One of the best ways to get really comfortable with hand embroidery is to set about making a stitch sampler.
Sometimes, we get stuck with one impression that comes to mind with any given word. If I say “sampler,” for example, what comes to your mind? For me, it’s usually something that includes an alphabet and that’s worked in cross stitch. I know this is a limited view, but I suppose it’s because that’s what I grew up with in the 80’s, when my sisters and aunts were working samplers.
A stitch sampler doesn’t have to have a pattern, necessarily. It doesn’t have to be planned. It doesn’t have to include an alphabet. And it doesn’t have to be worked solely in cross stitch. A stitch sampler can be just that – a sampler of stitches.
Today, I’ll point you to some further reading and resources, with plenty of tips for creating your own stitch sampler.
Here on Needle ‘n Thread, I’ve written pretty often about the benefits of working stitch samplers. When you work a sampler, you not only become familiar with specific stitches and how they work, but you grow more easy and accustomed to stitchery in general. A stitch sampler can wash away inhibitions!
Additionally, an embroidery sampler is a terrific vehicle for testing threads and other materials.
It’s also a great way to map your own progress in stitching.
Finally, and not least among the many good reasons to consider stitching a sampler of any kind… they’re just fun!
Articles with Tips for Creating your Own Stitch Sampler
I’ve got a new article out on Craftsy on stitch samplers, titled “Show Off Your Stitching with a Stunning Sampler.” The article is a round-up of tips for stitching your own embroidered sampler. If you’ve wanted to undertake a sampler and play with stitches, it’s a good place to start. I chat about fabrics, threads, tools, planning, and so forth.
A few other Needle ‘n Thread articles on the subject of samplers, with lots of tips:
You might also explore this Index on Developing a Spot Sampler. Unfortunately, during that whole project (which was part of a needle arts class at a local high school), I was in the throes of teaching college full time and didn’t take the time to really document progress on that project, with good photos along the way. But there are some links and resources there that are worthwhile.
Here on Needle ‘n Thread, we’ve worked through a lot of sampler-like projects. Here are some of them, which you can explore step-by-step as they develop, and apply the concepts to your own sampler development:
Hand Embroidered Lettering & Text Sampler – where we explore different stitches for lettering and text
Long & Short Stitch Sampler – where we explore long and short stitch and get accustomed to shading
The Lattice Jumble Sampler – a super colorful Stitch Fun sampler, exploring heaps of lattice fillings
The Blackwork Fish project – really, just a sampler in the shape of a fish!
Felt Needlebook – this started as a random stitch sampler, and ended up being a rather extravagant needle and tool book.
Of course, working a sampler is a lot easier, when you have instructions for stitches!
The How-To Stitch Videos here on Needle ‘n Thread are a great place to start for basic embroidery stitch instruction.
The Stitch Fun index is packed with step-by-step photo tutorials of fun stitches, combinations, and composites.
Another terrific resource is Sharon Boggan’s Take a Stitch Tuesday Challenge. Sharon’s taking a break from needlework blogging right now, but you can find a jolly list of stitches with tutorial links on her TAST FAQ page.
Get a Stitch Dictionary!
For times when you’re unplugged from the computer or your tablet, there’s nothing better than a good stitch dictionary for reference. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve reviewed here on Needle ‘n Thread – you can’t go wrong with them!
Embroidery Stitch Bible – I like this one for its size, its binding, its visual index, clear instructions, samples, and variety.
Stitch Sampler – I especially like the visual appeal of this book and the variety of stitches; the book is available in several different versions
If you’re a lefty, you’ll definitely appreciate Yvette Stanton’s Left-Handed Embroiderer’s Companion!