Improving Your Stitch: Sampling Beyond The Alphabet

Stitchalicious' crewel experiment

A Stitchalicious In Time from Mr X Stitch!

Over the years I’ve found myself in disagreement with a (very large) number of embroiderers over samplers. A significant portion of the serious stitchers out there adore samplers – especially historic ones. I see their worth, I value their history and there are even times when I find some beautiful. But the idea of stitching A-Z, 1-9 and a few decorative borders myself? No thank you. However the purpose of samplers – to learn new stitches and techniques, to gather knowledge of embroidery from different sources and store it for reference – well, that I fully agree with.

You can’t become a better stitcher without increasing your repertoire and that requires actual stitching. Not just looking at the pretty pictures in books. Which may or may not be something I’m guilty of. Luckily, you don’t have to do a historical sampler in order to, well, sample.

Here are some ways and means to find the inspiration and the piccies to prove that the sampler has taken a modern turn.

1. Join up a stitch challenge Pin Tangle, for example, holds a weekly stitch challenge with a different stitch as the focus each week. Check out SmallestForest’s contribution of a feather stitch sampler below – informative, technique improving and, well, awesome.


SmallestForest's feather stitcher sampler
SmallestForest’s feather stitcher sampler

2. Buy a kit The quickest way into any new technique is to buy a kit with all materials and instructions in place. Canvas work/needlepoint has always been something that kind of scared me (don’t ask me why, maybe I subconsciously associate it with the childhood scarring of Nightmare on Elm Street or something). At a stitching show I came across a finished model of Susan Portra’s canvas work sampler and bought it on a whim (it looks amazing in real life). Of course, it’s been one of my longest running WIPs now, so maybe that fear is still in place!

Two-Handed Stitchers canvas sampler from the Spirit of the Southwest kit
Two-Handed Stitchers canvas sampler from the Spirit of the Southwest kit

3. Open up a stitch dictionary and plan your next piece. Got a Sublime Stitching transfer ready to go? Or a sketch of your own? Pull out a stitch dictionary and plan to add a few more unknown stitches to it. I’m a fan of the A-Z books, but there are plenty of others, as well as online resources such as Sharon B’s Stitch Dictionary. Grab a few and use them in your next piece. I hadn’t any experience with wool embroidery when I decided to expand my crewel knowledge:

See Also

Stitchalicious' crewel experiment
Stitchalicious’ crewel experiment

4. Get stitching! I don’t know about you, but I see some canvas work that I really should get back to work on. Try on a sampler this month for size and don’t forget to let us know about it!


Stitchalicious' Flaming Heart StumpworkJacinta Lodge is the embroiderer behind Stitchalicious, and purveyor of graffiti cross stitch patterns via StitchaliciousDesign. Her embroidered artworks have been shown in exhibitions in Germany, the UK and Canada and published in The Anticraft and Indie Craft. Jacinta is Australian, but lives in Berlin, Germany, where she does roller derby and listens to her husband hark on and on about VW buses.

View Comments (4)
  • I used to LOVE samplers and have done a few back in the day and so been there, done that. I started a 2012 stitch doodlecloth (Tileke style- and experiment and play on there 🙂

  • This is exactly what I did with my 2012 Sketchbook Project. I just opened a Stitch Bible and stitched everything. I ended up trying out 70 different stitches…. but I still find myself going back to split stitch and back stitch 🙂