Mixed Media · Stitching · Workshops & Courses

Patchwood Samplers

This summer I’ve been all-consumed with my second epic crochet project of the year (more on that coming soon). Consequently, there’s been little time for other creative pursuits, so it was great last Saturday to be back at my happy place, Anne Brooke’s Shed 76½, to meet my stitchy friends and try something a little different.

Ali Ferguson was the tutor for the ‘Patchwood Samplers’ workshop. We’d be making embroidered vintage haberdashery style samplers from repurposed wood. Here’s a couple of Ali’s own examples…


Aren’t they lovely? The more you look, the more you see. Here’s a closer view.


Everything was provided but we were encouraged to bring some of our own items to make our samplers personal. I grabbed a few bits and bobs from my sewing box, without a particular plan in mind, happy to let the piece evolve.

The first job was to sand, paint and arrange our wooden blocks. My starting point for a theme was a little reel of vintage Perivale pure silk thread and I wanted to create a ‘window’ to display it. Aligning the blocks turned out to be more complicated than it looks. As well as the shapes, you have to consider the amount of contact between blocks so that the sampler will have enough strength.


My thread had red text on the reel and I rummaged for something to pick this out. I have a whole load of ’70s Pikaby buttons that I bought very cheaply at a haberdashery clearance earlier in the year and their red backing card was just the ticket.


They worked well with the pale green/grey layered paint too and gave me a colour theme to work with.


Ali had brought a delightful selection of fabric, trims, threads and notions that we could use in addition to our own and we spent some time gathering and considering what might go where before permanently attaching the blocks together. I was keen to represent crochet and stitch on mine, reflecting my own interests as well as providing memories of my seamstress Grandma.


Meanwhile Ali demonstrated how to use the drills. Not something I’ve used before. I’m generally a low tech kind of girl – but it turns out I really love a power tool! Under Ali’s expert guidance, the first aid kit was thankfully not required.


We cracked on after lunch, arranging, sticking, drilling and stitching.


Ali kept us focused and we were all very productive. Everybody had pretty much finished a few hours later. Here’s mine ready to hang. I need to get it on the wall as soon as possible as the cat is finding it tremendous fun. No problem for me now that I’m trained in drilling!


Considering we all started with six blocks, the configurations were all so different! This one is Sharon’s. She’s included her house number cut from tape measure scraps.


Below is Natalie’s. I love the movement of the dangling threads.


Janice was adventurous with the stitching on hers. Look at that beautifully neat herringbone. That takes some thinking about when you’re working through such thickness!


Louise’s is full of memories and highly personal with items from her Mum’s and Grandma’s sewing boxes. There’s even part of a post-war clothing ration book. Louise is a knitter and added a little piece of garter stitch on some needles.


This one has a beach theme.


Here’s some of the others. I think they are all so charming and interesting.



A big thank you to Anne, Ali and Neve (delicious cake!) for a great day. Ali is based in Scotland at the Purple Thread Shed but also gets out and about to various locations in the UK and beyond to teach at workshops and retreats. Check out her website for more details and be sure to read about her wonderful patchwood commission too.







4 thoughts on “Patchwood Samplers

  1. Thank you Liz for writing such a great blog post about the workshop. I was gutted that I couldn’t attend so it’s great to see your photographs.
    I was thrilled to meet Ali when she arrived on the Friday afternoon. She is lovely, I bet you all had a great time.
    Hope to see you again soon.
    Lynn x


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