Scottish Samplers at the National Museum

Those of you who know me know that I’m not really a fan of samplers. I don’t stitch them, don’t design them and don’t have any at my house. But I made time to visit the exhibit of Scottish samplers at the National Museum, and it was very illuminating.

The Scottish samplers are on loan from an American collector, Leslie B. Durst. She has a vast collection, and 70 of them are on display at the museum’s exhibit of Embroidered Stories.

The exhibit was a little hard to find, since I was finding it challenging to interpret the map of the museum’s lay out, but I finally found it. The exhibit includes a video, which I did not take the time to watch, and several examples of Scottish samplers stitched by girls AND boys!

One of the samplers I found most fascinating was a sewing sampler. It showed several step by step lessons in sewing skills – sewing a straight seam, joining two pieces of fabric (faggotting), a buttonhole, tucks, basting, even a button! The button was especially intriguing because buttons were expensive, so to know how to make one by hand was a useful skill. The sampler was used to display a seamstress’s expertise in various techniques, and to help her get a job in hand sewing. I spent a long time in front of that sampler!

Another display showed two samplers framed in glass so you could see the front and the back. One of them was quite meticulous, and it was very difficult to tell the front from the back. The other one not so much, and it looked more like my stitching with some pretty long thread carries!

The samplers displayed various techniques and colors, and if you’re a fan of historic samplers you’d love this exhibit. I was able to get quite close to examine the stitching, and I thoroughly enjoyed that.

My Edinburgh friends, Jonathan and Jane Beth Brown, met me for lunch at the museum. Those of you who are ANG members will know them from seminars. We had a delightful lunch discussing stitching, ANG, Edinburgh and all manner of things.

I learned from Jane Beth that the society that tends to St. Margaret’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle is exclusively women named Margaret! You have to be a Margaret to belong. And Jonathan shared more stitching kinds of things in the area, including The Dovecot. I didn’t have a chance to visit The Dovecot but will do it another time. It is a repurposed swimming pool, with weaving set up in the former pool area and viewing from the balconies above! Next visit!

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