Helen Kedslie 1815


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Hands Across the Sea Samplers are pleased to present to you “Helen Kedslie 1815” an impressive and exquisitely stitched example of samplers worked in Scotland during this period. The majority of Scottish samplers were stitched in the Scottish School System or with a teacher who specialized in sewing and embroidery. Learning to sew was a very important lesson for girls.

The sampler’s colourful, trailing rose vine border contains several motifs associated with Scottish school girl samplers. The large building featured is found on many Scottish samplers and it is possible that it is a School.  The two story pediment building has a lawn in front stitched in varying shades of green together with an imposing set of gates, stone wall and picket fence.

Other motifs of note on the sampler include two six tailed peacocks; a lion with his tail curved over his back in an “S” shape; a pyramid of strawberries; a beautiful basket filled with flowers and a basket of fruit; numerous birds, including eagles or phoenixes and a stylised swan;  deer, rabbits, cat and dog.  Diamond shaped fir trees, worked in cross stitch, often seen in Scottish samplers are featured together with four unusual and distinctive stem and satin stitched trees which we have carefully counted out for you within the graph. A beautiful moss rose and Scotland’s national floral emblem, the thistle, are also featured.

There is a story that Scotland was under attack by marauding Vikings and the attack was foiled when one of the Vikings stepped on a thistle and cried out alerting the Scots. Numerous family initials are also included along with a collection of crowns.  Crowns were worked to show the ranks of nobility and range from king, prince, duke, marquis, earl, viscount to baron.  They were used above parents’ and family initials.

Whilst we have been unable to trace Helen’s birth records from the initials stitched within the sampler we believe her parents to be John Kedslie and Alison (Aleson) Haig and siblings Anthony, Elizabeth and Alexander, who were all born in the years around Helen’s birth. Elizabeth is of particular interest as she was christened in 1803 and it is possible that Helen’s absence from the records is due to her being “Elizabeth Helen Kedslie”. The initials found in her parent’s family tree also match those in the sampler.

The family were from the Royal Burgh of Lauder, a town in the Scottish Borders in the historic county of Berwickshire. On the Southern Upland Way, the burgh lies 27 miles south east of Edinburgh, on the western edge of the Lammermuir Hills. The sampler is well travelled having been acquired by Nicola Parkman in England, from an auction house in Canada where Kedslies from Scotland are known to have settled in the 1800’s.

Helen chose Ecclesiastes 12.1 as the verse on her sampler, and it can be found on samplers from 1763-1876.  Both the Church of England and the Church of Scotland used the 1611 version of the Bible which was translated by King James VI (Scotland) and I (England) and it is still used today.

Remember now thy creator in

The days of thy youth while the

Evil days come not nor the years

Draw nigh when though shalt say

I have no pleasure in them.

Helen’s sampler has been rated as suitable for a confident intermediate or advanced stitcher. All the motifs have been counted out for you within the graph, there is no tracing required. There are a variety of stitches including cross stitch over 1 and 2 threads, satin stitch, a handful of queen stitches, rice stitch, stem stitch, back stitch, double running stitch and bullion stitch.

The graph has been annotated with instructions, stitch diagrams and shade numbers for ease of use.


Thread Legend

The sampler has been reproduced with Au Ver à Soie d’Alger silks and the skein quantities calculated based on 1 strand on 36ct fabric. We have provided a DMC conversion based on 2 strands on 36ct fabric. The model was stitched on 40ct Lakeside Linen Sand Dune.

Soie d’Alger/DMC

2925 x 1 / 304 x 1 – Christmas red – medium

2946 x 1 / 326 x 1 – R0se – very deep

2644 x 1 / 347 x 1 – Salmon – very dark

4525 x 1 / 420 x 1 – Hazel nut brown – dark

2246 x 1 / 780 x 1 – Topaz – ultra very dark

2543 x 1 / 676 x 1 – Old gold – light

2225 x 1 / 732 x 1 – Olive green

2211 x 1 / 734 x 1 – Olive green – light

3812 x 3 / 738 x 3 – Tan – very light

931 x 1 / 761 x 1 – Salmon – light

2926 x 1 / 814 x 1 – Garnet – dark

3745 x 2 / 830 x 2 – Golden olive – dark

206 x 1 / 924 x 1 – Grey green – very dark

2216 x 3 / 934 x 3 – Black avocado green

3723 x 1 / 3052 x 1 – Grey green – medium

4536 x 1 / 3031 x 1 – Mocha brown – very dark

4533 x 1 / 3782 x 1 – Mocha brown – light

4534 x 1 / 611 x 1 – Drab brown

2533 x 1 / 3820 x 1 – Straw – dark

4245 x 3 / 680 x 3 – Old gold – dark

2235 x 1 / 3829 x 1 – Old gold – very dark

4614 x 1 /301 x 1 – Mahogany – medium


The design area is 326 stitches (w) x 491 stitches (h). Our calculations have included a 3” margin for finishing and framing.

28ct – Design: 23.29″ x 35.07″ Fabric: 29.29″ x 41.07″

32ct – Design: 20.38″ x 30.69″ Fabric: 26.38″ x 36.69″

36ct – Design: 18.11″ x 27.28″ Fabric: 24.11″ x 33.28″

40ct – Design: 16.30″ x 24.55″ Fabric: 22.3″ x 30.55″

Stitch Guide

Helen’s sampler has been rated as suitable for a confident intermediate or advanced stitcher. All the motifs have been counted out for you within the graph, there is no tracing required. There are a variety of stitches including cross stitch over 1 and 2 threads, satin stitch, a handful of queen stitches, rice stitch, stem stitch, back stitch, double running stitch and bullion stitch.


Cross Stitch – is made up of 2 stitches worked over 1 or 2 threads. Make all your stitches cross in the same direction for a neat and uniform finish.


Satin Stitch – run a straight stitch between each thread of fabric in the direction shown on the chart. Use 1 thread making repeated passes until the desired coverage is achieved.


Queen (Rococo) Stitch – Bring your needle up at 1 and go down at 2, come up at 3 and make a tacking stitch (over the stitch you just made and one fabric thread) by going down at 4.

Remember to lock your stitching by always pulling when the thread is on top of the fabric. You only need to give the thread a slight tug to lock it.

Bring your needle up at 5 and go down at 6, come up at 7, give a slight tug here. Make another tacking stitch by going down at 8.

Repeat the process twice. All the tacking stitches are just like steps 3 and 4 except they move over 1 fabric thread each time.

All the threads share the same openings at 1 and 2. Finish the stitch by bringing the needle up again in the same place, but again move over another fabric thread to tack this stitch.

Rice stitch is formed in two parts. First stitch a large cross stitch. A small straight stitch is worked over each leg of the cross stitch.

Stem stitch – when working from left to right. Bring needle up at 1 and down at 2. Bring needle back up halfway between 1 and 2 at 3. Be sure to keep thread below the needle. When working from right to left keep the thread above the needle.

Backstitch – stitches are sewn backwards to the direction of the stitching. Bring your needle up at 1 and back down at 2. Move forward and bring your needle up at 3, then back down at 4 (1). Repeat.

Double running stitch is worked in two journeys. On the outward journey you mark out the motif and on the return trip you fill in the gaps. It is also called Holbein Stitch.

Bullion stitch – make a back stitch, the length of stitch required. Bring the tip of the needle out. Twist the thread around the needle tip, as many times as is necessary to equal the length of the back stitch. Holding the left thumb on the coiled thread, turn the needle
back and insert it in the same place. Pull the thread through until the bullion stitch lies flat.

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 the CONTACT page on our website. Our website has stitching tutorials which can be found in the “SEWING BASKET AND TOOLS” section.

Terry’s finish of Helen Kedslie 1815