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Sampler by Rachel Corbett

A sampler is a small piece of hand-stitched embroidery. They were particularly popular in the Victorian times when they were used to educate young girls. They often showed carefully laid out letters of the alphabet or a series of numbers, and usually featured the date, the girl’s name, age and the name of her home town or village. They might also include stitched patterns, pictures, verse from the bible or moral maxims and mottos such as ‘A stitch in time saves nine’.

Sampler by Rachel Corbett, 1837

Samplers made by girls from wealthier families were often displayed in the home to show off their needlework skills and ‘fine’ upbringing to visitors, family and friends – and to impress potential husbands. For working-class girls, samplers would act as proof to potential employers of their ability to sew and mend. This sampler was made by Rachel Corbett of Stockton in 1837 when she was about 14 years old. It is thought that a local teacher used samplers to help girls like Rachel learn their numbers and tables, as well as to develop their needlework skills. Rachel grew up to become a dress maker.

Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum