According to Wikipediea a sampler is an example or test of a stitcher’s skill. And the word sampler itself derives from a Latin word ‘exemplum’ or example.
Samplers originally grew out of necessity. In the past there were no printed patterns, so when a woman saw a new stitch or design she liked she would quickly stitch it onto a piece of fabric for later reference. A collection of such designs might be kept and added to throughout a woman’s life.
However, by the 18th century they were becoming a decorative item for the home and often included a saying, the alphabet, the date, and the stitcher’s name. They were often worked in cross stitch.
There are plenty of designers today who’s work reflects the traditional style of the sampler.
(The Wayward Garden Sampler, available from Nordic Needle)
However the modern sampler has almost turned full circle by including types of embroidery stitches in their design, and some sampler designs are simply a selection of small pictures.
(Cross Stitch Hearts Sampler from Jolly Red Collection)
I hope you’ve enjoyed my little exploration of the theme. I’ve designed a few samplers in my time. One of the is available as a free download at my Deviant Art site;
(Click the link below)
(Oh and if you're wondering why the above sampler has marks - it went through a house fire in 1998)
My editor says that samplers are a popular type of pattern and has asked me to design more. So I guess I’d better get off this computer and get cracking!
If you'd like to read more:
Sources for this mini article;
Victoria and Albert Museum