I in January 2009 on my blog I started the slow process of documenting a band sampler which I call For the Love of Stitching.
There are a considerable number of ideas, colour schemes and patterns recorded on the sampler along side quotes and autobiographical story fragments. I call it a freeform sampler because the process is freeform. Each section of the sampler is stitched with not much planning.
The For Love of Stitching Band Sampler is 15 cm (6 inches) wide. It consists of different strips of fabric that are stitched together to form one long strip of needlework.
How long is it?
The For Love of Stitching Band Sampler currently measures 96 feet 5 inches (2,938.78 centimeters), or 32.138 yards which is 29.3878 meters. It is still growing…
Why was it made?
Many people use this method successfully but I found I was not referring to the information stored in the folders. I did not reach for them often. When stitching I was more inclined simply to repeat what was familiar and not refer to past experiments. This meant I forgot them.
I decided to try something different with my ‘doodle cloths’ and stitch explorations. I started to work band samplers that were for use as reference rather than decoration. By sheer chance on the first sample I worked I named and signed the sampler. I had no thought at the time that I would stitch so many samplers! I simply stitched “For the love of Stitching” so later after many years that became its name.
I kept them pinned to the wall in my studio. Because I could see my samples I used them as a sampler is meant to be used, as a record of stitches and ideas that can be referred to.
I have found it is easier to travel with them like this. A pile of teaching samplers stored like this are lighter and more compact than being housed in folders.
Why did you stitch them together?
I like to hand out samplers to students in workshops and lectures as people learn by touching. Unfortunately a couple of samplers were handed out, but never came back.
I stitched them together in one long strip so no one could stuff it in their hand bag. To a degree this is a security measure but the other advantage is that odd samples don’t get lost.
What size will it be when done?
I dont know I will stop when I get bored with playing with it!
Is it all hand embroidery?
Yes it is. I love hand embroidery and really it has become an excuse to experiment with and explore stitches.
What fabric do you use?
Normally I use either 25 cnt linen, 28 cnt linen, or Aida but some pieces are worked on other fabrics. Tea towel linen, dress linen, evenweave linen, Aida, hardanger fabrics, Lynda, and dress cotton are all represented in the sampler. Often pieces have been hand dyed or hand painted.
In some cases I have even patchworked together fabrics then used it as the foundation cloth of the sampler. In this photograph you can see what I have done.
I pieced together 25 cnt linen, cotton flanelette, Aida, hardanger fabric, table cloth linen and tea towel linen. All the pieces have been hand dyed by me using procion dyes.
They were scraps and left overs from other projects and I felt I was not wasting anything by experimenting on them.
The tacking stitches down the edge mark the edge of the sampler itself. This helps prevent me stitching into the seam line.
The white fabric along the side is scrap sheeting that I added so I could easily get the strip of fabric on a hoop. After the sampler was stitched I trimmed the scrap sheeting off and proceeded to back it.
What thread do you use?
A large variety of threads are also represented from wool, silk, cotton, stranded floss, perle cotton, and so on. Each band is different. Although I use commercial threads many are hand dyed by me.
What dyes do you use?
I use procion dyes on both the fabric and threads.
How did you join and back the sampler
If you want to know more about the process you will find information in how I Extended and backed the sampler in this article where I photographed the whole process.
Do you plan your sampler?
To be honest sometimes a plan a little the other times not at all.
I try and keep things as simple as possible because I have found the more complex the project becomes the more I am less likely to do it. I will either look at it and think it’s all too much, or start it with a flurry of enthusiasm and then tire of it and I then have a UFO on my hands.
So with my sampler there is no rules. I change, fabric, stitching style, colour, thread type whenever it feels right. I call it freeform improvisational samplering for a reason and it suits me. I journal on it when I feel like it and not when I dont. The only rule I have is its width. In other words in my head I say I am going to stitch a sampler 6 inches wide. That is it! I decide everything else as I go.
Why is the sampler 6 inches wide?
My band sampler is 6 inches wide because in my hand a 8 inch hoop feels the most comfortable. While on the hoop the actual fabric is about 9-10 inches wide.
Deciding what width the sampler is important because it is about what feels right in your hand. If you are thinking about one of these types of samplers my tip is to choose a width that you can easily experiment on. You need to be able to stitch a bit, then move on. You don’t want the sampler so wide that it takes an age to cover the area and you are tired of it after a row! You want to be able to experiment, enjoy it then try something else, enjoy it and move on again – painlessly!
I use a hoop or occassionally I put the sampler on a small stretcher. Mostly, however I use a hoop. My tip is to choose a fabric width that allows for a hoop that feels right in your hand. Many people make the mistake of choosing a hoop that is too big. I find an 8 inch hoop is about as large as I want which means a 6 inch sampler width is good. Some hoop sizes will feel to big others will feel cramped so choose a size your hand is at ease with. Try a few scrap cloths and just see what feels right.
Once the hoop size is decided subtract by 2 inches. So if you choose 8 inch hoop – make your sampler 6 inches wide. If you choose a 7 inch hoop make your sampler 5 inches wide. What ever width you decide on you will need a few inches of fabric either side to allow for the hoop. It’s not complex or difficult or mysterious. It is simply the width of the sampler plus a few inches so I can hoop it.
How can I make my own sampler?
If you are interested in creating your own sampler I have put together some tips and a page of resources here
Freeform Sampler as Journal
The sampler occasionally marked incidents or moments in history in text.
Here is another sampler made in the Autumn of 2009. It records what was in the news constantly. I listen to the radio as I stitch and it seemed to me that all the conversation was about Peak oil, Climate change and the ongoing global economic crisis.
I live in Australia so our Autumn is March and in that month there is also St Patricks day and we observed earth hour.
As readers can see this long band sampler has become more than a record of stitches and techniques but over time has become a contemporary freeform journal sampler as well.
Links to articles about each section:
All posts in the series are in the category the Love of Stitching Band Sampler.
Index to the sections
Sections 1 and 2, sections 3 and 4, section 5, section 6, section 7, section 8, section 9, section 10, section 11, section 12, section 13, sections 15-24 , section 25 , section 26 , section 27 , section 28, section 29 , section 30, section 31, section 32, section 33, section 34, section 35 , section 36 and section 37, section 38, section 39, section 40 , section 41 and section 42 , section 43, section 44, (with more to come)
As I stitched this section I realised how much of a journal/autobiographical story the sampler had become.
Is this sampler the longest in the world?
I occasionally get asked if this would make the Guinness book of records. It might (and I emphasise might) as the longest stitched by a single person but it is not the longest in the world by far. The UK Embroiderers’ guild holds the record. You can read about it here
“With the help of over 7,000 participants of all ages and abilities from all over the world, the Embroiderers’ Guild are proud to announce that they have set a new Guinness World Record for stitching the “longest embroidery” at 605.55 metres (1,986.77 feet).”
With 7,000 people stitching it certainly is an amazing community based project. I find it interesting that the Longest embroidery in the World is hand stitched and not an individualistic project but something a group of people did together.