Needle Exchange: A Sampling of Samplers

Hi everybody! Last time we looked at the history of early American samplers. If you missed that article, click HERE to read it. This week I trolled Flickr and the Phat Quarter pool to find some examples of modernized samplers. Although we learned last time that samplers tend to include the maker’s name along certain motifs, it is undeniable that these current pieces give a snarky nod to the past.

First up we have Mina’s Cross Stitch by Sailor Corscant.

Click HERE to see it larger

I love the keyboard alphabet, and I can’t get over the teeny emoticon border!

Next we have curegreed’s sampler featuring a Dale Spender quote-

Click HERE to see it larger

In the comment section last time we had a fascinating conversation about women’s roles in needlework, specifically being expected to make samplers as part of their education. This piece’s use of a quote about feminism really brings the history of the sampler full circle for me.

Here we have Beefranck’s Dr. Horrible Cross Stitch. While not technically a sampler, it does incorporate the text, flower, and human motifs that are typically found in traditional samplers. And it says “Penis”.

Click HERE to see it large.

Although I try to not to play favorites by featuring more than one piece by any artists unless I am writing specificly about them, I just couldn’t pick one piece by Bren Ahearn.

Sampler #3, See it HERE.

Sampler #1, See it HERE

I’m totally blown away by how powerful these pieces are, despite their simple palettes. The first one reminds me of the history of ritual needlework pieces used in wedding ceremonies, while provocatively exploring the idea of who is allowed to marry. The second piece with its simply stitched alphabet and numbers, really contrasts boldly with the text, “When I refuse to fight, I am called a pussy.” I love the date and age included too, it really gives the piece a personal narrative touch that feels like I’ve glanced a diary entry.

I hope you all enjoyed this weeks dive into modern samplers! If you want to see more, check out the Phat Quarter pool on Flickr.


Penny Nickels is a printmaker that started playing with needles with tremendous effect. She and her husband, Johnny Murder, have been described as “The Bonnie and Clyde of Contemporary Embroidery” and you can discover the power of her creativity at her blog.

Penny Nickels
Penny Nickels is a print maker, a former book binder, currently a fiber artist and fledgling writer.
Penny Nickels

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