The Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

Here’s a little project that went so fast, I never got a chance to show you anything in progress. Plus, it was all hush-hush because it was a gift for my father. Even though he totally knew about it. Anyway, Dad is, let’s just be honest here, a math nerd. He studied and taught math stuff (fancy math, not addition and subtraction, and don’t ask more because I don’t really know) and he gets geeky about it the way I get geeky about yarn. What are you gonna do?

Since I make samplers, modern samplers and whatnot, he asked me to make one for him, of a ‘magic square’. I suppose other math nerds will already know what he was talking about, but for the rest of us: a magic square looks a bit like a sudoku board, but the point is that every row / column / diagonal in it has to have the same sum. Apparently, there’s not many, and the one he wanted embroidered is the ‘classic’ magic square. If you want to know more, there’s a crap-ton of information here. (There’s a lot of info there, I haven’t even read it all myself.)

I sort of waited too long to get this started, so I was desperately stitching on – and past – his birthday, but I also had a little mis-hap.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

I got as far as four numbers stitched when I decided I really hated it. It seemed good on paper: the cute fabric, pearl cotton, blues – except that the more I looked at it, the more it looked like it belonged in a little’s boy room, teaching him his numbers. Sigh. So I started from scratch with more grown-up materials.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

Ah, much better. I was fine with the stitches I used in the first version, or at least a couple of them, so I (re-)started there. Then just sat with a stack of my stitch dictionaries and flipped until I found the right stitch for each number.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)
Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

There were a couple of do-overs – like the 5 I did entirely in tiny satin stitch, only to decide it was lumpy and pull it all out. Picking stitches for each letter / number on a sampler is both incredibly frustrating and extremely rewarding. The 5 in satin stitch would’ve been lovely, but it was way too difficult to get the curve exactly right, especially on a fairly loosely woven linen like this (from IKEA). Some stitches work better on curves, some look great on straight lines. Sometimes you can tell just by looking at it, sometimes you have to do a little trial-and-error and risk wasting time.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)
Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

For the most part, I used 4 strands to make the numbers a bit more chunky (and manly!) than, say, my Sajou sampler. And if you’d like to know which stitch I used where, here’s a little list (from top left to bottom right):

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

4 = coral stitch, 9 = raised chain stitch band, 2 = chain stitch, 3 = threaded backstitch, 5 = twisted chain stitch, 7 = fern stitch, 8 = threaded chain stitch, 1 = Portuguese stem stitch, 6 = double buttonhole stitch. The grid is just simple split stitch, and then I did a herringbone ladder stitch border around the whole to frame it. (Thanks to encouragement from some lovely Tweeters and Instagrammers. I wasn’t so sure about that herringbone border, but they convinced me it was good enough. Thanks, guys!)

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

4 Comments on The Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

  1. cherryandcinnamon
    March 24, 2012 at 14:44 (5 years ago)

    love the linen version, you were right to change the fabric. This is beautiful. You’re dad is going to LOVE it!

    Reply
    • julie
      March 27, 2012 at 08:09 (5 years ago)

      Yes, I think he did, actually! I was quite pleased with myself. ;) Thanks so much!

      Reply

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