Mary’s sampler was done in plain cross stitch with
red cotton thread on high-count fabric. These samplers might not showcase the most challenging needlework techniques,
unless you agree that doing cross stitch on fabric where the common thread
count was 70+ threads per inch presented enough of a challenge. The
format of many earlier (1860 – 1870) Bristol samplers was similar to how Mary
stitched hers: alphabets at the top with motifs at the bottom.
The one thing Mary did not stitch was her last name
on her sampler. The number “395” was her bed number at the time she
stitched her sampler. The George Müller Charitable Trust still has the
records for the children they cared for, but none of those records include
their bed numbers. The children were moved within the houses as they got
older, so they did not keep the same bed or number. Mary left us no other
So who was the girl that stitched this sampler? With the help of the George Müller Charitable Trust we have made an educated guess as to who our Mary was. If Mary Stead did not stitch this sampler, she stitched one similar to it. All of the girls had to stitch a red thread sampler before they left the Homes. Mary Elizabeth Stead was 15 years old in 1869, which would have been the right age to complete a sampler. She shows up on the 1871 census, age 17, living at the orphanage. She was released from the orphanage in 1872 at the age of 18. The story of the life of Mary Elizabeth Stead, that we have been able to find, is shared elsewhere in this booklet.Stitch count is 378 W x 396 H. Sampler is completed in Cross stitch only.