Historical information

A "Plain Sewing Sampler" or "Darning Sampler" was intended to showcase the wide range of sewing techniques and skills a girl or woman had. These skills might include hand sewing techniques such as darning, patching, hemming, mending, structural sewing (making pleats, inserting gussets, joining fabric with seams) making buttonholes and embroidery. Samplers could also be intended for practicing a particular technique.

There were several articles printed in Australian newspapers around 1889 referring to the "Plain Sewing Movement". In 1889 a Melbourne branch of the "London Institute for the Advancement of Plain Needlework" was formed by a group of ladies led by Lady Loch and Lady Clarke with the purpose of teaching "plain needlework' to women and girls. "Plain Sewing" included fundamental stitches and techniques that were essential for practical clothing construction and maintenance. Several years later in 1891, another meeting was held at Clivedon (the residence of Lady Clarke) to look into the possibility of improving the teaching of sewing in the state schools. This meeting was attended by several school inspectors and the committee of "the Melbourne Institute for the Advancement of Plain Needlework".

This "Plain Sewing Sampler" was donated from the estate of Susan Henry OAM nee Vedmore (1944 - 2021). Susan's family (Harold and Gladys Vedmore) immigrated to Australia from Wales in 1955 and settled in Warrnambool. Susan was well known in the Warrnambool community for her work supporting children and families across the district - particular those with disabilities, or those who were homeless, unemployed or isolated. Susan was the founding trustee of the "Vedmore Foundation" - a Warrnambool philanthropic trust set up to support a range of charitable and not-for-profit causes by providing grant assistance. In 2021, she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the community.

It has not been possible to identify the lady (with the initials L. L.) who made this item in 1897 but it was thought to possibly be a female relation in her maternal (or possibly, paternal) grandmother's family. It has many of the same elements and techniques that were taught by the "Plain Sewing Movement" that originated in England at the end of the nineteenth century.


This item is a rare example of the handcraft skills learnt by women and girls in the late 1890's to construct and maintain practical clothing for their families.

Physical description

A cream cotton sampler made from three smaller rectangular shapes, displaying a wide variety of plain sewing techniques including hand stitched seams (french, bound and herringboned), inserted patch, buttonhole, button, gathering, a gusset, frills, pintucks, a placket, cross stitch initials and date (L L and 1897) and decorative embroidery.

Inscriptions & markings

L L/1897