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Burlap “Sampler” – Stitching Project

There is something very calming and soothing about stitching on fabric… even my 5th grade boys love it! I usually find that in a class of 25, there might be 3 or 4 girls who have some experience with stitching by hand, and for everyone else it’s brand new. What a valuable life skill to learn! (I may have to do this project at home with my husband!) 
The early settlers in Colonial times brought this craft from Europe to America in the form of quilting, family trees and samplers. I also like to show my students examples (mostly photos) of embroidery from China, Japan, India and Bangladesh. You can google “embroidery” along with the name of almost any culture and find interesting examples of stitching throughout history.


  • 9″x12″ burlap
  • Blunt tapestry needle
  • Ruler and pencil
  • Yarn (variety of colors)
  • White paper or card stock, 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″
  • Scissors

Embroider – to decorate cloth by sewing patterns on it with thread

1. Peel away a few strands of burlap from each edge to give you a solid rectangle with square corners…. and fringe!
2. Lay your ruler along each edge and draw an outline about an inch inside your fringe. Go over this line a few times if necessary to make it dark enough to see.
3. Cut a piece of yarn about 4 feet long and thread your needle, making a knot at one end.

4. Do a “running stitch” over your pencil line to form a border. Try to keep your stitches equal in length and resist pulling them too tight!

5. Now, draw a simple outline shape on your paper and cut it out. Center this template on your burlap and trace around it.

6. Finally, use a variety of stitches and colors to complete your design. (If you can’t finish your project in one session, keep some yarn in your needle and weave it through your burlap to keep it from getting lost.)

The running stitch, back stitch, and satin (or straight) stitch were used on this “sampler” and are easy to learn. A quick Google search will help you find the stitches you want to teach your students.

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  1. does every student make a fish? If no – what other subjects do your students make – I would love to see some student examples.

  2. i once used burlap a lot and now I can't find it to buy it, michael's and ac moore dont' have it?? do you use an online source, I love the project.

  3. These are fun. I do a burlap weaving project with my 3rd graders (pull strings and replace with woven patterns of yarn) and they love it. I order the burlap from Nasco or School Specialty.
    I'm just starting my own blog called There's a Dragon in my Art Room and I hope your readers will take a look and comment/critique at http://plbrown.blogspot.com/

  4. Tishalou, my students can work with whatever simple shape they like… a bird, sun, heart, star, etc. We're taking a break to make Mother's Day cards, but I'll post more pics when they finish!

  5. I buy my burlap from a local craft/fabric shop, but good to know that Nasco and School Specialty carry it. Love the weaving idea, Phyl!

  6. I love this project. With Grade 1 I have the kids embroidery their name. The stitching projects then get more complicated the higher the grade. They all seem to thoroughly enjoy it no matter what their age…boys too.
    Love your example!

  7. Hello, Thank you for your idea and for the instructions, it makes things so much easier!


  8. I love this project and I’m looking for good ideas for my grandchildren ages five and seven

    1. I’m so glad you love this project. How fun that you’re doing art with your grandkids! I hope you find lots of good ideas here on my website!