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In this activity, Key Stage 3 or 4 pupils will create their own sampler using ideas and information that they find out from objects from the past. The Museum visit will be used to research the many and varied examples of embroidery in the British Galleries.

Note: this activity is aimed at pupils who have some experience of embroidery.


Art and Design
Exploring and developing ideas
'Record and analyse first-hand observations'
Investigating and making art, craft and design
Pupils should 'apply and extend their experience of a range of materials and processes'


Here you will find some ideas to help you prepare yourself and your pupils for a visit to the British Galleries.


We strongly recommend that you visit the Museum prior to bringing your class. This will give you a much clearer idea of how you can use the galleries. You should familiarise yourself with the spaces in the British Galleries and the route to them from the Exhibition Road entrance. Spend some time studying the examples of embroidery. You will find some good examples in the following displays:

Britain 1500-1714
Textiles in the home 1600-1700Gallery 56
The court of Elizabeth 1 1558-1603Gallery 57
Achieving splendour 1600-1640Gallery 58
Dressing for magnificence 1600-1630Gallery 56

Britain 1714-1837
Spitalfields silkGallery 52

Britain 1837-1900
Williams MorrisGallery 125
Scottish SchoolGallery 125
Arts and CraftsGallery 125

Decide how long you are going to spend in the Museum and which galleries you are going to use. This activity is based on the British Galleries and the Museum task has been designed to take half a day. There are other galleries which contain embroidery that you might want to visit if you have more time. For a list of other galleries, to find out more about British embroidery and to view some images see supporting information.


Discuss the different kinds of embroidery that pupils will see in the Museum. This will include canvas work and raised work from the Tudor and Stuart periods, samplers from the 18th and 19th centuries, embroidered cushions, hangings, collars and screens from the Victorian period.

Bring in some examples of embroidery and ask pupils to discuss the different styles.
Discuss embroidery as a typical leisure activity for women in the past.
Show pupils an example of a sampler.
Practice some embroidery stitches:
Open-work: herringbone stitch and Jacobean or trellis couching
Filled-in work: satin stitch and long-and-short-stitch
Texturing: seeding and French knots
Outlining: stem stitch and back stitch


Divide pupils into small groups and ask them to select pieces of embroidery from the British Galleries that show examples of different kinds of stitching (a magnifying glass may be useful). They could record this information in a sketch book by drawing the stitches on a large scale. Squared paper might be useful for this exercise.

Next, pupils should record motifs and designs that they have seen on embroidery in the Museum. They could choose one that they would like to use as the centrepiece for their sampler. They should make several drawings so that they can choose from them back at school. They could use the worksheet available on this site.


Pupils should use the ideas and information gathered at the Museum to begin work on their own sampler. Remind pupils that the aim of a sampler is to demonstrate the best possible work in both design and execution.

Ask pupils to evaluate and develop their work by discussing the different processes and techniques that have been used.


We are keen to get your feedback on this activity as well as any suggestions for other ways of using the British Galleries. Use the online evaluation form here

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Programmes of work | Design a worksheet | Tell us what you think | How to book | British Galleries Website