How To Cross Stitch Something That Will Last 100 Years

A point comes in every cross stitchers journey when they wonder about making a heritage piece. A piece that stands the test of time and is either handed down across generations or something that could be housed in a museum 100 years from now!
But how do you actually go about stitching a heritage piece? Are there things you need to consider or change? Are the standard patterns going to last?
Today we answer those questions, and tell you how to make something that will last!


The first thing most people think about when looking at heritage stitches is the design. And for many is the biggest reason not to stitch one. But in reality, design is all about a little moment in time. When future generations look back they’ll see how trends affected patterns and how design moved on through the years.
We’ve featured many pieces on this site such as mourning samplers and historical samplers through history and we talk about their design, their purpose and place in history. That comes from the pattern, but it comes from a pattern that works right now.
Honestly, your pattern should be anything you like right now, and it doesn’t matter if its of a style.

Mourning Sampler (USA), ca. 1850; wool, silk and metal-wrapped silk embroidery on cotton foundation; H x W: 11 3/4 x 15 1/2 in.; Gift of Anonymous Donor from the Fraser/Martin Collection (source:

But that said, people do like samplers. What actually makes a cross stitch sampler is still up for debate a bit, but most historical pieces we look at now are samplers, not due to the fact that that style is preferred, but due to the fact that samplers were in at the time.
This might be something you want to consider.


The first thing you actually need to think about, but most people forget, is the materials you use.
For the most part, linen and aida is pretty ubiquitous across time, and any will work fine, but threads are a whole different story!
Cheap embroidery threads might be worth buying for most projects due to their quality and low cost, but these threads aren’t great over time. Using polyester in the threads to lower cost and improve quality is a great idea, but these polyester threads lose their color intensity over time.
Equally, wanting to use hand dyed threads might be a preferred option, but these are very rarely colorfast over long periods.

The oldest surviving sampler. Jane Bostocke, England, 1598 (source:

This leaves us with standard run-of-the-mill cotton threads. They are the traditional choice for any cross stitcher, and they will keep their color the longest of any thread too. There are numerious thread brands out there ranging in cost and quality, so find the best for you.
An alternative is silk and satin cross stitch threads. These also keep their color well, but with a very high cost, and a higher likelihood of snapping over time, you might want to pass on these too (although looked after correctly, will last longer than cotton threads).

How You Stitch

OK, so you’ve picked your pattern, you’ve got your threads and now… wait, you can’t start?
There is one other thing that many people that make these pieces suggest; finger gloves.
Finger gloves might seem overkill, but they save the threads from getting dirty as you stitch. For something that you plan on lasting for a hundred years, you want it to be perfect. Letting it get dirty now will only end in disappointment.
A good example of this is the World War 2 sampler by a POW. It was made in a prison camp, but as they didn’t have the ability to keep the threads clean, it now has blushing and dark spots where dirt was added to the threads only 60 years back.
Just don’t risk it! But we would add, if you’re using silk, the issue is more important!

World War 2 sampler by imprisoned POW Major Alexis Casdagli (source: V and A website)


Finally, let’s talk storage and display.
One of our favorite samplers through history is an 1830 sampler by Elizabeth Parker. It has survived in remarkable condition, mainly due to it being left forgotten for over 50 years after stitching! If you keep your cross stitch in a dry and dark place it will survive very well indeed.
If you want a heritage piece to hand down through the family, or get out at a set time of year, this works well, but there are those who would prefer to display it. As always, we’d suggest glazing it, but use a UV blocking glass, or keep it out of direct sunlight!

Linen sampler embroidered with silk, by Elizabeth Parker, Ashburnham Forge, Sussex, England, about 1830. (Source: Victoria & Albert Museum)

Have you got any tips for those looking to stitch heritage pieces? Or have you made one yourself?
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

Leave a CommentCancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jeannine

    Excellent article… but 1 question: How would the cross stitch work survive if it was professionally framed using museum quality glass? I usually give mine away as gifts to be hung on a wall.

    1. LordLibidan

      Its worth asking the framer what glass they use, but “museum-quality glass” is normally shorthand for UV resistant glass, so it should be fine! 😀

  2. Elaine

    Most of the older museum pieces have survived by chance. The REAL secret to a heritage piece is having family or other recipients who value the piece and look after it. I have a sampler by my three-great grandmother, dated 1792 – dreary religious text and all – valuable now, but all little girls of her time and class would have made similar pieces and so few of these have survived.

    1. LordLibidan

      You’re not joking, the stories behind some pieces surviving are all about luck!