|In 18th century colonial America, education for
young women was limited to skills that would make them good wives.
Among those skills were sewing and needlework. Women used their 'plain
sewing' skills to make and mend household linens and clothing. For
women of wealthy families, plain sewing was the first step to learning
embroidery and other fancy needlework - the most important
accomplishment of a "stylish" lady.
Samplers were used as references to learn
different types of stitches. A young girl's first sampler was usually a
very simple design consisting of alphabets and numbers, with a small
amount of decorative stitching. The stitcher's name, age, town and the date of
completion were frequently included. Sewing schools for young girls
(ranging between 6 and 16 years) became popular during the 18th
century. Most girls would work on a simple marking sampler of the
alphabet and a fancy sampler or a needlework picture. These projects
were often very involved and took months to complete.
Samplers were often kept in a young woman's sewing
box as reference material. Mistakes, such as inverted letters or
miscounted patterns, make some samplers even more special, an
indication of the newness of the craft to the stitcher. The samplers
became prized possessions, showing off a girl's accomplishment and
skill. The families would have them framed and displayed with great
The Hackettstown Historical Society Museum
featured a wonderful display of samplers and vintage sewing items in
March 2008, on loan through the generousity of Cindy and Gerard Geiger.