Monday, July 16, 2012

Tutorial: Thread Mini-Samplers, Part One

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

We're excited to kick off the Summer Bloggin' here on &Stitches! Summer Bloggin', if you remember, is where we let guest bloggers loose to write about something stitchy that inspires them! If you would like to write a post or two, you're more than welcome. Read this post to see what we're looking for and then send us an email. :-)

The first Summer Bloggin' post is also the first in a mini series of posts by Julie of Button, Button. She's both a knitter and an embroiderer, and she designs patterns both of these crafts. Check out her knitting patterns here. The wonderful embroidery patterns inspired by literature classics such as Pippi Longstocking and Pride & Prejudice can be found in the Little Dorrit & Co. shop.

Big thank you to Julie for putting together these posts! ~ Carina

And without further ado, here's Julie's first post. 

Way back when, before the term ‘sampler’ commonly described a stitched alphabet or quote, the name was used more literally to mean a sampling of stitches an embroiderer came across and wanted to remember. According to Rebecca Scott’s book “Samplers”, printed pattern guides weren’t available before 1477, at the earliest. Stitchers created their own personal stitch dictionaries in thread, a reference guide to be used when planning a project. Since first reading about this, I have been taken with the notion that a sampler could be both beautiful and a practical reference guide.

In the spirit of those original samplers, I’ve whipped up a set of mini-sampler projects for you to enjoy as a quick, low-impact summer project - perfect to take on vacation with you! Instead of stitches, though, these three mini-samplers will showcase the effect of thread choice on a project. I’ve devised these mini-samplers as a set of three, all worked in the same stitch, which I’ll post here over the coming weeks.

The first mini-sampler is worked with DMC stranded cotton and will sample the effect thread thickness has on the look and feel of a stitch. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • One piece of fabric, about 9” x 10” / 23 cm x 25 cm; I used a print from Bliss by Bonnie & Camille for Moda Fabrics.
  • Printed mini-sampler pattern (download link below).
  • 2 skeins DMC stranded cotton in a color that matches your fabric; I used #814.
  • A non-permanent fabric pen.
  • 4” x 6” / 10 cm x 15 cm photo frame, minus glass (optional).

First things first: in whatever method you like best (if you’re not sure, here’s one!), center and trace the mini-sampler pattern onto your fabric. (Note: the light gray rectangle is an indication of where your photo frame will sit, if you use one, and the numbering is explained below. Neither need to be traced onto your fabric.)

This set of thread mini-samplers is worked in Star Filling Stitch, which is worked in three simple layers. The pattern only provides the first layer to help you keep your spacing even.

Star Filling Stitch is worked as follows:

  1. Stitching onto your traced lines, stitch a ‘plus’.
  2. Starting from a point about mid-way between the ends of each ‘plus’ leg, work a cross on top of your ‘plus’.
  3. Work a smaller cross on top of the previous cross.
For the best effect, be sure to work each star in the exact same order as the first. I like to stitch each block of stars in steps, first working layer 1 all the way across, then 2, then 3. Of course, you may prefer to complete all three layers of each star at once.

Now that you’ve got the Star Filling Stitch down, you’re ready to stitch your first thread mini-sampler! On the pattern, each block of stitches is numbered to correspond with the number of strands used, as shown below:

1 = one strand, 2 = two strands, and so on.

Remove your fabric markings and frame as desired, and that’s it! As you work, you’ll notice the same stitch can look both delicate and plump by simply varying the number of strands you use. Keep this in mind when planning your next project. You might find that playing with the thickness of threads is all you need to create some really interesting shaded or textured effects.

If you make a mini-sampler, we’d love to see it in the &Stitches Flickr Pool. I’ll be back next week with another way to work this same pattern for a different effect!


  1. That is a lovely idea! Love it on the printed cotton as opposed to a plain color. Visually stunning.

    I adore Julies blog!


  2. Great post, very curious about the next one! :)


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