This site is dedicated to the sharing of information and examples of needlework done at the George Müller Orphanage in Bristol, England in the 1800's.
The samplers shown on this website were worked by the girls living in George Müller's orphanage in Bristol, England. There are documented orphan samplers that were worked from the 1840's through the early 1900's. The Orphan Homes taught the girls many needlework skills. This website will focus on sharing samplers that were stitched by the older girls before they left the orphanage, and share the story of the sampler maker if available.
Thank you to the Bristol Sampler owners, and to the George Müller Charitable Trust, who have allowed us to share their samplers on this website. If you have a Bristol sampler in your collection that you would like to share on this website, please contact us.
Images shown on this website are of samplers that are in museums or private collections.
All images are displayed here with permission of the owners and are copyright protected.
Bristol Sampler Characteristics
On samplers associated with George Müller’s New Orphan Homes, you will find more than one of the characteristics listed below. This check list works for the more common monochromatic thread samplers and the rarer multicolored ones.
Look for a stitched motif that looks like a book. Almost all Bristol samplers have a Bible motif.
The sampler is smaller than expected
The ground fabric has a high thread count, which allows more stitches per inch, making the sampler smaller than expected for the amount of stitching.
The fabric is not an evenweave
The fabric most often used for stitching was usually a cotton fabric which was not a true evenweave. Samplers were also stitched on handkerchiefs and fabrics similar to silk gauze and damask. The orphans stitched on what was available to them. Because the fabric weave was uneven, the stitches on the sampler are not square, so the same motifs stitched on a companion sampler may look different.
The sampler has a Hem stitched edge
The fabric was usually Hem stitched before the stitching was completed. We know this from seeing orphan samplers where the design stitching was never finished.
Colors and threads will vary
Not all Bristol samplers were stitched in red. It is true that most orphan samplers were stitched using a single color of cotton thread - usually red, sometimes blue or green. There are also examples of samplers stitched with only two colors of thread. The rare multi-colored samplers were stitched with many colors of cotton or silk thread.
Repeated alphabets and motifs
The sampler will have several design elements that have been stitched on another Bristol sampler. Look at the style and format of the overall design, and the types of alphabets and motifs used. Every sampler is unique but the elements stitched will be familiar.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the hospitality of the George Müller Charitable Trust, which still carries on the work of helping those in need. The people working at Müller House in Bristol, England will be more than happy to show you their collection of orphan samplers and other needlework pieces if you make arrangements before you visit. If you enjoyed the presentation of this website then please consider making a donation to the GMCT. You can find out more about their history and the current work they do through their website at:
BristolSamplers.com is not affiliated with the GMCT.