Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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A Few More Spots on the Sampler


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Spot Samplers can be a lot of fun to embroider! I’ve gotten a few requests about how to create one, and that’s the whole fun of it, really. The purpose of this type of sampler is simply to practice and get the “feel” for stitches, motifs, and so forth. It’s not necessarily something that’s planned out meticulously ahead of time, or that follows a stitching chart. Still, the stitcher, while working on it, kind of gets an idea of where the next spot should land.

I’ve added a few more spots to my sampler since you saw it last, so I’ll show you what I mean by being “unplanned” but still planned ahead, in the head.

Embroidered Spot Sampler

You can see the sampler is beginning to look a bit more “spotty” – that is, instead of large chunks of design (like the center medallion or the Quaker motif, or even the large initials), I’m starting to add smaller bits that concentrate on specific stitches.

Embroidered Spot Sampler

The diamond-square-square-diamond sequence was not planned on a chart. I didn’t think about it much, really. I just knew that I wanted to add some squares (approximately 1″ squares) for filling stitches. I “eyeballed” the center of that area, but didn’t really count it meticulously vertically and horizontally. The fillings, from left to right, are diagonal lattice in a diamond, diagonal lattice in a square, cloud filling, and square lattice in a diamond.

Embroidered Spot Sampler

I surrounded the two center boxes with a whipped backstitch.

Embroidered Spot Sampler

While finishing off the filling boxes, I decided I wanted to work some running stitches (or darning) as a filling, but I didn’t want to do a tiny box. It was while working on the tiny boxes that I decided to put a line of darning stitches above, in the coral colors.

While working on the darning stitches, I was thinking about herringbone stitch, which, like the darning stitches and the fillings, can work as a counted stitch or a regular surface stitch, so I wanted to include herringbone stitch somewhere. When I finished the darning lines, I thought they looked rather blah and that they needed something a bit bolder above them. So that’s where I worked the herringbone stitches. I worked two rows that mirrored each other, and then worked an upright cross stitch inside each herringbone center. The upright cross stitch was a last minute addition. When I finished the herringbone rows, they seemed to lack something; hence, the upright cross stitch.

So you see that this type of sampler is really just a “practice” sampler – it is what a sampler is, or at least, what one used to be. Planned samplers (that follow a chart or patterns) nowadays are generally for a decorative purpose (though practice samplers can also be used for decoration). But the sampler essentially has always been a piece on which a person practiced and played. And remember, a sampler isn’t necessarily only counted stitches and techniques. I’m getting ready to move into surface stitches shortly on this sampler, and I’ve got all kinds of ideas brewing on how I’ll display them.

If folks are interested, I can go into detail about selecting the right fabric, choosing colors, and setting up a general layout for a “displayable” spot sampler. Let me know if this is something that intrigues you!

Hope you have a terrific Friday and a great weekend ahead – with plenty of time for your needle ‘n thread!!


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(15) Comments

  1. Dear Marymentor: Thanks so much for reawakening my appreciation of cross-stitch. Your sampler is not at all boring and I get too “hooked” into a mode of stitching…at the moment, stumpwork. But you’re always reminding me of the myriad of possibilities in embroidery….Judy in Pittsburgh

  2. I’ve always loved the look of antique display samplers and always keep my eyes out for one but they are hard to come by. Now that I embroider, I would love to create one myself. I’d be very interested in some guidance & tips for that type of project.

    You are so talented-it amazes me! Thanks for all you share with us.

  3. “Let me know if this is something that intrigues you!”

    Yes! I’m all ears, since I also teach young folks. I’ve been at it for many years now but there are never too many inputs. I hope you’re getting the same kick out of it that I do; it’s the one and only ‘art’ class of any sort that our local middle schoolers get (art gave way to gardening several years ago) and I volunteer or there wouldn’t be that. So more, more… 🙂

    I’m really enjoying the subject. Many thanks.


  4. Hi, Mary

    Lovely sampler!!
    I think that I would enjoy making a spot sampler if only as a reminder of all I did as a school girl. My class of kids would enjoy making a sampler like yours.

    So please do post more and Thanks.

  5. I’d be especially interested to know how you go about choosing a fabric for something that has such a variety of different things on it, and different colours etc. Look forward to hearing more!

  6. Mary,
    This is exactly what I want right now. I want to practise flowers with silk ribbon. But to make it a pretty little thing too.
    Your students are so lucky to have this class with you this year.
    How old are they.?? How many in the class.? Any boys?
    Ricky in Winnipeg

  7. Yes, I’m interested! Right now I am preparing my fabric and reviewing the lessons for The brown fox jumped over the lazy dog sampler!

  8. I would love to know more about this. A list of different counted stitches would be great, too. The only counted stitching I’ve done is cross-stitching. I didn’t know there was so much variety! I homeschool my kids, and I think a sampler like this would be a great intro to needlework for the older girls! Thanks!!

  9. Oh yes, I would love to hear more detail on setting up a spot sampler and choosing fabric and threads!

    I am enjoying seeing the progress of your spot sampler.

  10. I would be very interested in your process for designing a sampler. How do you strike the right balance of stitches, colors and design so that it doesn’t look like one big after thought? I do cross stitch samplers but always charts that another designer has created. Do you have a limited color scheme in your samplers? Do you lay out the colors you want to use before you start stitching? I like the thought of putting stitches other than cross stitch. Sounds like we are all looking forward to your ideas on this one.

  11. Count me in, I would love some guidance in starting a spot sampler with the goal of displaying it! I find that I am really enjoying embroidery again, but I am rusty and could use some practice! Thanks for sharing all that you do with us, I look forward to every update.

  12. Help! I have only stitched redwork. The reason….I have difficulty selecting the colors. For example, I purchased tea towels and printed the patterns of the tea pots on them (days of the week) but now I just don’t know where to begin with color selection. When I ask this question, I always get the same answer….it will come to you and no color is wrong. Is there a website or someone that can help me understand this better. I’d like to start these and get them complete for a Christmas gift. Help!!!! Patricia

  13. Mary, I adore your work, and would like to pick your brain – I received a lovely 14 count Aida in a natural/creamy/flecked colour. I would love to work up a monogrammed sampler for the friend who gave it to me, but I am wondering what sort of flexibility I would have with stitching, as I tend to think of Aida as just for cross stitch or tapestry.
    Would love your ideas!

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