Sampler, embroidered, canvas / wool, made by Eleanor Anderson, Kelso, Queensland, Australia, 1900
This embroidered sampler was made by Eleanor Anderson while at Kelso public school, probably in Australia. It forms part of a collection of 19th and 20th century Australian embroidery and needlework, given to the Museum by Ian Rumsey and known as the Ian Rumsey Australian Textiles Collection. The collection was assembled by the donor, a private collector, over two decades and includes doilies, milk jug covers, tablecloths, placemats, towels, banners, aprons, samplers, runners and cushion covers, all featuring Australian motifs. Ian Rumsey was drawn to embroidery and needlework for its extensive use of Australian flora and fauna and other motifs which specifically reference Australia; he collected only well-preserved examples. The use of Australian motifs is strongly indicative of a shift away from the design influences of the United Kingdom towards a more inclusive Australian aesthetic.
The collection represents an important pastime of Australian women of the late 19th to mid 20th century. Women's focus was the home and its decoration was important. Embroidery and crochet work was an affordable way to personalise and add aesthetic value, and examples of embroidered and crocheted pieces could be found in most Australian homes, decorating or protecting furniture, floors and walls, and keeping off flies and insects from food. Embroidery and crochet work provided a much needed creative outlet for some and a restful leisure activity for others, as a way to commemorate significant events or supplement the family income.
There are two types of samplers. The spot sampler with a variety of randomly placed motifs and the band or marking sampler worked in bands or rows usually with a repeat border design. The sampler in this collection is an example of the band sampler. It is worked entirely in cross stitch with buttonhole stitch around the four sides.
The term sampler comes from the Latin exemplum meaning 'an example to be followed'. Originally samplers were used as references for stitches and patterns. Designs were passed on through subsequent generations and from country to country. By the 17th century, the layout of samplers had become more ordered and they often included the date and name of the embroiderer. From the mid 18th century it became common for girls to work samplers as part of their education. Needlework instruction often saw samplers playing a dual role - providing needlework practice and as an educational tool to teach the alphabet, numbers, multiplication tables. Samper designs frequently include an edifying verse or saying or a quotation from the Bible.
The sampler is part of a collection of well-preserved Australian needlework and embroidery of the early to mid 1900s, featuring Australian motifs and assembled by the donor Ian Rumsey over two decades. One of the principal sources for his collection was the late Nerylla Taunton, a widely respected Sydney antiques dealer who specialised in needlework and was a registered Australian government valuer for this class of object.
The origin of the sampler is not securely sourced, and further research is required to determine whether the young girl who stitched it, Eleanor Anderson, might have gone to public school in 1900 in Kelso near Townsville in Queensland, Kelso east of Bathurst in NSW, or Kelso on the north coast of Tasmania. It is also possible that the sampler was worked while attending the public school in Kelso in the border lowlands of Scotland