Spot sampler (detail), 1685, Germany. Linen, wool, silk; canvas, embroidery (buttonhole, cross, satin, and feather stitches, French knots), 22 x 9 3/8 in. (55.88 x 23.813 cm). Gift of George and Marie Hecksher, 2023.23. Photograph by Randy Dodson

Embroidered Histories

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Featuring favorite stitches and motifs, embroidery samplers have been used to teach needlework skills and literacy since the 14th century. By the 18th century, these textiles were viewed as works of art in their own right. This exhibition highlights European embroidery samplers from the 17th through 19th centuries in our collection. Through a close look at the samplers’ materials, techniques, and designs, Embroidered Histories explores economic, political, and social developments in Europe during these centuries.

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