th century, samplers once again became popular templates for learning needlework during the 1830s. Today, professional embroiderers use samplers to create intricate designs in common and precious materials, including wool, lace, and colored silks.


Quick Facts

  • On January 22, 2012, Sotheby’s New York sold a needlework sampler made by Mary Antrim for $1,070,500
  • Parents of talented young embroiderers often displayed their samplers as works of art and status symbols
  • During the late 18th century, female students often embroidered samplers with maps of the globe as an educational exercise

Recommended Items at Auction

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1816 Martha Atherton Schoolgirl Sampler
Sep 30, 9:30 AM EDT
1816 Martha Atherton Schoolgirl Sampler
by Merrill's Auctioneers & Appraisers
Est: $200- $300
$1502 Bids
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SAMPLER BY ELIZABETH N. HOWE.
Sep 29, 2:00 PM EDT
SAMPLER BY ELIZABETH N. HOWE.
by Amelia Jeffers
Est: $200- $400
$1002 Bids
Antique 1825 Sampler Framed
Nov 06, 10:00 AM EDT
Antique 1825 Sampler Framed
by Paul Arsenault Auctioneers
Est: $0- $0
$51 Bid
3 Scottish & American Needlework Samplers, Signed
Oct 08, 9:00 AM EDT
3 Scottish & American Needlework Samplers, Signed
by Case Antiques, Inc. Auctions & Appraisals
Est: $300- $350
$1501 Bid
Chester County, Pennsylvania sampler
Oct 06, 9:00 AM EDT
Chester County, Pennsylvania sampler
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$1,0001 Bid
Scottish silk on linen band sampler
Oct 07, 9:00 AM EDT
Scottish silk on linen band sampler
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $400- $700
$2001 Bid
New Jersey silk on linen needlework sampler
Oct 06, 9:00 AM EDT
New Jersey silk on linen needlework sampler
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $500- $800
$2501 Bid
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NEW ENGLAND NEEDLEWORK SAMPLER First Half of the 19th Century 20” x 17”.
Oct 06, 9:30 AM EDT
NEW ENGLAND NEEDLEWORK SAMPLER First Half of the 19th Century 20” x 17”.
by Eldred's
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
1808 SAMPLER
Sep 29, 11:00 AM EDT
1808 SAMPLER
by Westport Auction
Est: $50- $1,000
$501 Bid
English silk on linen needlework sampler
Oct 07, 9:00 AM EDT
English silk on linen needlework sampler
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
Framed "Birth Announcement" sampler for Sam Newbould
Oct 01, 9:00 AM EDT
Framed "Birth Announcement" sampler for Sam Newbould
by Horst Auctioneers
Est: $0- $0
$300 Bids
Pennsylvania silk on linen needlework sampler
Oct 06, 9:00 AM EDT
Pennsylvania silk on linen needlework sampler
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $500- $700
$2500 Bids
May's Landing, New Jersey silk on linen sampler
Oct 06, 9:00 AM EDT
May's Landing, New Jersey silk on linen sampler
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$5000 Bids
3 18th C. European Samplers incl. Signed
Oct 08, 9:00 AM EDT
3 18th C. European Samplers incl. Signed
by Case Antiques, Inc. Auctions & Appraisals
Est: $300- $350
$1500 Bids
Lancaster, Pennsylvania wool on linen sampler
Oct 06, 9:00 AM EDT
Lancaster, Pennsylvania wool on linen sampler
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $400- $700
$2000 Bids
New York silk on linen needlework sampler
Oct 07, 9:00 AM EDT
New York silk on linen needlework sampler
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $300- $400
$1500 Bids
Massachusetts Sampler by Emily Sparhawk (Perry), Early 19th C.
Oct 08, 9:00 AM EDT
Massachusetts Sampler by Emily Sparhawk (Perry), Early 19th C.
by Case Antiques, Inc. Auctions & Appraisals
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
Sampler by Michal Newhall, Dated 1786
Oct 15, 10:00 AM CDT
Sampler by Michal Newhall, Dated 1786
by Link Auction Galleries
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
Fine Philadelphia silk on linen gauze needlework
Oct 06, 9:00 AM EDT
Fine Philadelphia silk on linen gauze needlework
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$5000 Bids
Antique Framed & Matted Cross Stitch Sampler
Oct 19, 10:00 AM EDT
Antique Framed & Matted Cross Stitch Sampler
by The Benefit Shop Foundation Inc.
Est: $50- $100
$10 Bids
Cross Stitch on Linen Gauze Sampler
Oct 15, 10:00 AM CDT
Cross Stitch on Linen Gauze Sampler
by Link Auction Galleries
Est: $150- $250
$750 Bids
19th c Needlepoint Sampler by Catharina Timmerman leaf motif alphabet
Oct 30, 10:00 AM PDT
19th c Needlepoint Sampler by Catharina Timmerman leaf motif alphabet
by Global Auctions Company
Est: $600- $800
$4500 Bids
Pennsylvania silk on linen needlework sampler
Oct 06, 9:00 AM EDT
Pennsylvania silk on linen needlework sampler
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $800- $1,000
$4000 Bids
Psalm 23 Petit Point on Linen 'Sampler In Old English Verbage
Oct 15, 10:00 AM CDT
Psalm 23 Petit Point on Linen 'Sampler In Old English Verbage
by Link Auction Galleries
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Samplers


Pook & Pook Inc.

Pook & Pook Inc.

Link Auction Galleries

Link Auction Galleries

Barry S. Slosberg Inc

Barry S. Slosberg Inc

Case Antiques, Inc. Auctions & Appraisals

Case Antiques, Inc. Auctions & Appraisals