Spot sampler, mid–17th century
Linen canvas worked with silk and metal thread; stitches include tent, cross, back, plaited braid, detached buttonhole, knots, and laidwork; 21 3/4 x 10 5/8 in. (55.2 x 27 cm)
Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1964 (64.101.1328)
The term "spot sampler" has come to refer to compositions like this one in which the motifs are scattered in somewhat random fashion over the surface of the foundation fabric. These samplers are rarely signed or dated, and often their motifs are only partially worked, leading to the conclusion that this type of sampler was made as a personal stitch reference for its maker, and not for display, as signed schoolgirl samplers were.
The geometric motifs on this sampler are the type that would have been used to decorate small purses, cushions, and other accessories. The fruits, flowers, and animals rendered in tent stitch are the type of motif that would have been worked in large quantities and then cut out and applied to another fabric background, such as a satin or velvet. They were then often outlined with silver or gold metal threads. The small floral motifs are often called "slips," a term that also describes cuttings from plants.