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Decorative Stitch Sampler

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Decorative stitches are tiny pieces of thread art. Sometimes when I look at them, I can't believe a single threaded needle made such an intricate design. But even though I love them, I often forget to use them. We get so caught up in the seams of a project's construction, decorative stitches can get overlooked. We wanted a way to keep some of our favorite stitches top-of-mind, so we did a little decorative stitch sampler then framed it as sewing room artwork. Super fast, super simple, and the prefect colorful reminder.

Not only is a sampler a great way to remember favorite stitch patterns, you can also use it to experiment with different colors and types of thread. I selected a variety of thread times in similar colorways for each of my five featured stitches. 

Stitching out your designs in regular polyester thread as well as variegated, rayon, metallic, neon and more is a great way to see the possibilities for embellishment. Experimenting with different brands of thread is also interesting.

Varying the combination of stitch and thread produces quite a variety of textural effects.

The size of your sampler is totally up to you. Since we wanted to frame ours, we chose a grid that would fit within a standard 11" x 17" opening.

I started with a solid, mid-weight cotton and pressed it nice and flat. Using a fabric pencil, I drew my starting X-Y axis.

Properly stabilize the fabric per recommendations in your machine's instruction manual. We used an iron-on, tear-away stabilizer. 

Using your drawn line as a starting point, pick your first thread and your first design and start stitching.

We simply used the edge of our 9mm Janome Satin Stitch presser foot as our guide as we added each line of stitching. 

Depending on your selection of designs, you may want your lines of stitching closer together or farther apart – that is totally up to you. You could also draw in each and every line with a fabric pen or pencil, making your measurements even more precise.

Change the thread and the stitch and often as you'd like as you continue your rows. 

For both thread and stitches, keep a list of the stitch number, stitch width and thread type. We wrote the stitch category and number on the back of the sampler, then transcribed to a paper key with thread type and width noted for each.

You could frame your finished sampler as we did or simply tack it to the wall or a bulletin board nearby your machine. 

With all their pretty colors, these little pieces of thread art are just fun to have on hand, and maybe, when that next project comes along, all those amazing decorative stitches your sewing machine includes won't be so easily forgotten. 

Thinking of picking a stitch or two... or three already? Check out these other articles about decorative stitching as well as some of the projects on which we've featured some of our favorites.

Decorative Stiches: Love Them! Use Them!

Scandanavian Style Rustic Apron with Decorative Stitching

Decorative Stitch Sampler Pillow

Decorative Stitch Pillow Power

Belted Cross-Body Bag with Decorative Stitching

Scrappy Moroccan Style Deco Stitch Tea Towels

Ruffled End Pillowcases with Decorative Stitch Ribbon Accents


Here's a fun alternative from S4H visitor Jan Moss from the UK – a sampler turned into a tote bag! Thanks, Jan.


Comments (13)

Caroline S Loesch said:
Caroline S Loesch's picture

Hi ..I have a Janome S5 ...I tried to use the different stiches on my quilt which is sandwiched and I have been using the walking foot.  When the stich start for about 2 inch into the pattern the stich start to change.  For instance the snow flake...then theres only 3 or 4 little lines to make the snow flake or it will be too close one to another.  What is going on?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Caroline - I'm so sorry, but that's a really hard one to troubleshoot long distance. It certainly sounds like the fabric isn't feeding as smoothly as it should, but with a Walking foot, it should move well - even with multiple layers. The fabric should move itself with little help from you, and if possible, use the start-stop button rather than the foot control to insure your feeding and speed are consistent. Maybe try a few tests on some layered up scraps. If you still have issues, you should probably have your dealer take a look.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@hal - have fun - decorative stitches are super cool

Dorothy Schreffler said:
Dorothy Schreffler's picture

I love the decorative stitches and have used them on many of my projects.  Is there a CD or something like that for other machines?  My machine is in the DC series and it is a real workhorse and I love it so I'm not really in the market for a new machine at this time.  But, I do love all of the decorative stitches and would love to have them to use on other projects I'm working on.  Is this possible?  Thank you!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Dorothy Schreffler - Importing decorative stitches into a non-embroidery model is not possible at this time. But, we have passed along your question to our friends at Janome, and they will make sure to talk to Janome R&D in Japan about the option. That would be cool, wouldn't it?

Susan said:
Susan 's picture

I love the decorative stitches but I don't use them because there always distorted or skipped stitches. This is especially problematic on long rows like hems. Unlike a regular stitch they can't be ripped out or stared over perfectly. After I have spent so long creating an item the LAST thing I want to do with my fancy machine is ruin it with a bad run of a decorative stitch!

Jan Milton said:
Jan Milton's picture

Thank you for all these great stitches and colors.  I have a Janome 7700 and I plan to practice more of the great stitches tis machine has.  They would make great throw pillows and especially variegated thread.

Jan Milton said:
Jan Milton's picture

I really like what you have done with the stitches.  I have a Janome 7700 and I plan on trying more of the great stitches this on this machine.  They would certainly make pretty throw pillows.  Veriegated threads are so much fun to use!

Chris Wilson said:
Chris Wilson's picture

I could totally see using several rows of decorative stitches around a neckline or sleeve edge to tame any flyaway facings.  I'll have to keep it in mind for my next top.

Jane Coombs said:
Jane Coombs's picture

The stitches that have the color variation, was that achieved by changing the thread or by using a variegated thread?

thx.Lovely project.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Jane Coombs - that is variegated thread - some rayon, some polyester