Antique samplers served several purposes. For a young child, antique samplers were a practice exercise and a permanent reminder of stitches and patterns. For a young woman, antique samplers were a means to demonstrate her skills in a "gentle" art and a way to record family genealogy. And, for a mature women, antique samplers were a useful occupation and method of creating gifts or remembrances.
Examples of antique samplers date back to the 1700's, with the earlier ones being long and narrow. Later antique samplers were square, and in the late 1800's, their shape tended to be rectangular.