Embroidery, the working of images on fabric with a needle and thread, has served both decorative and practical uses throughout the ages. Bed curtains and garments have been enhanced with embroidery and household linens have been marked with embroidery. Stitching samplers was an essential learning tool for young ladies so they could show off their skills when the sampler was hung on the parlor wall. Embroidery also was used to mark a family's linens to differentiate them at communal laundries and so that linens could be rotated within the household. When permanent ink that would not destroy fabric was developed circa 1834, women could mark their household linens with ink, which was much faster than embroidering them. The 1830s also saw the education reform movement, which encouraged families to educate their daughters in the same subjects as their sons. These two factors diminished the need for young ladies to be instructed in embroidery techniques. Although many women continued to embroider for pleasure, the fashion for schoolgirl embroidered samplers declined.
The Museum has holdings in clothing, household linens and samplers/decorative pictures embellished with embroidery. This page focuses on the samplers and embroidered pictures in the collection.
Dr. Agnes True and her family gave significant 18th-century family schoolgirl embroidery pieces to form the core of the embroidery collection at the Museum of Texas Tech University in 1959. These included the work of her ancestor Betsy Lathrop and her daughter Anne Amelia Andrews, shown above right. Additional pieces from Dorothy Rylander and a beautiful 19th-century silk embroidered Moses picture donated in 2015 by John D. Rische and family have enhanced the holdings which the institution hopes to grow further.