Rare, unusual and interesting antique costumes and textiles; for museums and collectors looking for that extra special piece, for new and established collectors and for those with a modest budget who want to adorn their person or home.


Darning Sampler
Late 18th c

This sampler is very finely darned with a good variety of designs and colours. I particularly like the sample strip of designs down the right hand side. Bought in The Netherlands, but that's all I know. The ground fabric is unusual being not the usual linen, but a densely woven patterned cotton.

During the 18th century when items of clothing and household linens were expensive, to the point that they were itemised in people's wills, darning was an essential skill for any girl. Contemporary newspaper advertisements seeking maids, not only required someone for washing , scrubbing and polishing, but one who possesed  darning skills. Those who could not find such an employee  would put sewing work out to skilled needle women.

Girls of all ranks of society would learn these skills, at home or in the orphanages, in the early schools and in private lessons for the merchants daughters.They usually began their sampler at 12 years with a plain piece of linen. The teacher would first make a cut in the linen which the pupil would repair with coloured silks, learning the different darning techniques for the various textiles she might encounter.The bright coloured silks would show clearly any mistakes in her work. For many girls this finished sampler would be not only a record of the types of darning but essential for their future life and employment.


The left hand side with a sample of thirteen stitch designs, the main body of the sampler with some of those designs plus more elaborate examples, all in crimson, indigo and pale blue, rust,  lime and dark green, yellow, beige.

20 x 18 in; 50 x 46 cm.


Some of the colours on the reverse are brighter. No holes or tears. There is some light brown staining to the top area and the lower right corner. I think one must always assume these stains cannot be removed. If all the colours are fast then the sampler could be washed (by a specialist!).