What is a Sampler?
The term is not easily defined, even by members of a group devoted to the preservation and study of sampler. Here are some definitions we have collected:
…sample piece of needlework or embroidery, of silk, cotton, or worsted, for the preservation of some pattern or as an example of the ability of a child or a beginner. (Encyclopedia.com)
… a handstitched piece of embroidery used to demonstrate skill in needlework (Ask.com)
… a strip of fabric, usually linen canvas, embroidered with examples of different stitches, typically sewn in silk thread. (Alita Designs)
… 1– n. a piece of embroidery worked in various stitches as a specimen of proficiency (often displayed on a wall etc). OF essamplaire (as Exemplar). (Oxford English Dictionary)
… In museums and private collections there are samplers dating from as early as 1643. It was long the custom for each young girl to work her own sampler as soon as her needlework showed a proper degree of skill. Certain features of the sampler remained constant—the name of the maker, the date, the alphabet, texts from Scripture, proverbs or bits of verse, and a conventional border framing the whole. (The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2008 ) The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright 2008 Columbia University Press.
… A decorative piece of cloth embroidered with various designs or mottoes in a variety of stitches, serving as an example of skill at needlework. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2009)
… embroidery specimen by a beginner to show skill, 1523, from sample (q.v.), probably transf. from meaning “piece of embroidery serving as a pattern to be copied,” from the notion of “an example to be imitated” (c.1300). (Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper )