quilt lady

Bringing a whole new meaning to ‘samplers’


My first hand pieced, hand quilted quilt was a nine block “sampler quilt.” Every block was a different quilt pattern. I learned so much doing that quilt. It led me down the path to create my passion for quilting. With each block I was taught a new skill for the art of quilting. My teacher was a master quilter who had won numerous awards at the Houston Quilt Show for her work. I shall always be indebted to her for her insistence on perfection. “If you’re going to quilt, do it right,” she would say.

On my trip to Italy this past month, I was in introduced to the “samplers” that young needleworkers had done centuries ago. Obviously, they had been made to strive for perfection as well. Their work has survived the ages and not been tossed into the garbage heap by some untrained-eyed person.

We visited The Prato Textile Museum that is not far from Florence. It is the largest center for study, conservation, and exhibition of historic and continual techniques of textile making. It opened in 1975 in the Tullio Buzzi Technical Institute. Since May 2003 it is housed in the converted Camplomi Textile mill in the center of Prato and provides a collection of items that testify to the history of local textile productions between the Middle Ages and the end of the 20th century. This was the showcase for some of the most gorgeous pieces of needlework that I have ever seen.

The early samplers were sometimes exquisite embroidery with cotton or silk threads on homespun fabric. The one pictured here is an example of this type of embroidery. Notice that they use the sashing and cornerstone effect that we use today in our quilting samplers.

The explanation that was given for this piece of embroidery was written in Italian, but thanks to my new app on my phone, Google Translate, I could hold my phone up to the poster and it would translate the wording from Italian to English. This is an amazing and useful app. It can translate many different languages that one might need on an around the world tour! This was most helpful in restaurants where the menu was written in Italian.

Here is the translation for this beautiful sampler:

“SAMPLER: The artifact called “sampler” has maintained several functions over the centuries: practice stitching exercise, sample book for educational purpose, commercial catalogue and ornamental work. The sampler is still used in many cultures as an exercise of style made by amateurs or professionals. It is an important document because it collects the typical stitches of a certain age or a cultural background. It also represents a memorandum for different generations passed from hand to hand by the women of the same family. Many samplers are dated and signed by the author so they can be used to assign a date and a manufacturer to antique embroidery and lace.”

Traveling can be so exciting when the destinations are ones that are of interest particularly to quilters or stitchers. The travel group that I have traveled around the world with is www.travelingtogether.net. Their next tour is to the beautiful Amsterdam/Belgium area in the spring. Check their website.

Visit Ocean Wave Quilters Guild the second Friday of every month at The Players Community Center on Landrum Ln., off CR-210 in Ponte Vedra at 10:00 -12:00. You shall be most welcome to the group!