Sampler - ROM2014_14421_19



Maker: Probably Mazahua culture
Medium:Cotton tabby with cotton embroidery in feather and cross stitch
Geography: Otomí-Mazahua region, State of Mexico, Mexico
Date: 1850-1900
48 x 35.5 cm
Object number: 979.141.29
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. W.K. Newcomb
Not on view

Pomegranates and stylized floral designs form decorative border patterns here, in a style of embroidery that is still found today in some Mazahua villages. 


Although pre-Conquest garments were sometimes embellished with decorative stitching, the colonial period brought an emphasis on embroidery. Animals, birds, and flowers were often represented in satin stitch, with subtle shading and intricate variations of colour. Cross stitch, fashionable in 19th century Europe, had an enormous impact in Mexico, as did appliqué and cutwork. Deshilado (drawn work), which was popular in Spain, was used to embellish white linen wedding shirts and altar cloths. And during the colonial period, Spanish lace was imported into Mexico for use by the elite, but was also taught locally. Most of these techniques remain current today.


Spanish needlework techniques were widely taught in Mexican convents. Exemplars, or samplers, allowed pupils to practice their newly-acquired skills, and provided useful memoranda of stitches and designs. Few, if any, samplers survive from the early decades of colonial rule, but 18th and 19th century examples offer invaluable information about popular embroidery styles. Today, in rural Mexico where clothing is still embroidered, samplers from girlhood are kept and consulted, and play a vital role in continuing this needlework tradition.

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