Linen sampler by Mary Stafford, embroidered with silk; English; second quarter 18th century.
In their earliest form, samplers were put together as personal reference works for embroiderers: trials of patterns and stitches that had been copied from others, records of particular effects achieved that could be recreated again. In England and elsewhere in Europe in the 17th century, they developed into a method of instruction and practice for girls learning needlework. This example shows their usual format in the 18th century. No longer a long narrow piece kept rolled up for reference, it is more square in shape, suitable for displaying like a painting or print, particularly within its floral border. Its moral verse, in this case the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament of the Bible written in rhyming couplets, and the maker's name are typical inclusions by this time; the recording of the date has been started but not completed.