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Colonial America Craft – Sampler

October 31, 2010

A traditional sampler by my aunt.


Samplers were a way to show how well a child could sew. Learning to sew and embroider was necessary for making clothes, napkins and linens. Samplers usually had a short verse, the child’s name and date on it and were finished with a border using a variety of stitches. There are 2 versions here: one using graph paper and the other sewing on cross stitch fabric.

Materials needed:

  • Graph paper
  • Fine tip markers in assorted colors
  • Embroidery floss in assorted colors and a needle (optional)
  • cross stitch fabric (optional)
  • pattern for letters, numbers and borders
  • [filebase:file:file=91:tpl=simple]
  • [filebase:file:file=92:tpl=simple]

Steps for a Graph Paper Sampler:

  • Have your child select a verse that they like.
  • Start with the graph paper with the long edge closest to the edge of the table.
  • Have your child decide how they would like the verse to look. How many lines will they need to fit it on the paper?
  • They will need to figure out how many spaces for each letter, adding a space between letters and 2-3 spaces between words.
  • Since the letters are between 3 to 7 spaces each they will have to figure it out before they start so that the verse is centered.
  • For instance, if they decide to use: Everything comes to those who wait. They would count: E=4, space=1,V=5, space=1, E=4, space=1, Y=7, space=1, T=5, space=1, H=5, space=1, I=3, space=1, N=7, space=1, G=5, space between the words=3 and continue doing this for the whole verse.
  • They also need to find out how many spaces are on the graph paper. Counting each space and making a little pencil mark every 10 is helpful, especially if you loose count (trust me it’s frustrating to have to start over).
  • They will need to count the squares going in both directions: sideways and up and down – to determine where is the center.
  • They will work from the center out towards the edges in order for the words to fit on the page correctly.
  • Now they can play with how to place the words on the page.
  • There is no wrong way to set it up. See the ideas that follow.
  • Once they have decide how they want to place the verse, it’s time to use the cross stitch letter guide to mark her X on the graph paper. She can use colored pencils or markers.
  • Be sure they adds their name and the date. This is something they will keep for a long time.
  • They may want to add a border or simple X’s along the edge.

To make it cross stitch sampler on cloth:

  • To make a cross stitch sampler I have found it easier to start with graph paper for a rough draft.
  • Working on the paper to make any changes is much easier then taking out the thread and starting over which I learned the hard way.
  • They would go through the same procedure of finding out how they would want the verse to look as above.
  • She will need to do #3 – 8 for the graph paper with the only exception is on #8 it can be in pencil since this is a rough working copy.
  • Once she had everything laid out then she can take the cross stitch fabric and find the center of the fabric.
  • Mark it with a straight pin. They will remove it once they begin.
  • Then it’s time to thread their needle with the color of their choice.
  • Working from the back of the cloth, she will insert the needle in the hole for the letter on her graph paper at the center.
  • This is cross stitch, so she will cross the stitches which gives it the distinctive look.
  • The needle comes up and crosses over the square (the fabric is made with holes that when stitched look like a square) and goes in and out the hole underneath it.
  • It is one motion – the hand never has to go to the back of the fabric until it’s time for a new piece of thread. With practice she’ll develop a rhythm.
  • They will need to count each letter and follow their graph carefully.
  • When they are done with the verse, they may want to learn other stitches to add to their sampler.
  • Samplers are passed down in families for generations and become a lovely keepsakes.

Three possibilities on how to lay out the verse:












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