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Samplers, The History and Variety of Samplers From The Royal School of Needlework Archives with Lucy Barter


Saturday, October 11, 10am Lecture Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum

Samplers have been a staple feature of embroidery education for hundreds of years. This lecture features samplers from the Royal School of Needlework’s (RSN) collection, which represent the 18th to the 21st century. The samplers represent many different types, not simply the classic “alphabet and numeral” pieces. These include band, map, darning, sewing, and technical stitch samplers.

Samplers were also considered an embroiderer’s portfolio, where they could demonstrate proficiency and technical ability. The embroiderer would take her sampler to her prospective employer. The sampler could take form in either doll size garments, or clever folding envelops, showing off details in seams, construction, buttonholes, and technical stitches and embellishments.

The earliest dated piece in the sampler collection is from 1731, and the most recent pieces are two from 2013. Between them there is an enormous variety of styles, techniques, cultural and geographical influences, and stitchers. The samplers also vary in size from one that is six square inches to one that runs more than the length of two tables end to end. This lecture will introduce you to the RSN’s samplers and reveal some of their stories.

Lucy Barter received a BA with Honours in Fashion Design, specializing in children’s wear. After several years living in San Francisco and designing for established children’s fashion labels in both England and the USA including Gap, Gymboree and Pottery Barn Kids, Lucy discovered the RSN. The appeal of the RSN’s history, teaching methods, and surroundings enticed Lucy back from the US to enroll in the Apprenticeship in 2003. She graduated in August 2006 and after staying at the RSN for a short while to teach, returned to San Francisco where she now lives with her husband. She has her own business, Forever Embroidery Studio. Lucy runs the RSN’s courses in San Francisco throughout the year from her studio, and at the Hyatt Regency Hotel San Francisco Airport for two intensive sessions each year


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