Allison Dey Malacaria, CEO (Chief Embroidery Officer) of SweaterDoll, teaches stitching in Australia, writes for national craft magazines, and designs embroidery and sewing patterns for low-tech, artful YOU time. Where to begin on your embroidery journey? Allison has developed Embroidery School at SweaterDoll, a free visual learning series with downloadable samplers to use.

Here Allison gives you tips for how to create a practical and beautiful new tablecloth for your home! It’s a great hand sewing project for summer months at the beach or in the yard, or a perfect project for cozy fall and winter evenings at home. Enjoy!

Need a stitch guide? Here’s our Pocket Stitch Guide. Looking for more embroidery and hand-sewing projects? We have a great selection!

It all started with a stamped cross-stitch potholder my grandmother gave me when I was a child. Embroidery was the first form of stitchery I learned. I loved that I could make pictures out of something as simple as needle and thread. A few months ago, I began to create pre-printed embroidery patterns and started to sell them locally; I realized there were a lot of women who wanted to embroider but didn’t know how. That’s how my Embroidery School blog teaching series was born.

The stitches I teach can be used in the many beautiful patterns available from many makers and designers, lots of whom you will find here on the Sew Mama Sew site. But I also love the idea of just playing around without a complex pattern, creating something practical, artful and maybe a little unusual. I thought I would share how I am creating a sampler tablecloth out of basic stitches so you can make one of your own.

First I pulled out some lovely, buttery cotton, homespun tablecloth fabric and traced some random circles using a 5″ embroidery hoop. I decided on a few basic patterns, stitches, and thread colors. Other fabrics can be used such as linen or hemp or even a plain, unadorned tablecloth from the thrift store.

So far this sampler tablecloth has eight circles using blanket stitch, satin stitch, cross stitch, french knots, lazy daisy stitch, running stitch, back stitch and chain stitch. The patterns for each can be easily reproduced from the photos or you can draw your own easy designs or stitch freehand and ring them with a simple running stitch.


  • If you trace 5″ circles (or use the provided patterns), you will need a 6″ or larger hoop
  • Embroidery needle
  • Various colors of embroidery floss
  • Cotton or other natural homespun or tablecloth fabric
  • Scissors
  • Pencil (or other transfer tool)

1. Decide where you want your circles. The best way is to simply cut out a bunch of paper circles and spread them out over the tablecloth. Once you have a symmetrical or random pattern you like, use the outer ring of a 5″ embroidery hoop and trace the inside this with a pencil. This makes the circle nice and even, rather than tracing around paper.

2. Follow the images shown or draw some easy designs using the stitches you’ve chosen to practice.

3. Transfer or trace the designs to the circles and stitch the designs, or simply embroider freehand and explore.

4. Use a running stitch to frame each circle.

Tips + Techniques:
Satin Stitch Sliver: I stitched the running stitch first in my satin stitch sliver sampler. Then I stitched another border to the sliver before filling in with satin stitch.

Lazy Daisy Stitch: This is not actually a random sprinkling of stitches. I traced over a vintage floral pattern and ignored the french knots and stem stitch lines from the pattern. What was left would have been the flower petals and leaves.

Cross Stitch Typography Letter: The “printed” letter is made using cross stitch laid down in four directions using four colors. First, stitch blue cross stitches diagonally. Next, stitch magenta, red or pink cross stitches diagonally in the opposite direction. The third layer is yellow running horizontally, and then finish with larger black crosses running vertically.

Blanket Stitch + Changing Threads:
To change color or if you run out of thread while working blanket stitch, bring the needle and floss down through the fabric at the bottom of a stitch. Leave a bit of a loose loop on top and leave the tail of the thread at the back (or bring it up temporarily some distance away just to hold it in place).

Thread the needle with the new color and bring it up from the back of the work at the top of the next stitch. Continue making this stitch as normal, pulling the old thread tightly enough to create the proper stitch tension.

Tie off the loose thread end at the back, or weave in the ends if you prefer the no-knot method.

This method for creating an artistic and unique sampler– using new and simple stitches– is a breeze. Sorting through all the tablecloths I’ve inherited, I found I desired one to go with a more modern, minimalist dining room. A few circles and a few simple stitches and you can make your own sampler tablecloth, throw, blanket or table runner. Use them around a Christmas tree as the skirt or even make one per tea towel for a gift set.

I will continue this project but, in the meantime, it is sitting on my worktable enjoying the early morning sun of an Australian winter’s day.