Needlework samples

Object name

Date made



Five needlework samples stitched by a young woman in 1895 to practice dressmaking and mending techniques on a small scale.

Content description

Five needlework samples by a young woman in 1895 to practice dressmaking and mending techniques on a small scale. These five objects are a miniature child's dress, dress with a chemise-like top and plain sewing sampler skirt, nightgown, plain sewing sampler, and bloomers.

The child's dress (COL.53.a) is made of white cotton with a pattern of small, pink fruits. It has a pleated neckline and cuffs with decorative double feather stitching in pink and tiny buttons and looped buttonholes, as well as a pattern-matched patch on the bottom front.

The dress that combines undergarment and plain sewing (COL.53.b) features a chemise-like top with decorative broderie anglaise and double feather stitching on the armholes, a ribbon-cinched waistband, buttonholes and buttons, a patch, and a ribbon-tied neck. The bottom is a flannel skirt featuring herringbone-stitched seams, darning, decorative patching, a back placket, a hemmed bottom with decorative double feather stitches and a knife pleat, and the initials 'MS' cross stitched in the centre.

The nightgown (COL.53.c), made of white cotton, demonstrates decorative double feather stitching around the neckline, collar, and sleeves, pleating, lace attachments, a ruffled lace collar, buttonholes and a mother-of-pearl button, a placket, and a hemmed bottom with two horizontal knife pleats above it.

The plain sewing sampler (COL.53.d) demonstrates herringbone-stitched patches and seams, four different edge-finishing techniques (blanket stitched, hemmed, bias binding, and concealed waistband), a placket and adjacent pleat, a reinforced slit, large knife pleats, and a portion of chevron-patterned darning.

The bloomers (COL.53.e) include multiple buttonholes, pleating, two methods to reinforce a slit, two patches, decorative broderie anglaise, and a variety of normal and reinforced seams.

When these objects were donated to the Royal School of Needlework, the provenance indicated that they were created in 1895 by Ada Bruke-Roche, with Bruke likely a misspelling of Burke. Likely born in Woolwich in 1873, the 1891 census indicates that Ada worked as a school teacher. These samples may have been created as examples for or by her students; the 'MS' on the flannel dress suggests that at least that piece was likely worked on by another sewer.

In the late 19th century, these type of samples would be used for practice and as a demonstration of a young girl or woman's skill. Despite their small size, these samples are not dolls' clothing; they are demonstrations of a variety of important dressmaking techniques. For example, the bloomers show two different ways to reinforce a slit, while the sewing sampler demonstrates four different ways to finish the uneven edge of a cloth. Dressmaking instruction books would provide directions for creating the piece and the miniature patterns that could be used to practice and demonstrate those skills. The small size would be both economical, as it would require less cloth and thread, and more portable, as many samples could easily be passed around as both example and proof of skill.


width: 28cm
height: 21.5cm
width: 45.5cm
height: 36cm
width: 35cm
height: 33.5cm
width: 45cm
height: 35.5cm
width: 51.5cm
height: 36.5cm




Credit line

Gift of Mr A. Poole, 1989.

Catalogue number


Other numbers

RSN 349A-E
© Royal School of Needlework