I love traditional samplers and enjoyed the ‘The eye of the needle’ exhibition at the Ashmolean earlier this year (see blog in September). I like their regularity and neatness but they always bring to mind the contrast between the constrained cross stitched messages and the feelings of the embroiderer. I would love to meet Polly Cook whose sampler is referred to in Rozsika Parker’s book ‘The subversive stitch’, unfortunately there is no picture but the text reads ‘Polly Cook did it and she hated every stitch she did in it’ (Parker 1984 p132). In the spirit of Polly Cook I produced a virtual sampler using the Illustrator program. The complete text reads: ‘I sew a long seam and my pins and needles help me for sometimes the thread escapes me’ but the words fade in and out to reveal the phrases ‘help me’ and ‘I long for escape’ hidden within the main text, reflecting the concealed thoughts of the seamstress (see image above, taken at the Cloth and Memory exhibition in 2012). I’ve also been sourcing samplers for a Pinterest board on subversive stitching and have found some lovely examples, such as ‘Dull women have immaculate houses’, ‘You’ve done this wrong’ on a sampler stitched vertically instead of horizontally, and my favourite, which says simply ‘Don’t f**k with me’.