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Get inspired by Victorian motto samplers and make your own modern version! This tutorial will show you how to design, embroider and assemble a fridge magnet inspired by motto samplers at Minden Hills Museum & Heritage Village. 

You will need

  • A motto or favourite phrase
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery thread 
  • Needle
  • Scissors 
  • Pencil / Paper
  • Tape (or glue)
  • Cardboard or foam core
  • Magnet
  • Felt (optional)

Step 1:
Today’s task is to find a motto that is meaningful to you and gather materials. What are your words to live by? It could be a favourite phrase, a song lyric, or something a relative used to say.

About Victorian Motto Samplers
Victorian motto samplers were hand embroidered onto perforated card or punched paper. They had common phrases that celebrated home life and evoked a Victorian desire to return to simpler times. The samplers on display at Bowron House at the Minden Hills Museum read ‘Forget Me Not’, which could have been made in memory of a loved one, and ‘Old Oaken Bucket’, the title of a nostalgic song about childhood memories.

Simple, affordable, and personable, motto samplers were incredibly popular in the late 1800s. They are highly collectible and easy to find on ebay and etsy. Given their popularity, when I sat down  to research their history, I hoped to find a trove of virtual museum exhibits and scholarly articles to share. Instead it seems that very little has been written about them or their significance as social history objects. If you know of any books, articles, or historic sources please get in touch at Check out these links to find out more:

Perforated Paper Needlework, Diana Matthews,

Victorian Perforated Paper Embroidery, Mary Courbet,

What’s in a motto?
The reason why motto samplers are so fascinating is because they were mass produced to be taken home and stitched by hand. This combination of machine made and handmade shows that Victorians struggled with a desire for things to be quick and affordable, in a way only machines can offer, while also having that handmade touch. Contradicting desires we’re still struggling with today.

Victorians lived through unprecedented changes as  new technologies like electricity, railways and the telephone revolutionized how people lived, worked and interacted with one another. Things were getting easier, better, faster. And yet, when faced with these monumental changes, Victorians began to long for simpler times before technology, when things were done slowly. 

The medieval style font used in Victorian motto samplers ties these embroideries to the Gothic Revival movement, which looked to the past for answers and inspiration. Gothic Revivalist also celebrated traditional skills, which were in danger of being lost as craftspeople were replaced by machines. Victorians were some of the first people to make things by hand by choice instead of by necessity. Today, I think it’s worth reflecting on why we choose to make things by hand – when machine made options are often easier and more affordable.

Why do you craft?