Purchase a simple but appealing cross-stitch kit
containing pattern, fabric, needle, and thread from
a crafts supply store. Allow each student to work
several rows or sections of the pattern so that they
understand how a cross-stitch image is built up
with individual X-shaped stitches. Frame and display the completed work.
Ask students to keep a journal in which they
record their progress in learning a new skill. Have
them make regular notes and illustrations that
show how they have improved through practice.
Adam and Eve was a favorite subject for needlework in the late 1700s when Bible stories were an
important part of most girls’ education. At the
center of Elizabeth Dewhirk’s sampler is the Tree
of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, described in
the book of Genesis. Its perfectly symmetrical
branches are laden with twenty-nine pieces of
luscious fruit that God has forbidden Adam and
Eve to eat. Coiled around the tree trunk is a wily
serpent who faces Eve directly, tempting her to
disobey God’s command and promising her the
About the Artwork
Elizabeth’s parents were no doubt proud of their
daughter’s accomplishment, and would have displayed her sampler at home in a fine frame as proof
of her skill, diligence, and suitability for marriage. Her sampler was also indisputable evidence
that they had raised their daughter well, and had
the good taste and wherewithal to arrange for her
beautiful and elegant objects for the household.
Ask each student to choose a letter of the alphabet and use graph paper to record how their letter
is designed in cross-stitch in at least ten of the
forty-three alphabets available at www.freepattern-sonline.com/xscharts/alphabets.htm. Next, have
students use graph paper to design three original
cross-stitch alphabets from A to Z. Finally, ask
them to prepare their own signature in each of
their original alphabets using colored markers to
indicate the color(s) of the thread that they would
1. Young girls made samplers to practice their
stitchery skills. What skills have you and your
friends tried to master through practice? Soccer?
Piano? Computer games? How well did you do at
first? How have you improved?
2. Imagine living in a time when there were no
sewing machines. How would the type of merchandise and amount of inventory in your favorite store be affected?
3. Which parts of Adam’s outline are smooth and
which parts are jagged? Why doesn’t the cross-stitch technique produce any smooth diagonal
knowledge of good and evil. Unable to resist temptation, both Adam and Eve reach for the fruit.
Overhead, angels hover above the tree while birds
of paradise perch on a basket of flowers and fruit.
The scene is framed by a wide border of honeysuckle blossoms worked with silk embroidery
threads in X-shaped cross-stitches on a panel of
Ask students to consult online search engines to
see how Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Rubens,
Titian, Lucas Cranach, and other artists represented Adam and Eve in paintings, prints, and
drawings. Print and display as many images as you
can find. Compare how the figures, Tree of Knowledge, serpent, and garden setting are presented to
tell the story. Discuss whether symmetry is an
important feature of the composition.
Greenoff, Jane. Cross Stitch Antique Style Samplers. F & W. Media, Inc., 2005.
Parmal, Pamela A. Samplers from A to Z.
MFA Publications, 2000.
Sebba, Anne. Samplers: Five Centuries of a Gentle
Craft. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1979.
Linda Andre is manager of teacher programs & resources
and holds the Sylvia Friedberg Nachlas Endowed Chair
for Museum Education at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
How has the education of young girls changed
since Elizabeth Dewhirk stitched her sampler?