Enchanting embroideries of endangered animals; a naive illustration of a dire situation.

The English word 'sampler' derives from the Latin 'exemplum', or the ancient French term 'essamplaire', meaning 'an example'. Prior to the introduction of printing, embroiderers and lacemakers used samplers as a method to record their different stitches, motifs, and patterns for future reference. Stitchers often finished their work by adding their name, date of completion and sometimes their location too. Some of the earliest samplers discovered were found in Egyptian burial grounds and are thought to date from the 14th or 15th centuries, and the medium remained popular right up until the mid-19th century.

In the late 1600’s, sampler making became an educational tool, and was often completed as schoolwork for young women. The subject matter became more pictorial, often including numbers and alphabets alongside elements such as architectural motifs (often the schoolhouse), landscapes, animals, and large potted plants. Moral or religious texts, often in rhyme, became a popular way to practise lettering and the hours and days spent hand-stitching also served as an additional method of memorising a pertinent verse or poem.

Often, the text or rhyme in the sampler designs would be noticeably serious in contrast with the naïve and dainty children’s needlework. Arrangements of delicate floral patterns would surround a grave bible verse, or an elegant scene of trees and animals would be topped with a dire moral warning. This, combined with a lack of accurate perspective and proportion, adds a slight feeling of unease to the samplers; each its own fairy tale on the cusp of turning sour.

For this collection, I have illustrated three of my own ‘embroidered’ samplers, hand-drawn stitch-by-stitch. I have used the techniques described above to add a feeling of naivety, but the real sense of unease comes from the only ‘un-stitched’ features: the animals themselves. Every creature depicted in this collection, from mammal to insect, is classed as endangered, their species in drastic decline, while Victorian and Georgian mourning jewellery features species already lost. The verses I have written and attributed within each illustration are an overly simplified moral warning for us all to heed.

Samplers have long been seen not only as decoration but also as an educative tool; my hope is that these artworks do the same.

Sabina Savage X Born Free

For the Samplers of Sincerity collection, we have partnered with Born Free, a charity passionate about wild animal welfare and Compassionate Conservation. We will donate 10% of every scarf sold to aid Born Free in their tireless efforts to stop the exploitation and suffering of individual animals living in captivity or in the wild. We want to help campaign for a future where animals and people can co-exist and where threatened and endangered species are protected for generations to come. Read more about Born Free and their essential work here.

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This collection was inspired by the incredible collections of antique samplers owned by the V&A, The Met and The National Trust, plus many more museums and galleries. It was also greatly influenced by the sampler and embroidery collection of the late Betty Ring, whose North American needlework collection remains vast and unparalleled. From spot samplers to band samplers, silken embroidery to woolwork, darning patterns to ornate motifs, all types and eras of embroidery sampler have informed this collection. Victorian, Georgian and Edwardian mourning jewellery also feature in these designs, representing those species already lost to us.

ll animals depicted in this collection are classed as endangered or threatened in 2022. Please refer to the final page of this book for a full list of species included.

“The least we can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
Dr Jane Goodall


View the collection illustrations in progress, and see how the drawings transform into detailed and intricate scarf designs. Sabina creates a story for each collection, as shown below, which is then illustrated and narrated through her elaborate handiwork.

The Campaign

Welcome to our our Spring/Summer 2023 campaign, Samplers of Sincerity.

Shop the Collection

A range of beautiful fabrics are available for each design, from classic silk twill to our sumptuous signature wool and silk blend. Each piece is printed and hand finished by artisans in the UK.