Agness & Catharine Tweedie

Scottish Samplers

Agness & Catharine Tweedie




This is an extraordinary and highly significant sampler which features a visually compelling scene of an enormous sailing ship. Equally, if not more significant, is the fact that the sampler was worked by two sisters, a highly uncommon occurrence. 

The three-masted ship is shown in full sail and the source was likely a published print; however, the town of Leith was the main port of Edinburgh and we can speculate that the Tweedie family may have had involvement in the shipping trade. The ship was formed with long satin stitches for the sails and rigging, and extremely fine tent stitches for the hull. Noteworthy is the Union Jack flying from a mast at the stern and enormous figurehead of a lady at the bow, with an even larger parrot, tethered by a line to the bowsprit. The ship is set upon very fine silk gauze, which along with chenille stitches forms the sea, and two small vessels bob nearby.   

The date, 1812, was stitched just above the framework that contains the verse and the names of the sisters who, together, worked this sampler. Interestingly, a slight change in the wording of this classic verse refers to the fact that this needlework was made jointly. The name of their teacher, Kirkby MacPherson, appears at the right end of the horizontal line that bisects the sampler. A large deer and many little animals prance amidst the characteristic Scottish trees on this same uphill line. Large leafy branches with flowers and buds embellish much of the upper register and a splendid, solidly stitched border frames the sampler well. From both an aesthetic and a technical standpoint, this sampler is a fine accomplishment. 

Size (W x H): 13 1/8 x 17 1/4 inches

Stitches: Cross, satin, cross-over-one, chain, French knots, couched chenille, outline, pulled long-armed cross, open chain, cross variation, rice, long-short, feather, half-cross, straight.

Media: Silk on linen


Tweedie pending. Kirby MacPherson was born 19 November 1776 to Hugh McPherson and Mary Robertson of Ratho (near Edinburgh).  Siblings were John (1767) and Alexander (1769). In 1813, Kirkby married a teacher at The Citadel, and area of Leith. A very detailed newspaper article from The Scotsman 27 June 1832 relates the tragic death of Robert Cowan on the docks of Leith, where, as a bystander, he was struck and crushed by falling rigging. 


AD 1812

Permit thy mighty name to stand 
as the first effort of two sisters hands
& while their fingers oer the canvas move
inspire their tender hearts to seek thy love
with thy dear children let them have a part
& write thy name thyself upon their hearts

Agness & Catharine Tweedie

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(This sampler was added to the site on April 22, 2015)