A Thomas 1882 ~ The Nellies


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Anna, Angharad, or possibly Alwen? We shall never know as the young girl who finished this charming sampler on January 8th in the year 1882 did not record her Christian name. From the moment we first saw A Thomas’ sampler she has been affectionately called “The Nellies,” as her sampler features two elephants carrying howdahs.

It is easy to assume that samplers that feature exotic animals were taught either by teachers or stitched by children who had travelled to or lived in exotic places. However, this sampler is Welsh, and we believe that it was the exotic animals that travelled with the circus to the valleys of Wales. By the mid-19th century there were hundreds of circuses operating in Britain and the fairground entertainers travelled to their audiences. The circuses toured to even the smallest of towns and in the 19th century the development of the railways enabled circuses to travel further.

There is a Welsh folklore that tells a story about a Victorian travelling circus that visited the ancient market town of Tregaron in the upper Teifi Valley alongside the River Brennig in Ceredigion, West Wales. For hundreds of years cattlemen drove their herds through the town, and its twelve pubs kept the local clergy very busy in their perpetual war against the evils of drink. On the evening of the first Friday in July 1848 the town’s population was treated to a procession of caravans, horses, bears and elephants from Batty’s Travelling Menagerie.

There are several different versions as to what happened but the following Friday the pages of the Carmarthen Journal carried a more sombre story, reporting the death of one of Batty’s young elephants in Tregaron.

Some reports state that the elephant drank water contaminated by a lead mine and died shortly afterwards. The travelling show moved on, leaving either a dying or dead elephant behind. To this day the local legend persists that the unfortunate elephant, known locally as “Jwmbi,” was buried by local people behind what is now the Talbot Hotel.

The reproduction of Anne’s sampler has been a team effort. Her sampler has been painstakingly charted by Sandra Moffitt, her booklet produced by Nicola Parkman and Suzanne Sirotti who lovingly stitched the model. At the very core of Hands Across the Sea Samplers there is a team of needleworkers who are passionate about antique samplers and being able to share those samplers with you.

Nature’s great masterpiece, an elephant; the only harmless great thing. ~ John Donne


Thread Legend

The Nellies has been reproduced using Weeks Dyeworks 40ct Zweigart based linen in Parchment with one strand of Au Ver à Soie silk from their d’Alger range. The skein quantities used  for the model have been listed in the thread legend below. We have provided conversions for Au Ver à Soie from their 100.3 range together with DMC. We have used the vibrant colours found on the front of the sampler today.

  d’Alger / 100.3 / DMC ~ Colour Description    524 x 1 / 303 x 1 / 832 x 1 ~ Golden olive 622 x 1 / 240 x 1 / 3821 x 1 ~ Straw 943 x 2 / 779 x 2 / 321 x 2 ~  Christmas red 1414 x 1 / 652 x 1 / 336 x 1 ~ Navy blue 1735 x 1 / 486 x 1 / 930 x 1 ~ Antique blue ~ dark 1844 x 1 / 108** x 1 / 520 x 1 ~ Fern green ~ dark 2132 x 1 /  718 x 1 / 3348 x 1 ~ Yellow green ~ light 2145 x 1 / 152 x 1 / 730 x 1 ~ Olive green ~ very dark 2757 x 1 / 468 x 1 / 926 x 1 ~  Grey green ~ medium 3312 x 1 / 345 x 1 / 3041 x 1 ~ Antique violet ~ medium 3724 x 1 / 707 x 1 / 936 x 1 ~ Avocado green ~ very dark 4114 x 1 / 517 x 1 / 840 x 1 ~ Beige brown ~ medium 4222 x 1 / 323 x 1 / 676 x 1 ~ Old gold ~ light F10 x 1 / 211 x 1 / 739 x 1  ~ Tan ~ ultra very light **The range of 100.3 colours is constantly changing. Since the design was released shade 654 has become available which we believe is a better match to 1844.  


The design area is 303 stitches (w) x 324 stitches (h). Our calculations have included a 3" margin for finishing and framing. 28ct ~ Design: 21.64" x 23.14" Fabric: 27.64" x 29.14" 32ct ~ Design:18.94" x 20.25" Fabric: 24.94" x 26.25" 36ct ~ Design:16.83" x 18.00" Fabric: 22.83" x 24.00" 40ct ~ Design: 15.15" x 16.20" Fabric: 21.15" x 22.20" 46ct ~ Design: 13.17" x 14.09" Fabric: 19.17" x 20.09" 56ct ~ Design: 10.82" x 11.57" Fabric: 16.82" x 17.57"

Stitch Guide

This charming sampler has been executed with cross stitch over two threads and is suitable for all levels of ability. The sampler can be stitched on Aida or linen.

Cross Stitch ~ When working cross stitch the top stitch should always lie in the same direction for a neat and uniform finish.

Hands Across the Sea Samplers are on hand to help those stitching our charts. If you need assistance or have any questions we can be reached via email, address shown below, or the contact page on our website. Our website has stitching tutorials which can be found in the “sewing basket/tools” section.


Correction #01 The graph has printed with the last two lines omitted. The bottom border is a repeated pattern shown in the photograph below, please note the last two lines.   Correction #02 On page 1 and 4 of the graph there is a correction to the bottom of the stem below. The stem and leaves should be the same colour as the rest of the stem and leaves. The area highlighted is the correction.