“Why are certain letters missing from embroidery samplers?” is a question I get asked from time to time. In this post I’ll try and highlight why sometimes letters (such as J, Q, U, W, X, Y & Z) are omitted!
Below you find a typical Frisian sampler, from the collection of the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. A girl with the initials W.H. embroidered this beautiful sampler in 1727 – 1728, featuring a text in gothic letters at the top, and an alphabet in large & colourful letters. You will quickly notice, that the girl omitted all of the letters I mentioned above.
In the Frisian & Dutch languages, a lot of letters would not be used a lot or would only be used in loan words from other languages. Because of this reason, girls didn’t need those letters. Q was spelled “KV” or “KW”, the “J” would be substituted with an “I”, “U” was embroidered as a “V”, and if you knew how to embroider a “V”, you could also embroider a “W” (which this girl proved, as it is one of her initials!).
The last three letters of the alphabet are hardly ever used – and when they appear they are usually found in loanwords.
Once you start investigating samplers a little bit, you will find that each country has certain omissions (and additions) to the alphabet, as each language uses different letters. I have played a little with these samplers in my “Letters from the North” pattern series. If you want to know how to stitch the beautiful letters found on Frisian samplers, I suggest checking out my “Frisian Decorative Alphabets” pattern in my Etsy shop!