Let the Good Times Roll Stitching my 2021 Band Sampler

Let the Good Times Roll Stitching my 2021 Band Sampler

Start of 2021 stitch roll For many years, I have been adding a strip of stitching to a long Stitch-roll or what is traditionally called a band sampler.  My sampler is a strip of fabric where I improvise stitches, add bands in a freeform manner and often journal on it too. If you want to know more, you can see photos and read about it here. A new year brings a new section. Over on Needle’n’Thread, Mary Corbet has proposed a casual freeform band sampler stitch along.  Since the idea sits nicely with what I do, I am joining in and using her hashtag #stitchfun2021

I started stitching my band sampler in 1996 representing many hours of discovery and pleasure. This stitch roll has definitely seen many phases of my life, some good, some not so good. To be honest, last year was such a doozie that I considered stopping. But as I thought it through, I realised I have stitched this sampler for a good chunk of my stitching life. And I have had many hours of pleasure working it. 2020 was a grim year and I decided that if I were to stop, I wanted to finish the sampler on a happier note. If I left it at 2020, it would have been an untidy, unhappy finish. So, I have started my 2021 Band Sampler.

Designing the start of my 2021 Band Sampler

After much dithering about, I decided to continue stitching my band sampler and share more of the process as I go. So, rolling up my sleeves as it was already the first week in January, I decided to get back to it. The first, was to choose some fabric for my 2021 Band Sampler. This was a strip of even-weave 28 count cotton I had easily to hand. Using the sewing machine, I ran a zig zag stitch around the edge to prevent fraying. Sometimes, I have a border line, other times I don’t. At this point, there is no border, so I tacked a line where the edge of the sampler is. This prevents me from going over the edge and keeps my eye within the area of the sampler. I may add a border later in the process — I haven’t decided yet.

2021 Band Sampler design 4Next, was to actually design the first section. I feel the ‘header’ for the year sets the colour scheme for the first part of the project. On my sampler, I experiment, try stitches, test patterns, and try out new things. I simply add them as I go. I keep it casual. It is why I call it a free-form band sampler. Starting with the header designed, makes what follows on the rest sampler feel more ‘designed’ than it actually is. So I usually spend a little time thinking about it. I also like to use the header as a design challenge for myself. It gets the brain going at the start of the year.

2021 Band Sampler design 1Opening my studio journal, I started to work out a few ideas for my 2021 Band Sampler. I usually work 5 or 6 ideas of any one thing, because the first thing you think of is not necessarily the best. On the computer I typed ‘Hope’ and ‘2021’ in 3 fonts, scaled them to about an inch high then printed them out. Next, I traced off the letters and numbers and I played around with them in my studio journal. I thought I would share the options I thought about.

2021 Band Sampler design 5I could design on the computer, but different things happen when you think in a sketch book. I don’t know why, but it does. So, I use my studio journal to think in and the computer as a tool to render those thoughts.

2021 Band Sampler design 3Positive and negative spaces never fail to fascinate me, so I enjoyed exploring the shapes of the letters against various backgrounds using watercolour to block-in the positive and negative areas.

2021 Band Sampler design 2While I was doing this, I did consider other words instead of ‘Hope’, as it is associated with American politics and, as an Aussie, it’s not really relevant. In the end, I felt that although many countries are in the grip of a third wave of the pandemic, and life is dire,  since vaccines against COVID 19 are starting to be rolled-out, the mood is shifting. So hope describes the month if not the year.

2021 Band Sampler final designOnce I had the design worked out, I took it into illustrator simply because it’s a program I use all the time. It is a quick way for me to get a nice neat version of the design to print out. I then tape to a window, tape fabric over it and trace it off. If you want to know more about this technique I have a tutorial about it here.

I used an artist’s Staedtler pigment liner pen to trace the design off. It is waterproof and in this design, the lines are covered with stitching. When I use a design that has guidelines that are not covered with stitching,  I use one of the water or air erasable pens that are available on the market.

I then went to my thread and bead stash and made a selection. Working stem stitch around the outlines I defined the design.

The next step in my process, was to fill the coloured areas with stitches and beads. Using cotton perle #8 thread, I worked stitches like French Knots, Bullion Knots, Whipped wheels, Cast-on stitch and Buttonhole wheels. (These links will take you to tutorials on how to work these stitches). As I stitched, I also added some bugle beads and seed beads.

So I have started my 2021 Band Sampler! I plan to share my progress every so often and hopefully you will enjoy it. if you want to know more about the rest of the sampler, read about it here.


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Thread Twisties!

Experimenting with different threads can be expensive. You would normally have to buy a whole skein of each type of thread. My thread twisties are a combination of different threads to use in creative hand embroidery. These enable you to try out stitching with something other than stranded cotton. For the price of just a few skeins, you can experiment with a bundle of threads of luscious colours and many different textures.

These are creative embroiders threads. With them, I hope to encourage you to experiment. Each Twistie is a thread bundle containing silk, cotton, rayon and wool. Threads range from extra fine (the same thickness as 1 strand of embroidery floss) to chunky couchable textured yarns. All threads have a soft and manageable drape. Twisting them around a needle makes experimental hand embroidery an interesting journey rather than a battle.  Many are hand dyed by me. All are threads I use. You may find a similar thread twist but no two are identical.

You will find my thread twisties in the Pintangle shop here.


  1. Hi Sharon. LOVE the beginning of your 2021 sampler. One of my (many) plans for this year is to make a sampler of all the stitches you have taught us over the years, so this has inspired me to make a start.

    Joan Flynn
      1. Janet the band has a stitching area of 6 inches wide and I have a couple of inches each side so I can hoop it up. The last time I measured it the sampler was well over 100 feet and I have to add a whole pile of strips I have stitched to it. I add to it as go along. I have an article about it here that answers those questions and more like how I add to it etc https://pintangle.com/faq-pages/sampler-faq/
        hope it helps

  2. Thank you for sharing your process for creating this band sampler. I am sure it will inspire many to work their own samplers.
    As usual you excel at playing with positive and negative spaces, mixing stitches with beads and blending colours. I am sure 2021 holds hope for the future and it will be mirrored in your sampler.

  3. I really liked the beautiful 2021 motif. I also looked at the stitches that you mentioned in your blog. Very interesting! I’m not big on embroidery but if I was I certainly would want to learn about different stitches from you. I hope we all have a better 2021 than we had in 2020.

    Sally B
  4. Have finally received my copy of Creative Stitches! It’s like Christmas all over again! Heartfelt thanks for the inspiration to learn new things and keep crafting.

    JJ, North Yorkshire, UK

    Jane Jermyn
      1. Sharon, I too saw Mary Corbet’s idea of a Stitch Fun 2021 sampler and have joined in along with doing a book of stitches for your TAST project. I love seeing other people’s ideas as it inspires me. I have not posted my progress yet as it isn’t as spectacular as yours and Mary’s is. Plus there’s that figuring out how to do that and the tag thing. Maybe when I get a little further along and like what I have I’ll share.

        Jeannette Fairchild
        1. Jeanette The tags look fun I have been thinking about the possibility of somehow combining them into a fabric book – but it is something tha tis noodling around in my head at the moment


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