Daily Stitch Challenge Part 1

Daily Stitch Challenge Part 1

This year the idea of stitching a little every day is very popular. The little but often philosophy is one of the reasons I have managed to stitch so much over the years. I decided to join in on a few of stitchers challenges on Facebook and I have been asked how I build up these complex textured areas.  I thought I would share what I am doing and describe what I am doing in my daily stitch challenge.

I have linked to resources and tutorials on how to do various stitches mentioned in the article and described my design process. Hopefully people will find it useful.

Daily Stitch Challenge Part 1

This piece I started the first week in January. I chose some cheap tea towel linen which had been hand dyed. It was nothing special just a scrap from my stash.

Daily Stitch Challenge 1I started with three flat disk beads discovered at a craft fair a few years ago. They  are glass and about two centimetres or three quarters of an inch across. A hole runs through them so they were easy to stitch on.

Daily Stitch Challenge threadsI liked the colours in them so, using those colours as inspiration I selected a bunch of threads and put them in a project box.

Tip! The first thing I do with any project is to gather together what I need for the project.I am not use likely all these threads, but I sort them like this so they are to handy to choose from. I don’t want to sit down to stitch and think to myself  “I could do with some of that colour or this colour” then have to get up and go find it. If I only have 15 minutes to stitch, I want to stitch, not spend that time rummaging about in my thread boxes looking for something I vaguely remember having. At the same time I select beads, ribbons, lace or anything else I am likely to need for the project. I keep it all together in the same project box and it all stays there until the project is done.

Daily Stitch Challenge 3I wanted this piece to be freeform and spontaneous. By that I mean I did not want to do much pre-planing or start with a definite design. When I do this I usually jump in but  as the piece progresses I respond to what is happening with what I call my design tools. In other words, to stop something becoming a hodge podge mess of stitches I use design principals to pull the piece together. At the start I don’t know what will happen but as I work a bit like Jazz, I respond to what is happening. It is always fun and always a challenge.   I had to start somewhere so I stitched on a bead and added 4 bullion stitches.

Daily Stitch Challenge progress 4Next added the other 2 flat beads and then couched down some thin ribbon which was hand dyed and had a metallic edge. I wanted to establish a freeform line across the work. Next I used bugle beads to secure it further. The big bobble stitches are French knots worked in the same ribbon. I threaded the ribbon in a chenille needle and worked the french knot slightly loose so you could see the glint of the metallic edge.

Daily Stitch Challenge progress 5I liked the effect of the stitch ribbon so I added more stitches. At this point in the stitching process I had no idea what would happen. I had a colour scheme inspired by the beads and was just going for it. In other words I still had no plan for the piece

Daily Stitch Challenge progress6The ribbon was then secured even further with more bugle beads and French knots. To the piece itself I added buttonhole wheels and bullion knots using a hand dyed silk thread that is the thickness of cotton perle #8. A thicker silk thread of purplish tones was used to work detached oyster stitches. Since the thread is thick like 6 strands of cotton floss it stitched up nice and bulky.

Daily Stitch Challenge progress 6I then added some chain stitches in hand dyed cotton silk and some whipped  wheels worked using a hand dyed cotton perle #5.

Daily Stitch Challenge progress 7By this stage I decided it needed some focus and I had decided it would be the header piece for my band sampler this year. (Incase readers are not aware of my nearly 100 ft band sampler you can read about it here) So I wanted to date it. On the computer after I choose a font I liked, and in Photoshop tinkered around with a very simple layout, I printed out the date.

Daily Stitch Challenge progress 8I took the fabric off the hoop. I taped the printout to a window and then taped the fabric in position over the top of it. I used a pen with permanent ink to trace the numbers. Since this line will be covered I was not worried about using a permanent pen. A dissolvable pen will often disappear before the project is done and since this project will take while to stitch, I chose a permanent ink pen.

As you can see I kept it simple. I have found that keeping processes simple means I get things done. I don’t over complicate something as that complication, can become a stall point.

Daily Stitch Challenge progress 9I returned the fabric to the hoop and continued stitching adding more chain stitches, oyster stitches, buttonhole wheels, bullion knots, French knots, and Whipped wheel.

Daily Stitch Challenge progress 11Next I moved the piece off the hoop on to my Grip-n-Stitch frame as I wanted to add more beads. The beads I added are little brass disks. I am not sure where I got them – they are either jewellery findings used as spacers for necklaces or I found them in a hardware store. They are brass, they shine, they have a hole, I can stitch them on to fabric, so I did.  (Shrugs shoulders and grins)  I scattered these vertically across the piece and stitched them down. Around the large disk like beads that I started the piece with, I added whipped spoke stitch using a hand dyed cotton perle #5 thread.

Daily Stitch Challenge progress 10At this stage I decided I needed to pull this piece together. The freeform stitchery needed to be unified. I added more of the brass rings so there was a sense of visual repetition. Vertically down the left hand side I added buttonhole wheels, bullion knots and cast on stitches using a hand dyed perle #5 thread.

I used the same thread so that it would become a freeform textured band on the right hand side. That side is not finished yet but I am aiming for a textured edge that looks organic and freeform but actually acts to define the edge of the piece. It wont be obvious or a hard definite border but that is the visual role it will play.

Daily Stitch Challenge progress 13As I worked the design coalesced more in my mind. I plan to work both sides of the piece in similar colours and repeat stitches so the eye starts to read them as a line or border. Sprinkled in between will be various stitches that break it a little but not so much that they destroy the sense of a line. The plan is for stitching will go right to the edge and be highly textured but freeform and organic. It’s a bit of a balance between chaos and an underlying sense of order. The date 2017 will remain voided

I think it will be interesting to see how this turns out and it is certainly fun to stitch. I have designed it on the fly and enjoyed the approach. I hope you have enjoyed reading  Daily Stitch Challenge Part 1. Next month I will share it again so you can see how it turns out.

The two challenges I am following are “A Year in Stitches” run by Susan Sorrell and “Just One Stitch” run by Deena Beverley. Both Facebook groups encourage stitching daily for a year.The hash tags for these challenges are #ayearinstitches and #justonestitch.

If you are embarking upon any of these challenges don’t forget that my Stitch Dictionary of hand embroidery stitches is free online and hopefully many of the samples will give you some ideas of how to use a stitch in your own stitching adventures.

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Have you seen my Crazy quilters templates?

As a stitcher who loves crazy quilting I designed these templates with other crazy quilters in mind. With my Crazy Quilters Templates you can create hundreds of different patterns to embroider on your stitching and crazy quilting projects. They are easy to use, totally clear so you can position them easily and they are compact in your sewing box.

Crazy Quilt Templates set 1 you will find here 

Crazy Quilt Templates set 2 you will find here 


  1. Hi Sharon, today I found your wonderful website.I am experienced in knitting, crochet, and sewing, but just discovered that I would like to learn to embroider. All the art and skills you share on your site left me breathless! Especially the insights you give in your working proces are very valuable for me as a beginning beginner…. Thank you so much for sharing all this and be sure to have a new regular visitor to your site. All my best wishes, Lara

  2. Ciao Sharon, grazie mille per condividere la tua abilità! E’ molto utile per chi non facilità a cominciare e la tua creatività. Tu rendi le cose semplici, invece alla fine è un lavoro completo che pare difficile da ottenere. Bravissima, e grazie ancora per la tua generosità. Non è così comune….Bacioni Gabriella

  3. Thanks for sharing your information on how to achieve a good look to random stitching on a project. I needed direction like this to see the light at the end of my tunnel.
    I’m certain you make more than my fingers, itch to stitch.

  4. Hi Sharon,
    Thank-you -that was fascinating. I read every word and I’ll no doubt re-read again. I found it extremely helpful when I read your comment ‘if its too complicated then you get a ‘stall point’. I am always stalling, getting frustrated then stopping. I was infected by your joy, and it reminded me to relax, stop being so critical of my own work and to simply have fun. I hope you do a second book on your design process. I thought if the threads you have chosen are just for your project what does the rest of your threads look like? A walk through your workshop/studio etc would be both a joy and a fascination which I guess = inspiration. I always read your posts, but today was just gorgeous.

    Julia Louise King
  5. I really enjoyed reading about your approach to daily a free form embroidery project. My approach to Saori (free style) weaving is very similar. I start with an inspiration yarn and pull a box full of yarns and notions that coordinate with it. The weaving is done on the fly with no preplanning and pulling only from the orginal box full of goodies.

    I need to pull out my embroidery and somehow find time for that too. So many hobbies all competing with my available time!

  6. This is so-o-o awesome! I read all your posting all the time but this one has me running to my small stash to get started. This will be my first time actually doing not just reading and using single stitches. I’m going to just let loose! I’ve been spending this winter completing a cross stitch piece, an alphabet in rose color. But here we go! I’ll have to learn to send you photos as I progress. Have the most wonderful day. Patty

    Patty j.
  7. Thank you so much for sharing your process Sharon. I’ve been trying to do this but, not having your experience, been rather lost. Seeing the stages the piece goes through is very helpful. I will continue working on mine with a whole new vision now.

  8. This is right up my street. I find that I like to see how things go with materials I already have or that catch my eye when out and about. I’m definitely going to try this. Thank you Sharon

    Marion Alderson
  9. Thank you for sharing the process.
    You are famous for your stitch rich pieces of freeform embroidery, and I am sure many feel inspired to make their own, but don’t know how to begin.
    Starting with a unique button and selecting colored thread that would go with it is a great way to start.
    A piece like this might look a bit ‘funny’ after a few days when stitches, ribbons and beads have been spread ‘all over the place’. It is important to not give up but keep on adding and filling in the blanks, soon enough it will look rich and tied together.
    Keep up the good daily work.

  10. Gosh! That worked up to quite a size, didn’t it? A real colour fest too. 🙂

    I love the idea of these ‘a little every day’ challenges, I know I wouldn’t manage it each day and would feel like I was playing permanent catch up. Enjoying seeing the bloggers I follow getting well on with their pieces though.

    BW ♡☆♡

  11. Hi Sharon
    I have decided to start this challenge as I have had a big gap year free of stitching.
    This will be the perfect project to get me back into
    the creative brain space that hasn’t been used for a while.
    Will keep you posted

    Larna Perry
  12. Thank you so much for sharing this stitch by stitch approach. It is where I want to go but have been nervous of where to start, you have given me confidence to start and the skill from TAST. Your continued generosity is overwhelming.


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