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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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Four 19th Century Needlework Samplers
Jun 20, 12:00 PM EDT
Four 19th Century Needlework Samplers
by Cottone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$60011 Bids
Nine 19th Century Needlework Samplers
Jun 20, 12:00 PM EDT
Nine 19th Century Needlework Samplers
by Cottone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$60011 Bids
19th Century Sampler Needlework of Cortlandville, New York
Jun 20, 12:00 PM EDT
19th Century Sampler Needlework of Cortlandville, New York
by Cottone Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$2504 Bids
A 19th Century Medallion Sampler by Hannah Whitaker Thorne 1821, finely stitched with floral motifs
Jun 16, 11:00 AM BST
A 19th Century Medallion Sampler by Hannah Whitaker Thorne 1821, finely stitched with floral motifs
by Wilkinson's Auctioneers
Est: £300- £400
£2203 Bids
An 18th Century Ackworth School Medallion Sampler finely worked in coloured silks ''A TOKEN OF LOVE'
Jun 16, 11:00 AM BST
An 18th Century Ackworth School Medallion Sampler finely worked in coloured silks ''A TOKEN OF LOVE'
by Wilkinson's Auctioneers
Est: £250- £350
£1502 Bids
New Jersey Sampler
Jun 29, 9:00 AM EDT
New Jersey Sampler
by Dovetail Auctions, LLC
Est: $5- $500
$252 Bids
A Framed 19th Century Oval Silk-work Sampler; Map of England & Wales: the counties stitched in black
Jun 15, 11:00 AM BST
A Framed 19th Century Oval Silk-work Sampler; Map of England & Wales: the counties stitched in black
by Wilkinson's Auctioneers
Est: £200- £300
£1201 Bid
18th & 19th Century Samplers
Jun 20, 12:00 PM EDT
18th & 19th Century Samplers
by Cottone Auctions
Est: $300- $500
$1501 Bid
19th Century Samplers
Jun 20, 12:00 PM EDT
19th Century Samplers
by Cottone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
MIDDLESEX / NORFOLK CO., MASSACHUSETTS NEEDLEWORK SAMPLER
Jun 20, 9:00 AM EDT
MIDDLESEX / NORFOLK CO., MASSACHUSETTS NEEDLEWORK SAMPLER
by Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
Est: $500- $800
$2501 Bid
Two Early 19th Century Needlework Samplers
Jun 20, 12:00 PM EDT
Two Early 19th Century Needlework Samplers
by Cottone Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
Mid 19th Century Needlework Sampler dated 1852
Jun 22, 10:00 AM EDT
Mid 19th Century Needlework Sampler dated 1852
by Premier Auction Galleries
Est: $100- $200
$201 Bid
A Rare 18th Century Hollie Point Miniature Band Sampler by Mary Sells 1798. The charming needlework
Jun 16, 11:00 AM BST
A Rare 18th Century Hollie Point Miniature Band Sampler by Mary Sells 1798. The charming needlework
by Wilkinson's Auctioneers
Est: £800- £1,200
£4801 Bid
Spanish silk on linen needlework sampler
Jun 26, 9:00 AM EDT
Spanish silk on linen needlework sampler
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $100- $150
$501 Bid
Two silk on linen samplers, 19th c.
Jun 27, 9:00 AM EDT
Two silk on linen samplers, 19th c.
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
Three silk on linen samplers, 19th c.
Jun 26, 9:00 AM EDT
Three silk on linen samplers, 19th c.
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $140- $240
$701 Bid
A Large Framed 19th Century Sampler by Sarah Phillips Aged 9 1860, stitched with a house flanked by
Jun 15, 11:00 AM BST
A Large Framed 19th Century Sampler by Sarah Phillips Aged 9 1860, stitched with a house flanked by
by Wilkinson's Auctioneers
Est: £250- £300
£1501 Bid
A George III Sampler worked in coloured wools with a pair of winged fairies above 'PREPARE TO MEET T
Jun 15, 11:00 AM BST
A George III Sampler worked in coloured wools with a pair of winged fairies above 'PREPARE TO MEET T
by Wilkinson's Auctioneers
Est: £100- £200
£600 Bids
Small sampler in frame
Jun 22, 11:00 AM EDT
Small sampler in frame
by Willis Henry Auctions Inc.
Est: $800- $1,200
$4000 Bids
19th c. Needlework Sampler
Jul 06, 10:00 AM EDT
19th c. Needlework Sampler
by Copake Auction Inc.
Est: $300- $400
$1500 Bids
A woven wool textile sampler
Jun 25, 10:00 AM PDT
A woven wool textile sampler
by John Moran Auctioneers
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
A George III sampler, inscribed' The Lords Prayer', embroidered by Sarah St
Jun 20, 10:30 AM BST
A George III sampler, inscribed' The Lords Prayer', embroidered by Sarah St
by Bamfords Auctioneers and Valuers Ltd
Est: £50- £80
£250 Bids
NEEDLEWORK SAMPLER
Jun 20, 7:00 PM CEST
NEEDLEWORK SAMPLER
by Zwiggelaar Auctions
Est: €100- €200
€1000 Bids
Hand-Embroidered Framed Sampler
Jul 10, 11:00 AM EDT
Hand-Embroidered Framed Sampler
by Bodnar's Auction Sales
Est: $50- $100
$100 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Samplers


Pook & Pook Inc.

Pook & Pook Inc.

Wilkinson's Auctioneers

Wilkinson's Auctioneers

Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates

Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates