Stitching the Family: Samplers

Many stitchers use stitching to commemorate events in the family.  One of the most popular ways to do this is with samplers.

Samplers have been around since humanity has been doing the needle arts.  Many stitchers think of alphabet, motif, and border samplers when they hear the word “sampler,” but according to Wikipedia, a sampler is merely a demonstration of a stitcher’s skills.  That is a pretty loose definition.  For the sake of this article, let’s separate our cross stitch into “pictures” and “samplers.”  A bird “picture” would be a general cross stitched picture of a bird and a bird “sampler” would have motifs of birds with an alphabet and/or borders and/or specialty stitches.

Behold! The Sampler!

If you page through a cross stitch magazine, you will soon discover that the most popular types of commemorative samplers you will find are for:

  1. Weddings
  2. Births

If you dig through more magazines, you can find some other types of commemorative samplers such as:

  • Family Trees
  • Deaths/Memorials
  • Graduation
  • The First Day of School

So, why sampler to commemorate that special event in your family?

  • They look really impressive. I did a whitework sampler to commemorate my in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary (yes, 50!).  I didn’t have it framed at the time because I was recently unemployed and we were struggling to make ends meet but even without the frame, it looked really cool.
  • It is generally easy to add the important information. There is generally enough room to add all the details (or “deets” as my stepdaughter would say).
  • Let’s face it, they’re fun to stitch. Especially if there’s specialty stitches.

However, there are some downsides to stitching samplers.

  • Some of them are really tacky. I have the first five or six years of Cross Stitch and Country Crafts (which is now Cross Stitch and Needlework) and some of the older samplers are really tacky.  Ugh.  The colors.  They burn!
  • They can take a really long time.  The first wedding sampler I did took me like five months.  Of course, they very in size, but in general, you’re going to have a plan ahead.

My first ever wedding sampler which I made for my cousin’s wedding when I was 16. It’s stamped cross stitch (don’t judge!).

  • They can be expensive.  Especially if it’s a bigger piece.  Big piece of fabric.  Possibly specialty threads.  And then, there’s the cost of framing (shudder, shudder).
  • The fear that after all that work, your beloved piece will end up in a garage sale or thrift store

Fortunately, the range of samplers available has increased.  Wedding samplers used to be extreme florals or extreme country or extremely primative but I have seen more modern offerings as of late.  Baby samplers used to be all pink or all blue and so cutsy that it made you want to scream but I have seen some more “toned down” samplers as of late and even some that could be considered “gender neutral” (because there’s nothing worse than being told the baby is a girl only to find out that she is a he and you’ve taken the time to stitch a pink sampler).

The June 2015 Just Cross Stitch had this modern wedding sampler.

Still can’t find something you like (or something that the couple-to-be or parents-to-be might actually hang on the wall)?  Fortunately, there are other options.  But that’s another post.

About Joy

Rabid stitcher and mother of a preschooler and kindergardener - both with Autism. Stitching is like going to war....with string!

I started playing with string when I was 16 and my mom bought me a Learn-A-Craft kit of a frog (because I love frogs). I discovered that cross stitching is a wonderful hobby when you go to college in the middle of nowhere Minnesota. Now that I'm married with two children, I stitch when I get a chance. Just finished my masters in teaching and hoping to get my first teaching job.

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