This is the second in a two part “Tips & Tricks for the HL ABC Sampler” series. Click here for the first post.
Now that we’ve had an overview of how to get started with the Hand Lettered Alphabet Sampler, let’s get down to specifics! In this post, you’ll find helpful pointers for completing each letter in the sampler. These are not strict rules that you have to follow or stitch tutorials (you can find a growing library of those right here though!). Rather, they are intended as instruction to aid you in achieving particular effects similar to the original sample—the kind of details related to applying a particular stitch to a particular shape or line, color considerations, and more!
A—Start by outlining the entire letter. I used stem stitch on the parts that would still show at the end and split stitch for the parts that would get covered up with padding. This is because I can work split stitch faster and it provides an even surface for your padding to sit on. I worked several layers of padding to achieve the height shown in the sample, alternating the direction of each successive layer of padding to avoid creating any gullies for floss to pile up in due to natural variations in tension.
B—Work the french knots after you’ve worked the quaker stitch on the rest of the letter so that you have something to secure your tails to on the back.
C—In this case, you may find it easier to work the alternating/striped satin stitch first and then apply the outline, in order to help cover up any unevenness along the edges.
D—For a more defined shape, work the outline of this letter first and then fill it in. You get to determine the density of the fill. I ended up using 1.5 skeins of floss, so make sure to have plenty of whatever color you choose!
E—By completing the outline first, and then the isolated stitches that embellish the center of the letter, you’ll have more on the back of your work to secure your floss tails to. Use just three strands and only one or two wraps in your french knot so that they do not overpower the rest of the design.
F—Use three strands to go over the complete outline of this letter. Then, with a full strand, come back and go over the first (1, pictured above) of the three thicker parts, laying another layer of stem stitch over the first. For the other two thicker parts (2 & 3, pictured above), you’ll want to add a couple layers of padding before finishing off each one with some satin stitching that mimics the slant of the stem stitch.
G—Laid stitch comes out looking much like satin stitch, but is worked a bit differently. Though it has a less refined edge, it provides a quick coverage option that requires much less floss and is therefore a handy one to add to your toolbox.
H—Did you know that cross stitch is just one of many embroidery stitches? It can be worked on a gridded fabric, but doesn’t have to be! Start at one corner of this letter and work from top to bottom, side to side (or vice versa since the letter “H” is the same no matter which way you turn it).
I—This can often be one of the trickier stitches to master, so give yourself some practice first to get comfortable with the concept. It can be helpful to envision the way a wall of bricks lay offset from each other as your stitches will grow in the same way! Even spacing is the key to this stitch, especially in your first row as sets up the entire grid.
J—If you want to use a few colors for this letter, as I did, try choosing ones with high contrast to help draw attention to the 3D illusion of this drop cap. Use just three strands and only one or two wraps in your french knot so that they do not overpower the rest of the design.
K—As with the “D,” it will be easier to achieve a defined shape by going around the outline of this letter first and then filling it in. Larger french knots will go faster; smaller knots will give a more consistent texture and line—the choice is up to you!
L—Make use of the line running through the center of the “L,” to create a middle axis that curves along with the shape of the letter itself. Allow for denser spacing in the concave part of the curve, and less in the convex part of the curve for easier navigation and smoother results.
M—This is another stitch that may look impressive, but is quite easy to accomplish! Be sure to use two colors with high contrast if you want the tacks to really show up.
N—Straight stitch was originally used for the middle of the N, but you can use any outline stitch you like here.
O—I prefer working this letter from the center out, alternating where I begin each round of chain stitches so that the points where they join are not too obvious.
P—You can complete the line running up the side of the “P” first as back stitch and then come back in to add the isolated chain stitches or work them altogether as you go from bottom to top. Experiment to see what approach you prefer or which might give you a smoother result.
Q—This letter employs traditional satin stitch worked in a horizontal direction for the main body of the letter and slanted satin stitch for the serif. It can be helpful to use just a scant bit of stem stitch for the thinnest parts of the letter at the top and bottom as well as the tips of the serif.
R—Seed stitch is worked very randomly so that it spreads in a very organic manner across the surface of your work. You can work it evenly spaced across the entire letter or from dense to thin as in the sample. Each stitch should be approximately 1mm long, turning in a different direction from its neighbor. Sometimes called rice stitch, it can be helpful to imagine how the contents of a bag of spilled rice would look to envision this stitch.
S—Use a full strand and three complete wraps for your french knots in this letter to achieve a plush result that fills the space nicely.
T—The original photograph of the sampler shows an earlier version of this stitch that has since been updated for ease of use (I’m always working to try and make things better!). You can refer to the picture above for better reference and try stitching it in this order: solid sections of laid fill first, then the lines of back stitch that will serve to secure those in place, and finally the running stitch and the outline. Rather than demonstrating a specific stitch, this letter shows you how you can combine stitches to achieve a particular effect–plaid!
U—Follow the navigation suggestion in the photo below for this letter. You can always stitch a letter up from any direction you like, but it can be useful to find the most efficient route to make the best use of your supplies and time.
V—The serifs at the top of this letter can be worked in a simple satin stitch just until they taper towards the straight line. From there, switch to stem for the remainder of the line. Take your time with the leaf and consider how the axis of your fishbone stitch can curve to follow the shape of the leaf.
W—I originally used a straight stitch for the middle of the letter (the upside down “v” part), but you could use any outline stitch you like here. This is an uncommon stitch nowadays, but offers a really neat result that is simpler than it may seem at first.
X—Work the grid first, then the overlay of isolated chain stitches, and finish by outlining the letter to give it a polished border. The chain stitches sit within the squares of the grid, but are not stitched thru it.
Y—The long and short shading stitch used for this letter is one that grows very organically. Each successive stitch can overlap the one before or next to it by approximately half a stitch length. This can certainly be varied as needed. Using stem stitch on the outline at the tightest points of the curve as well as compensating stitches can help give you a more refined result. You can choose as few or as many colors as you’d like to form the gradient, swapping them in at whatever points you choose. The closer your colors are to each other, the more smooth the transition between them will be.
Z—Instead of using split stitch to complete the entire letter, you can use a straight stitch for each serif, giving them more definition. See the photo below for a helpful navigation suggestion.