Elizabeth Furniss 1836 by Hands Across the Sea Samplers

Elizabeth Furniss 1836 by Hands Across the Sea Samplers

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It has been a delight to reproduce this colourful and whimsical sampler which was stitched by Elizabeth Furniss in 1836 (during the reign of William IV) when she was 13 years of age.

There are several girls with this name born around 1823 and when the chart was released it was impossible to say with any certainty which Elizabeth was our stitcher. Subsequently further information has come to light and we are able confirm that “our” Elizabeth Furniss was from Sheffield, Yorkshire.

The sampler is suitable for all levels of ability and is worked entirely in cross-stitch over 2 threads, only the text and two small lambs are over 1 thread.

Elizabeth’s well-known verse, stitched across three lines at the top of the sampler, straddles a central cartouche which bears her name and age.

Jesus permit thy gracious name to stand
As the first effort of a females hand
And has(sic) her fingers on the canvass (sic) move

Engage her tender heart to seek thy love
With thy dear children may she have a part
And write thy Name thyself upon her heart

This verse is attributed by some to John Newton (1725 – 1807), best known for the hymn “Amazing Grace”. It is said that he wrote it for the sampler of his niece. It has also been suggested that it was composed by Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748), also for his niece.

Verses found on English samplers between 1750 and 1850 tend to be either from the Bible, Isaac Watt’s religious poetry, or the Wesleyan hymnbook. Religious proverbs and sayings were also much favoured, and those which used a rhyme or a play on words.

The sampler is contained within an undulating carnation border and is composed of two sections. Depicted below the verse in the top section is one of the most popular of all sampler subjects – Adam and Eve (symbolising the struggle between good and evil). The limbs of Elizabeth’s magnificent tree spread wide and are heavily laden with apples. An apple in a serpent’s mouth denotes original sin, whereas an apple as a gift signifies a declaration of love. (The words for ‘evil’ and ‘apple’ in Latin are spelled the same – malum.)

Either side of the tree are bright red roses in full bloom, showing the influence of the Berlin wool work patterns from Germany that were starting to become popular in England at this time.

The bottom section features a large red brick mansion house bordered by mature cedar trees and set over a patchwork pasture. This is crammed full with out of scale animals, which adds a wonderful naive charm and rich symbolism to the pastoral scene.

All of the individual animals have symbolic meanings – fancy cockerels (vigilance, pride), striped geese (conceit, watchfulness, love, marital happiness) and stags (faithfulness, charity). Elizabeth also included an abundance of hares and rabbits (gentleness, timidity melancholy), a colourful parrot (gossip, talkativeness), a lion (strength, majesty, courage, wisdom, protection, steadfastness) and two leopards (sin, ferocity, courage, pride, speed). There are also many sheep (meekness, silliness) with their lambs (youth, innocence, gentleness, humility, charity, sacrifice), all patiently watched over by a shepherd and shepherdess with dogs at their feet.

The sampler has many other symbolic motifs, including birds (spirit of the air), squirrels (mischief), angels with trumpets (the voice of God), hearts (charity and love), and numerous pots, urns and baskets full of flowers.

Elizabeth’s sampler has been charted with AVAS with a DMC conversion provided. The model was stitched on 40ct Lakeside Linen Vintage Sand Dune.


The design area is 347 stitches (w) x 358 stitches (h). Our calculations have included a 3” margin for finishing and framing.

30ct – Design: 23.13″ x 23.87″ Fabric: 29.13″ x 29.87″

32ct – Design: 21.69″ x 22.38″ Fabric: 27.69″ x 28.38″

36ct – Design: 19.28″ x 19.89″ Fabric: 25.28″ x 25.89″

40ct – Design: 17.35″ x 17.9″ Fabric: 23.35″ x 23.9″