When we started learning embroidery last term, we each made a sampler as a record of different stitches.
Using a sewing machine, we sewed two pieces of cotton muslin together, and then divided it into sections. We then stuffed some sections individually with a small amount of wadding, before embroidering. The wadding helps stretch out the fabric and maintain tension without using an embroidery hoop. It also adds a third dimension and textural interest.
I find my sampler a very useful reminder of the different stitches and combinations without having to constantly refer to books or notes.