Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sampler Design

 Sampler designed by a group of friends, using published Quaker medallion designs.

This week we want to have a conversation with all of you on your favorite books you use when designing various pieces.... designs you create for everything from commemorative samplers to tokens of friendship. What key elements should you include and how will you personalize them to make them unique for your needs?

What are we leaving behind for others to find in the next couple of hundred years?  Are those who follow going to find reproduction samplers and wonder... "How is this 1797 piece so pristine? What unique fibers they used - I didn't think they existed in 1797!" So how do you complete your reproduction sampler? Do you include somewhere on the piece or in the margin your name and date?  When you create a design of your own do you put your name and date, initials and date, who it is for and why and DATE?  You notice I emphasize date! 
But also, your name is very important. Do you have a unique way to sign your pieces, your own font, your own cipher, or do you wish you could have your name in your own handwriting there on your piece?  Julie is going to show us how to incorporate your own handwriting into your piece to make it especially unique.

I have to admit, I have been remiss often in not signing or dating pieces I have reproduced or created, not knowing where I want that information. Especially on some smalls, there is not a lot of room to include all of that information along with the design elements I have chosen. But I should, as I say to everyone else, at least put it in the margins, the seam or somewhere that will not be noticeable if I cannot truly find a visible space that works. 

Do help those who come after us, or those family members who will want to know which member of the family created this or that and why!  If you have designed a piece, especially a sampler to commemorate an event - wedding, birthday, anniversary, birth, the life of someone, put a plastic sleeve or even adhere a zip lock bag to the back of the framed piece on the dust paper and inside put a written note of explanation.  In my case, it would be typed, so that they can read it, although if your penmanship is nice, someone's personal handwriting is always so beautiful to have!  In your note, provide details about what this piece was created for and why you included the elements you did.  Don't make them wonder if there is a secret message in that pansy or yellow rose. Tell them the meanings or the reasons you chose what you did for your design. Who was it for and what was the occasion and again, I would include the date and name on this piece and where you lived when you created it.

Now for creating those special gifts, large and small, what design sources are your favorites? Please share with us and Julie and I will do the same here below. Our libraries are overflowing with so many wonderful books and charts and pamphlets, but I know there are a few I tend to gravitate to more often and it always surprises me.  I don't feel we need to reinvent the wheel... if a great motif has been designed and is right for you, then use it in your own design. Many times when I purchase a chart I know I will never stitch the whole sampler, but it has several great details or motifs in it that I know I would love to use some day for something! I have oh so many of those "some day" projects in my cupboards. But do not just copy a major portion of someone else's design and call it your own. If you are doing that then give them credit and it might be nice, too, in your documentation to list what your sources were and the materials used!  

Now all of this being said, I am talking about designing for your own use and gifts and not for those to be sold. Remember for those that are being sold, yes there are design elements that are open to the public domain for use, but do not go stepping on the toes of those in the field who are also working hard to create their own style and business from their designs.  Copyright issues abound in the needlework world, and if you want to  continue to have lots of choices in designs, remember to be kind to the artists who create those designs.


Just lately, Becky has been designing a new sampler to celebrate the life of her nephew, Adam.  She sent me an email awhile back wondering if I had any large charts of evergreen trees.  I sent her a couple of examples, and keep running into them.  Here's one, Becky, that I just found - from Making Samplers by Jutta Lammer.  

Charting Your Personal Signature 
I love to look at one particular signature I have on a piece of needlework I finished a few years ago - I recognize the name as being in my own hand, and it makes a very nice personal touch!  
Here's how to do it:

First of all, practice writing your signature in the approximate size you want it to appear on your work.  Use a fairly thick pen nib - such as a medium point Sharpie, and when you have a sample that is just to your liking, be sure that the writing is dark and bold.  Measure the signature, and count how many stitches will be on the linen you'll use in that space (I usually just measure the first letter).  This will tell you how many stitches to use in your chart.  

Find some chart paper.  If you don't have any, you can print some here

Or, print a blank page of grid from your cross-stitch designing program.

Lay the paper over your signature and trace it onto the grid (or, if you are sure you can do it the way you want, write it directly on the graph paper).  Now fill in the boxes that the lines in your signature touches, and then stand back a bit and see if this looks like your signature - make little adjustments, until it's exactly right.

Now, if you have a cross-stitch designing program, make a printable chart and save it on your computer to use again and again.  If not, then take your finished graph and put it someplace safe - where you'll be able to pull it out whenever you want to use it.   You can see on my signature above that I decided to use tent stitches or half-crosses to keep the line of type the right size.  Depending on size and space, you may decide to do full crosses or even back stitch or double-running stitch.  


Books or printed sources that are our favorites when it comes to creating special stitched pieces:
101 Alphabets by Dale Burdett Book One, Learn to Design series - Becky
Beautiful Old Alphabets Designs and Stitches by Jutta Lammer - Becky
Veronique Mallard books, so many! Sajou Passion des Alphabets Anciens is one favorite - Becky
The one book I go to repeatedly is Valerie Lejeune's Le Livre des Lettres.  I have lots of others, but this always seems to be my first choice. - Julie

Repertoire des Frises by Valerie Lejeune - Becky and Julie
Charted Folk Designs for cross stitch embroidery, 278 charts of Ancient Fold  -Becky
Embroideries from The Countries Along the Danube, a Dover Book - Becky
Charted Peasant Designs from Saxon Transylvania, a Dover Book - Becky
I'll often look through my stash to find a chart with a nice border to borrow  - Julie

Motifs and Animals:
The Sampler Company's Book of Alphabets Motifs & Borders by Brenda Keyes - Becky
Marquoir a DMC Mango Pratique booklet - Becky
Repertoire des Motifs by Valerie Le Jeune - Becky
Embroidery Motifs from Dutch Samplers by Albarta Meulenbelt Niewburg - Julie

Plant life and Bugs:
Prairie Schooler Charts, great plants and bugs on many of their charts. -Becky
Many of the DMC booklets, Jardin is one published by Mango Pratique -Becky
Marquoirs by Regine Deforges and Genevieve Dormann, this duo has several books that have many good motifs and designs in them - Becky
I'm a big fan of trees and besides the Dutch Motifs book, I'll look at my charts - one particularly good one is Rosewood Manor's And a Forest Grew - Julie
I charted this section for a design by looking at many different trees from different sources.  I love how it turned out - Julie

Mostly I use my collected charts! I am truly drawn to houses - Becky
My well-worn copy of Dutch Motifs comes in handy here again, as well as other charts in my stash - one excellent source lately has been the Hawk Run Hollow series by Kathy Barrick of Carriage House Samplings.

American Samplers by Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eve Johston Coe - Becky and Julie 
Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework, 1650-1850 by Betty Ring - Julie  (I'll use this if I want a verse that's typical of a certain school or area)

For Small Gifts:
Pattern Book, From Ackworth School by Jaqueline Holdsworth - Becky and Julie
I am so drawn to the Halloween designs gaining popularity every year!  I collect them from so many designers, and will take a bit from here and a bit from there for exchange pieces...  The Primitive Needle is a favorite!

Don't forget the wonderful free charts given by your favorite needlework shop or found on the internet at your favorite designers' websites - Becky

Books by Chier Du Createur published by Mango Partique - Becky
Jo Verso books, good for personalizing careers, sports and things unique to a person- Becky

Besides using these sources, I refer to many of my books that have photos of historical samplers to use as a design source at times for a point of departure if I am trying to get a certain feel to the piece I am creating.  Another conversation later will be those printed sources we enjoy for historical information and even just the best photographs for studying historical pieces.

Another time, we will come back and have a conversation on sources we like to use to aid in creating various stitches and texture in our pieces. I fear if we add that here, we will overwhelm ourselves.

So please chime in and let us all know your favorites. I know we both have too many to even begin to list them all, but even so, you may have some we haven't found yet!


Freebie - Julie's Trees chart
Click on the picture to enlarge for printing


  1. Hi & Good Morning!
    Does anyone know where I can get a copy of Brenda Keyes: The Sampler Company's Book of Alphabets, Motifs and Borders? I've searched with no luck hoping someone can help. I'm trying my hand at creating an olde time sampler and wanted this book.
    Thank you Karen Wilson-NJ

  2. Hi, Karen - here is one: I hope they still have it in stock - it says it's available, but you never know - everyone else does seem to be sold out.

    Good luck!



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