Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Stitched World

An interesting map sampler was sold at auction in the UK yesterday for £1,400 GBP plus premium. Stitched by Elizabeth Waghorn in 1800 with coloured wool on a cotton ground, this map of England and Wales measured 58cm wide, 69cm high, 8cm deep. The frame is very beautiful.

In the late 17th century a small illustrated book entitled Geography Anatomiz'd was published by Patrick Gordon.  With British colonization and exploration the interest in geography grew and became fashionable. Numerous updated editions followed. Schools started to teach geography and by the second half of the 18th century  map samplers were being stitched in schools.

Their popularity is partly explained by the dual function they served, demonstrating both the pupil's needlework skills and her geographical knowledge. Map samplers were equivalent of the modern day diploma and the standard by which her accomplishments were judged. Parents would frame and display their daughters' work, proud of their aptitude with a needle.


Teachers copied maps onto cloth for their students to embroider but there were publishing companies who produced maps printed on silk or linen backgrounds.

A pupil might choose to depict a local area, the field layout of a nearby estate, her country, its continent, the two hemispheres of the globe or even the solar system. 

Such complex maps as the two hemispheres were almost always undertaken on printed grounds. Stitchers would personalise their samplers by designing and adding their own borders.


Most of the map samplers that we see come up for sale in the UK are of the British Isles but we occasionally see maps of Europe, American and double globe map.


If you are considering purchasing an antique map at auction that is embroidered on a silk background then you should evaluate its condition carefully as they are very fragile and many have splits. If you are unable to inspect the sampler in person  ask the auctioneer for a condition report and detailed photographs.

Map samplers open up a whole new world of interest to the collector.

Yesterday was a very interesting day for needlework being sold at auction and for a round up please VISIT yesterday's post.


This was one of the samplers going under the hammer.