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In the early 1800s, embroidery was part of a genteel young American woman’s education. Precise needlework developed the feminine virtues: patience, quietness, neatness and conformity. A completed sampler evidenced a young woman’s mastery of these desirable traits, serving both as a testament to her character and her worthiness as a female.


Phrases and biblical verses were often used in traditional samplers to display a young woman’s devotion to God and family. These samplers investigate how this devotion might change when those sacred relationships go awry.

Featured Stitch

The criteria for quality embroidery have not changed since the 19th Century: even tension, no unwanted lumps, bumps, puckers, loose hairs or excess material.

These are the same standards we now apply to the female body itself.

Employing the same embroidery stitches in the body hair and nipples as in the linear border, the Featured Stitch samplers contrast prescribed ideals to raw nature. The border’s embroidery stitches are traditional and measured. Those in the body are freeform, varying in size and placement. Regimented uniformity versus organic magnificence.

Suitable Mate

This “Suitable Mate” sampler reimagines a traditional sampler as modern-day dating profile.

In the early 1800s, a young woman’s decorative sampler functioned as her social resumé: hung prominently in the family’s parlor, it advertised to potential suitors the values of the young woman and her family. With its carefully chosen biblical verse, the finished sampler proclaimed her a worthy female, ready to run a household and serve as a devoted wife.

This is the same role that modern dating profiles now perform.