Sampler Museum in Celle, Germany

Years ago I did cross stitch. My daughters each have their own Christmas stocking with a cross stitch border along the top. I had always thought of cross stitch as a very North American form of stitching. Well, I now know I was W.R.O.N.G.

My first peek into the wider world of cross stitch happened a few years ago, when on a trip to a teacher’s conference in Hannover, my husband and I stopped at the fabulous Sampler Museum in Celle, Germany. Although not all the work was done using cross stitch, quite a few pieces did use that stitch and I gained a new appreciation for that simple little X.

The collection contains hundreds of samplers from all over Europe. The oldest piece in the collection comes from East Frisia. It’s date is 1620. 1620! That’s just shy of 400 years old. And I almost didn’t get to see it!

When we arrived, the lights were on but the door was locked. I knocked on the door, hoping that someone had forgotten to unlock it on a Saturday afternoon. Celle is a small town and I would not have been surprised to find someone inside, working and not really noticing that no one was coming in. I guessed that not many people ventured to Celle to see this amazing place. Embroiderers in the general population are few and far between.

There was no answer after my first knock but I could see lights and heard voices so I pounded on the door. I really wanted to see this collection! Someone heard me for a few seconds later, the door opened and a woman with bright red hair greeted me. I explained that I wanted to see the collection and asked if they were open. No, she said, but she was giving a private tour and I was welcome to join them. I didn’t hesitate and motioned to my husband to come inside with me. My German was still pretty basic and I needed a translator! (Steve speaks fluent German – how lucky am I?!)

As the guide and owner of the collection showed us around, I was amazed at the beautiful work, much of it done in cross stitch. The colors were lovely and the detail on the finely woven linen was astounding. I couldn’t take it all in during one visit so I asked Steve to find out when they would be open to the public so we could come back. Mrs. Connemann explained that she couldn’t say when they would be open. It turned out that the city was experiencing financial trouble and the mayor had decided that paying the heat and electricity on the building that housed the Sampler Museum was an expense that should be eliminated. I was so grateful that we’d gone then, before it closed forever.

I don’t know if they have reopened the museum and next time we’re in the area, I’ll be calling the museum first to see if  can visit again.

One of the things that stayed with me from the visit were some really beautiful French samplers. When I came home I started to explore a French embroidery web site. The word in French for embroidery is broderie so I did an internet search and found loads of wonderful sites.

I speak passable French and can read French more easily than I can read German (the sentence structure is more like English in French than it is in German). There were so many beautiful sites from France! This is where I discovered that the one kind of cross stitch I like very much is the French style of stitching with red thread on white or natural colored linen. There is something so charming about it.

One of my favorite sites to visit is the Le Point de Croix Bourguinon (the cross stitch Bourguinon). These people know how to have fun while stitching! They have classes, exhibits and go on tours to see embroidery all over Europe. There’s a page of shops (Ateliers), some of which have online shops. However, the very best part of the whole site are the free patterns or Cadeaux – gifts. There are some that are complex and some that are simple but all are charming in the way that red and white cross stitch can be.

I haven’t done any cross stitch for a while, but I’m thinking I’ll try one of these. Maybe for Christmas. I particularly like the fourth one down on the left side of this page. I don’t think it would ever be in a museum, but I’m sure while I’m stitching it, I”ll be continuing the long unbroken thread of samplers and cross stitch pieces that have been worked through the years.

12 thoughts on “Sampler Museum in Celle, Germany

  1. Cross Stitch is often how many people start there journey into the world of embroidery and produces a marvelous effect.

  2. I like a bit of cross stitch here and there, as one Brit stitcher put it – for instant gratification!!=)

    It’s amazing how often, and how far apart, it appears too. Not only are 18th (I think) and 19th century British samplers full of it, but you see it cropping up in traditional local styles all over. When we were visiting a museum devoted to the local aboriginal population in Taiwan (centuries older than the now dominant Chinese), their clothes and so on were generously decorated with cross stitch.

  3. My very first cross stitch was when in elementary school (kindergarten through 6th grade).

    We had to make an apron using gingham fabric — and stitch it by hand.

    The design used (or style) is also known as Chicken Scratch, although mine was not as elaborate.

    When in an off-Broadway play I wore my apron on stage, since my character was the older daughter of the housekeeper.

    Oh, and my apron was chosen to be displayed on the bulletin board in the main hallway of the school!! I’m glad it’s still nice and in my possession.

  4. Cross stitch is huge in Europe, France especially. I have a lot of french blogs on my reader as they’re so generous with the free charts (and luckily I speak fluent French!), I’m so glad you’ve discovered them, cross stitch is so relaxing. I look forward to seeing what you make!

  5. How lucky you were to have the chance to be shown around the museum.
    I, like so many embroiderers, started with cross stitch and I know it is sometimes looked down on as inferior to the beautiful creations that we now see.
    However, I always have a piece on the go, often very large which takes years to do, and I know that I can just slip it into a bag and take it with me when I travel.
    I certainly can’t do that with my lace pillow or embroidery frame, but I can’t be without something to occupy my fingers and brain – although nowadays my ipad comes too!

  6. Kathy, you might enjoy this site:

    You can click on an image of a sampler and zoom in. The back of the work is also shown!

    The site is in Dutch (the Dutch for sampler is “merklap”), but the images speak for themselves; and zoomen is to zoom 🙂
    You could also use Google translate to get more information.

    • Hi Saskia,
      Thank you so much for the link to those beautiful old samplers! If the rest of you have any interest in samplers, check out the web site from Saskia! The images are amazing and you can zoom in close enough to see every single stitch.
      Liebe grusse,

  7. I didn’t know that the Celle Museum was closed. I have heard they have a wonderful sampler collection. I enjoy stitching in cross stitch, as it is so soothing. But all forms of embroidery appeal to me, and I love seeing your results.

  8. I belong to a FB group called Samplers World and one of our members announced that this museum is closing permanently in March 2013. It isn’t clear what will happen with the collection.

    Apparently there is no catalog of the collection. I really wish it could go on tour and exhibit here in the US. There are some extraordinary pieces in the collection and it would be such a treat to see them in person. You were so lucky to see them when you did.

    • Hi Tania,

      Thank you so much for that information. When we visited the first time, I remember that the woman who is the owner of the collection was showing us around. I will follow up with a visit, maybe at the end of January, and see if I can find out what’s going to happen with the collection. How sad that such a resource might become unavailable to all of us.
      Liebe Grusse,

      • Hi Kathy,

        Do let me know what you find out. One of our members at Sampler World wrote to the EGA about the closing and this morning I sent a note to the Royal School of Needlework to inform them as well. The RSN may already be aware of it, but I thought it can’t hurt to raise awareness.

        I received a letter from the director of the museum (in german) who stated that they will be putting the bulk of the collection in storage and have some pieces available for exhibit. Also, there is a desire to photograph the collection and publish them in some form (book or DVD). Hard to believe there isn’t a publication dedicated to this wonderful resource.

        I hope you get a chance to visit one more time. It looks like a treasure trove of needlework.


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