French Samplers

French Samplers

Sampler making continued in France and some other European countries long after the tradition had been abandoned in the United States. Prior to 1882, educational opportunities for young French girls were haphazard at best, with most instruction provided in private boarding schools and convent schools. In 1882, the French government passed a law requiring all communities to provide free education to children, rich and poor, ages 6 to 13 years. Needlework instruction was a mandatory part of the curriculum for girls, and resulted in a large number of small samplers being produced thoughout the remainder of the 19th century, and well into the 20th century. The quality of stitching is mediocre but they have a certain visual and historic charm. Referred to by teachers and students as "les petit rouges et blancs" (little red and whites), these three small examples of sewing reflect important changes in French educational focus.

French cross stitch sampler

Etienete Badero, 1844

Materials: Silk on linen
Dimensions: 11.75" H x 10.50" W
Stitches: Cross
Collection of Lynne Anderson

The verse reads in part:

O bien heureux mille fois
L'enfant que le seigneur aime
Qui de bonne heure entend sa voix
Et que ce dieu daigne instruire lui-meme

Loose translation:

Happy a thousand times over
Is a child who loves the Lord
Who from an early age listens to his voice
And who the Lord himself intends to teach.

Clotilde Bouhon red and white French needlework sampler

Clotilde Bouhon, Circa 1880

Materials: Cotton on cotton
Dimensions: 12.75" H x 10.50" W
Stitches: Darning, cross
Collection of Lynne Anderson

This is a darning sampler made by Clotilde Bouhon. Learning to mend clothes by darning was an important part of a girl's needlework education, and yet not all countries had a tradition of requiring girls to practice and demonstrate their darning skills on samplers. The most common darning samplers are Dutch and English.

1901 French cross stitch sampler in private collection

Juliette Poux, 1901

Materials: Cotton on linen
Dimensions: 7.25" H x 8.75" W
Stitches: cross
Collection of Lynne Anderson

Gabrielle Menard, 1912

Materials: Cotton & wool on linen
Dimensions: 12.75" H by 10.50" W
Stitches: Darning, cross
Collection of Lynne Anderson

20th century French needlework sampler

Mariette Pibouleux, 1916-17

Materials: Silk & cotton on Penelope
Dimensions: 7.5" H x 11" W
Stitches: cross
Collection of Lynne Anderson