The Hand Lettered Alphabet Sampler

posted in: Embroidery, Pattern Resources | 2



Samplers have a long and rich history, exhibiting different styles and functions according to the culture, place, and time they were made in. In Mamluk Egypt, artisans used samplers to show potential customers various stitches and patterns they could choose from to decorate custom pieces. In Medieval England, spot samplers developed as a tool for needleworkers to collect and reference the stitches they learned over time. In colonial America, samplers became a popular pastime for schoolgirls as a way to demonstrate proficiency with the needle, but also as an educational tool for learning the literacy and mathematics.


When it came to designing the Hand Lettered Alphabet Sampler, I wanted to honor that rich tradition but also create something that was fitting for the time we live in. It’s wonderful to see so many fiber arts flourishing once again thanks to the handmade movements of the 1970’s and today. While a handful of needlework organizations keep a wealth of information alive, I’ve found that the contemporary patterns that appeal to many modern stitchers tend to only feature the most basic techniques. This is great for beginners, but thanks to the continued appreciation of handmade in recent years, I think it’s the right time to highlight the next stepping stones in that development.


P1120910 copy


This sampler incorporates 29 different stitches and stitch combinations so that you can start with the fundamental stitches and expand your stitch vocabulary all in one project! It also embraces a love of sophisticated hand lettering to give it an updated vintage aesthetic—making it appealing to stitch and display for the contemporary stitcher and a great learning tool. A complete list of the stitches you’ll find in this sampler is provided below. This is also the general order in which I recommend completing them if you are looking to build your skills as you progress:

Outline Stitches
Straight Stitch
Running stitch
Back Stitch
Stem Stitch
Split Stitch
Quaker Stitch

Chain Stitches
Basic Chain Stitch
Isolated Chain Stitch
Lazy Daisy

Fill Stitches/Laid Work
Turkey Work (Ghiordes Knot)
Lattice/Trellis Work
Satin Stitch
Padded Satin
Slanting Satin
Surface Satin
Brick Stitch
Long and Short Shading

Cross and Feather Stitches
Basic Cross Stitch
Closed Herringbone
Closed Fishbone

Detached Stitches
French Knot
Seed Stitch
Isolated Chain Stitch

Stitch Combinations, Variations, and Effects
Padded Stem Stitch
Woven Plaid
Alternating Satin
Feathered Chain Stitch Variation
Raised Stem Band Stitch


Remember that you can also personalize a pattern with your own decisions about stitch length and thickness, colors, as well as thread type. You can even swap out stitches for different ones to experiment and test your skills.

Along with the pattern itself, I recommend the following materials to get started on your own sampler:

  • Embroidery needles (I like size 5)
  • Canvas twill fabric (this will provide better support for your heavier fill stitches than plain linen or cotton and is comparable to the type of fabric used in early crewelwork too)
  • Carbon transfer paper and stylus or heat transfer pen
  • 3–5″ hoop
  • Small embroidery snips
  • Cotton floss


The pattern is currently available in my etsy shop. It’s a 7 page PDF that includes a large example photo, a color and stitch guide (not stitch instructions), a basic black version of the pattern in forward and reverse (depending on how you prefer to transfer it), and instructions for my two favorite transfer methods. The completed sampler will fit a standard 11 x 17 inch frame.

If you have any questions about getting started, please feel free to leave a comment on this post and I’ll reply there and update this post with any FAQs. All of the stitches can easily be found in almost any book on embroidery and I’m currently at work on developing some stitch tutorials in addition to the embroidery classes I teach here in Boston (you can check out my calendar for current offerings or contact me to schedule one for you or your organization today. I love customizing them to compliment your setting, museum collection, or audience!

2 Responses

  1. Hello!! I purchased this pattern a while back, and I’m super excited to get started on it!! I was reading thru the pattern and noticed it calls for the “Quaker stitch”. I’ve never heard of that before, but was wondering if you could explain how it’s done? I think I’m a decent embroiderer, so I know most of my stitches, just not this one!! Thanks!!

  2. So glad you found my blog Natalie and hope the video tutorial has helped you along with this project! In case anyone else has this same question, you can now find a video tutorial for the quaker stitch right here:

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