Elizabeth Parker’s Haunting Cross-Stitch Sampler

Craft & Design Yarncraft
Elizabeth Parker’s Haunting Cross-Stitch Sampler


I always find vintage textiles to be fascinating, but this haunting cross-stitch sampler from Elizabeth Parker, a troubled nineteenth century nurserymaid, that’s on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in the UK is unusual in both its size and subject matter.

In tiny cross-stitches, this incredibly detailed piece of needlework tells the tale of a desperately unhappy young woman who, at 13, left home to work as a nursemaid. Suicidal and unable to write down her story, she committed her frustrations and the cruelties that she suffered to cloth in a visually stunning and moving show of creativity and skill.

The poignancy of Elizabeth’s words is heightened by their painstaking depiction in letters formed of tiny cross stitches, in stark red on a plain linen ground, and by her breaking off mid sentence – what will become of my soul – followed by blank space.


Here’s a closer look at a section of the sampler. More photos and a detailed description of Elizabeth Parker’s life and history can be found on the Victoria and Albert Museum site.

[Via Dances with Wools]

6 thoughts on “Elizabeth Parker’s Haunting Cross-Stitch Sampler

  1. Samantha says:

    I hope she stopped stitching because she was feeling better, not worse.

    1. Haley Pierson-Cox says:

      You can check out the rest of her story on the V&A website. Spoiler alert: She goes on to live a long life surrounded by family. :) – Haley on CRAFT

  2. manekibeader says:

    Interesting embroidery. Good to hear that the story seemed to end relatively positive for her.

    Have you heard of Mätta Charlotta Fock, who used scraps of cloth and thread she found when imprisoned at the Jönköping bastille to stitch a plea for clemency after being found guilty of murdering her husband and two children with poison? The embroidery was finished in 1805. She was beheaded and burnt in 1810. The embroidery is now in the collections of Historiska museet and can be seen online here: http://www.digitaltmuseum.se/things/klagoskrift/S-NM/NM.0080782

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Haley Pierson-Cox from Red-Handled Scissors is a maker of crafts, a lover of cats, an avid swearing enthusiast, a cross-stitch book author, and a general purveyor of quirk. She's also sometimes an irritable cartoon named Tiny Cranky Haley. https://www.redhandledscissors.com

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