Elizabeth Furniss 1836


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It has been a delight to reproduce this colourful and whimsical sampler which was stitched by Elizabeth Furniss in 1836 (during the reign of William IV) when she was 13 years of age.

There are several girls with this name born around 1823 and when the chart was released it was impossible to say with any certainty which Elizabeth was our stitcher. Subsequently further information has come to light and we are able confirm that “our” Elizabeth Furniss was from Sheffield, Yorkshire.

The sampler is suitable for all levels of ability and is worked entirely in cross-stitch over 2 threads, only the text and two small lambs are over 1 thread.

Elizabeth’s well-known verse, stitched across three lines at the top of the sampler, straddles a central cartouche which bears her name and age.

Jesus permit thy gracious name to stand
As the first effort of a females hand
And has(sic) her fingers on the canvass (sic) move

Engage her tender heart to seek thy love
With thy dear children may she have a part
And write thy Name thyself upon her heart

This verse is attributed by some to John Newton (1725 – 1807), best known for the hymn “Amazing Grace”. It is said that he wrote it for the sampler of his niece. It has also been suggested that it was composed by Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748), also for his niece.

Verses found on English samplers between 1750 and 1850 tend to be either from the Bible, Isaac Watt’s religious poetry, or the Wesleyan hymnbook. Religious proverbs and sayings were also much favoured, and those which used a rhyme or a play on words.


The sampler is contained within an undulating carnation border and is composed of two sections. Depicted below the verse in the top section is one of the most popular of all sampler subjects – Adam and Eve (symbolising the struggle between good and evil). The limbs of Elizabeth’s magnificent tree spread wide and are heavily laden with apples. An apple in a serpent’s mouth denotes original sin, whereas an apple as a gift signifies a declaration of love. (The words for ‘evil’ and ‘apple’ in Latin are spelled the same – malum.)


Either side of the tree are bright red roses in full bloom, showing the influence of the Berlin wool work patterns from Germany that were starting to become popular in England at this time.


The bottom section features a large red brick mansion house bordered by mature cedar trees and set over a patchwork pasture. This is crammed full with out of scale animals, which adds a wonderful naive charm and rich symbolism to the pastoral scene.


All of the individual animals have symbolic meanings – fancy cockerels (vigilance, pride), striped geese (conceit, watchfulness, love, marital happiness) and stags (faithfulness, charity). Elizabeth also included an abundance of hares and rabbits (gentleness, timidity melancholy), a colourful parrot (gossip, talkativeness), a lion (strength, majesty, courage, wisdom, protection, steadfastness) and two leopards (sin, ferocity, courage, pride, speed). There are also many sheep (meekness, silliness) with their lambs (youth, innocence, gentleness, humility, charity, sacrifice), all patiently watched over by a shepherd and shepherdess with dogs at their feet.

The sampler has many other symbolic motifs, including birds (spirit of the air), squirrels (mischief), angels with trumpets (the voice of God), hearts (charity and love), and numerous pots, urns and baskets full of flowers.

Elizabeth’s sampler has been charted with AVAS with a DMC conversion provided. The model was stitched on 40ct Lakeside Linen Vintage Sand Dune.


The design area is 347 stitches (w) x 358 stitches (h). Our calculations have included a 3” margin for finishing and framing.

30ct – Design: 23.13″ x 23.87″ Fabric: 29.13″ x 29.87″

32ct – Design: 21.69″ x 22.38″ Fabric: 27.69″ x 28.38″

36ct – Design: 19.28″ x 19.89″ Fabric: 25.28″ x 25.89″

40ct – Design: 17.35″ x 17.9″ Fabric: 23.35″ x 23.9″

With our grateful thanks to Bhooma Aravamudan for stitching the model.

Chart Correction Notification

  Please accept our apologies. Elizabeth Furniss Page 16 - Back Cover Thread Legend 1 Correction

Thread Legend

AVAS              DMC            COLOUR 2946 x 1         326 x 1         Rose – very deep 2914 x 1         760 x 1          Salmon F2 x 2             Ecru x 2       Ecru 2225 x 1         732 x 1          Olive green 1421 x 1          160 x 1          Grey blue – medium 3725 x 1          520 x 1         Fern green – dark 935 x 2           347 x 2         Salmon – very dark 4244 x 1         680 x 1         Old gold - dark 3435 x 1         838 x 1         Beige brown – very dark 944 x 1           321 x 1          Christmas red 4513 x 1         434 x 1          Brown - light 1846 x 1         500 x 1         Blue green – very dark 3833 x 2        371 x 2          Mustard 1723 x 1         597 x 1          Turquoise 1721 x 1         598 x 1          Turquoise – light 2643 x 1        350 x 1          Coral – medium 2931 x 1         152 x 1          Shell Pink – medium light 3715 x 2         3051 x 2       Green grey – dark 2912 x 1         3779 x 1        Terracotta – ultra light very 4525 x 1         167 x 1          Yellow beige – very dark 3733 x 2         3012 x 2       Khaki green - medium Noir x 1          310 x 1          Black 1844 x 2         501 x 2          Blue green - dark 3812 x 1         422 x 1          Hazel nut brown - light 1814 x 1          3813 x 1        Blue green - light LINEN SIZES The model has been stitched on 40ct Lakeside Linen in Vintage Sand Dune. The design area is 347 stitches (w) x 358 stitches (h). Our calculations have included a 3” margin for finishing and framing. 30ct – Design: 23.13" x 23.87" Fabric: 29.13" x 29.87" 32ct – Design: 21.69" x 22.38" Fabric: 27.69" x 28.38" 36ct – Design: 19.28" x 19.89" Fabric: 25.28" x 25.89" 40ct – Design: 17.35" x 17.9" Fabric: 23.35" x 23.9"



Finding Elizabeth

Antique samplers combine our love of needlework and history. One of the first things we do when a sampler catches our eye is to research the stitcher using Ancestry and other family history sites. So many of these school girls died young, often in childbirth, but there are a few that through clues left in their sampler tell a fascinating story and take you on a journey through a family’s history. We originally found several girls bearing Elizabeth’s name born around 1823 and it was impossible to say with any certainty which was our Elizabeth. We knew that the surname of “Furnass” was of Old Norse-Viking origins, and is a locational name from Furness, a district on the south coast of what is now Cumberland. Shortly after Elizabeth’s chart was released we learnt of other samplers that shared some or all of her motifs: the distinctive apple tree; the imposing red house with its towering cedars either side; the patchwork pasture: the shepherd and shepherdess and those “funky” striped geese. A sampler with an almost identical apple tree recorded the name of the school where it had been stitched “Darnall School” which we traced to the Township of Attercliffe cum Darnall in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. We found the sampler’s maker through the 1814 census living in Lead Mill Row Sheffield, a short distance from the school. Focusing on the Sheffield area we researched the other girls who had stitched similar samplers and found five girls who lived within close proximity of each other. As further samplers have come to light we have traced even more girls living in the same area. Most importantly we found our Elizabeth Furniss. Sheffield’s location amongst fast-flowing rivers and streams surrounded by hills containing raw materials such as coal, iron ore, ganister, and millstone grit for grindstones—made it an ideal place for water-powered industries to develop. Water wheels built for the milling of corn were converted to the manufacture of blades. As early as the 14th century Sheffield was noted for the production of knives. In Georgian Sheffield industry boomed and it was known for its iron production. In the 1740s Benjamin Huntsman invented a form of the crucible steel process for making a better quality of steel than had previously been available. At around the same time Thomas Bolsover invented a technique for fusing a thin sheet of silver onto a copper ingot producing a form of silver plating that became known as Sheffield Plate. Originally hand-rolled Old Sheffield Plate was used for making silver buttons. Then in 1751 Joseph Hancock, first used it to make kitchen and tableware. This prospered and in 1762–65 Hancock built the water-powered Old Park Silver Mills, one of the earliest factories solely producing an industrial semi-manufacture. Eventually Old Sheffield Plate was supplanted by cheaper electroplate in the 1840s. Silver plate was cheaper than silver and was very popular for things like candlesticks and teapots. Sheffield was renowned throughout the world for the production of cutlery; utensils such as the bowie knife were mass-produced and shipped to the United States. Sheffield was a dirty and unsanitary place which was not surprising considering its heavy industries. In 1832, when our Elizabeth was 9 years old there was an epidemic of cholera in Sheffield which killed 402 people. Elizabeth came from a humble background, her father was a blade cutter and they lived in a shared house where families occupied a room. Whilst wages for blade cutters were good for the times life expectancy was low at only 35 years for dry grinders. They worked in a bent posture with the constant pressure of tools against their chests inhaling sharp-edged metal particles freed in the cutting process. Fortunately factory work was not Elizabeth’s fate, presumably due to the education her father was able to provide her with through his own labours. In the 1851 census Elizabeth is recorded as being a nurse and by the 1861 census she is married with 2 young boys. Through the census returns and trade directories her husband’s businesses can be seen to flourish: he was a carting contractor; coal, lime and brick merchant and a brewer. The family prospered and when her husband died in 1883 his estate was valued at over £5 million in today’s values. Elizabeth lived to the grand age of 90, her death being recorded in 1913.

Stitched by Sonja Kirby on 40ct Lakeside Linen Vintage Sand Dune with AVAS

Stitched by Mary Ann Zehms

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