Mary 395 ~ 1869. A Bristol orphanage sampler ~ printed booklet


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The sampler is offered to you in two different formats ~ as a printed booklet and as an instant PDF download. Details of the PDF download can be found HERE.

It is with great pleasure and grateful thanks to Claudia Dutcher Kistler of Dutch Treat Designs that I am able to present to you the reproduction of Mary’s enchanting Bristol Orphanage sampler. Regrettably, Mary did not record her surname on the sampler she so diligently stitched. The only clues she left behind are the year she finished her sampler “1869” and the number of the bed she occupied “395.” Each orphan has a heart-wrenching story to tell but our little girl, identifying herself by a bed number, has touched me deeply from the first moment I saw her.

With the help of the George Müller Charitable Trust we are going to tell you within the booklet the story of a Mary in their care that was the right age, at the right time, to make her the prime candidate to have stitched this sampler.

Claudia Dutcher Kistler of Dutch Treat Designs is a Bristol sampler collector and lecturer on Bristol orphan needlework. You can see more examples of Bristol orphan samplers at

I am the proud owner of Mary 395 and am happy to have Nicola Parkman of Hands Across the Sea Samplers reproduce her for you to stitch.

There are similar characteristics featured in every sampler that was stitched by a girl living in George Müller’s orphanage in Bristol.  These samplers all share many of the same alphabets and motifs, but each girl made her sampler unique.  It is by these similarities that we know these pieces are Bristol orphan samplers.  Mary 395 contains many of the elements that confirm that this sampler was stitched in the orphanage.

Mary’s sampler was done in plain cross stitch with red cotton thread on high-count fabric.  Most of these samplers were worked only in cross stitch which filled up most of the girl’s 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.  Her sampler is a pattern source for documenting many Bristol motif patterns because she stitched so many of them.

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 clues.  Sometimes girls stitched the initials of their friends or relatives after the alphabet rows.  Mary left us her intricate motif filled sampler which was her resume with a needle.

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.

Every sampler has a story.  The stories about the lives of the girls before they entered the orphanage are provided from the orphan records available from the George Müller Charitable trust.  You can learn more about the amazing work that Mr. Müller was able to do for the orphans of England on their website at ~ Claudia Dutcher Kistler 

George Müller
During his lifetime George Müller’s cared for 10,024 orphans and established 117 schools which offered a Christian education to over 120,000 children. He did all this by seeking means from God through prayer. On March 10th 1898 Müller, a philanthropist, man of prayer and preacher, passed away. On the day of his funeral the great city of Bristol mourned, firms closed and thousands of people lined the route of the funeral procession to pay their respects. Bristol’s cathedral, its churches and civic buildings flew their flags at half-mast and muffled peals were rung. In all the main streets black shutters were put up or curtains and blinds were drawn. Over 100 carriages followed his hearse and around 7,000 people gathered at the cemetery gates. One newspaper noted that he was “raised up for the purpose of showing that the age of miracles is not past,” another that he had “robbed the cruel streets of thousands of victims, the gaols of thousands of felons, the workhouse of thousands of helpless waifs.”

With grateful thanks to Linda Clews who exquisitely stitched the model for Mary’s sampler and to Claudia Dutcher Kistler of Dutch Treat Designs for allowing us to reproduce a sampler from her private collection. 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.

Thread Legend

Whilst Mary’s sampler has been reproduced using silk from Au Ver à Soie, there are many beautiful reds available in cotton and silk threads. The orphans stitched their samplers on many different fabrics that were donated to the orphanage. You should choose the count and colour of linen or Aida that appeals to you. Our model stitcher chose 52/60ct Legacy Linen in Sycamore Seedpod and Soie Surfine 2681. What will you choose?

The shades of red from Au Ver à Soie’s range that caught our eye are: soie d’Alger 936 and 945, soie 100.3 499, 500, 779 and 2646, and soie surfine 2681 and 2779. As only one colour is used, we have given floss usage in meterage. A spool of Soie 100.3 is 50 metres, a skein of Soie d’Alger 35 metres, a hank of Soie d’Alger 315 metres and a skein of DMC 48 metres.

2 strands: 28ct 768 metres 32ct   672 metres 36ct   624 metres 1 strand: 36ct 312 metres 40ct 288 metres 46ct 240 metres 56ct 192 metres   LINEN SIZES

The design area is 378 stitches (w) x 396 stitches (h). Our calculations have included a 3" margin for finishing and framing.

28ct ~ Design: 27.00" x 28.29" Fabric: 33.00" x 34.29" 32ct ~ Design: 23.63" x 24.75" Fabric: 29.63" x 30.75" 36ct ~ Design: 21.00" x 22.00" Fabric: 27.00" x 28.00" 40ct ~ Design: 18.90" x 19.80" Fabric: 24.90" x 25.80" 46ct ~ Design: 16.43" x 17.22" Fabric: 22.43" x 23.22" 56ct ~ Design: 13.50" x 14.14" Fabric: 19.50" x 20.14"

Stitch Guide

The project has been rated as suitable for needleworkers of all levels of ability. The stitches used are cross stitch over two threads of 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.


Orphanage Records


We apologise for any charting errors. Unfortunately these do occur from time to time.   Correction #01 the cow's front legs  

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