Monday, 5 October 2009

A Clever Red German Sampler

It seems a bit odd, I know, to start a post by looking at the back of a sampler, but this German sampler is no ordinary sampler as you can see when you look closely. Not only is it beautifully stitched and finished - it is reversible to the extent that were it not for the orientation of the individual letters, you would not know whether you were looking at the wrong side or the right side of the work.

I bought this sampler a while ago and have been copying it on and off since. Although I have not yet had time to finish my copy, it is proving an incredibly satisfying mental experience, because not only does one have to pay close attention to the front of the work, one is at the same time visualizing what is happening on the reverse. Unpicking can be quite a trial, though, since red floss on white linen leaves lots of tell-tails!

Unfortunately, I don't think we shall ever know the OB who stitched this sampler, but there are several other examples of the same kind. This one was stitched by Jenny Haemsch and there is a photograph of her in later life aged 76. Below you can see a German class in their needlework room which is contemporary to the making of these samplers.


  1. how in the heck does one make the back of the work so pretty? wow, that's amazing...

    and thank you for the free download...your generosity is amazing, too...thank you, jacqueline! ☺

  2. What an amazing piece. Brings a whole new meaning to keeping the back of your work neat!
    Thank you for the download too, very generous as always.

  3. This is very beautiful Jacqueline, and very generous of you to provide it free of charge! Thank-you!!

  4. When you stitch a four-sided stitch, you get a cross on the reverse, so I think the stitcher has taken advantage of that in several places. It looks like the middle row of Roman letters is stitched in vertical columns rather than rows, and the parts that look like back stitch are actually done like black work with a double running or Holbein stitch.

    I know there is a way to stitch alternate crosses, so that when you do the return row you make alternate crosses in the spaces in the back. If you do that twice, you could have solid crosses on both sides, though you'd have to do some half crosses to avoid a vertical stitch on the back when you turn the row.

    It must take an amazing amount of skill and planning to make it all come out so perfectly. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  5. Dear Jacqueline,

    It is very generous of you to provide us with a free download of this
    sampler. Thank you for sharing it with us.


  6. What an amazing piece of stitching skill.

    I would like to know more about the "reverse" work being done and how.

    How did she start and finish with new thread?

    Are there any tips you can give on this blog or point me to somewhere else to learn about this?


    jwsmoore at bordernet dot com dot au

  7. I love red and this piece makes me smile. what exact stitching one can do if you just take the time. I have a friend Beth who does amazing reverse work, i am so impressed every time i look at it. I love the photos brings me that much closer to those who many years ago did all this beautiful work

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