Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Took a Break

For severe sinus issues! It's been a long week.

I've been trying to chart out the kudzu and it's taking a little longer than I thought, I mean it's jus a vining leaf, how hard can that be, but charting is a pain in the butt. If you know a cross stitch designer, give them a big hug and tell them how much you appreciate their work because charting is not fun. At least not fun for me.

I got on the old laptop with missing keys, I really need to get a new keyboard, but hey it's a recession, we will just deal with it as is for the time being, anyway, I tried playing around in my Patternmaker software. Still didn't come up with a useable chart.

I do believe I know what I'm going to do, and will probably go back to charting by hand which isn't all that awful. It's just a stinkin' leaf. I am thinking that I want to make the border fuller at the bottom, nice clusters of leaves, I mean it is kudzu and I was thinking that having it randomly cross the sampler might be fun since kudzu takes over where ever it's planted. But I don't know, still working that out, what might amuse me might be down right tacky when it comes to stitching it. I am very much intouch with my tacky side and must do everything I can to keep it out of the design process since I don't have the excuse of being a seven year old girl out on the frontier in the 1800s.

I am also have trouble deciding on a fabric, I'm thinking Silk Weaver's Days Gone By or Picture this Plus's Relic or Heritage would both be good choices but I also like Autumn Fields I think is the name, then again I like good old Vintage linen and it works with just about any color floss, at least from my experience.

So I'm back to the drawing board today and will hopefully have some kind of design progress by the end of the week.

Have you hugged your cross stitch designer today?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Things to Think About

I've decided I'm definitely going to use the kudzu border, the spousal unit commented that I should probably have it vining itself around a telephone pole and then anyone that looked at it would go, "Ahh kudzu." I don't know that I want a telephone pole on either side of my sampler, but it did create a picture in my mind of a brown pole peaking out of the top of a lush green leafy border, but seriously, I'm all for quirky but that's taking it a bit too far, then again maybe not, any drive through the south that's what you see along the highway.

I love Missy Ann's suggestion of using the Kudzu WDW thread.

I'm also trying to decide where to begin my sampler. I'm thinking with my dad's parents. They were the single greatest influence in my life. Everything that's good in me came from them. Mamaw and Papaw were without a doubt the two most important people in my life.

On the design front, and I hope to have pages to show you all by the first of next week so you can see how I'm charting this out, and a lot of the charting is being done by hand. If I'm using pieces of charts I'm making a working copy, cutting off the part of the chart I need and then I plan to glue each section to a piece of printer paper and then make a copy of that. I'm sure there's an easier way, Lord knows I will take the hard way every single time, but right now this is what makes the most sense to me and I can move things around at the moment. I hope before I get too far along I have an "aha" moment and find an easier more efficient way to do this but right now I'm kind of enjoying the process. I've also thought about putting up a bulletin board to work off of too.

I'm thinking I'll start with my dad's parents, I guess I should mention my mother's parents but I wasn't that close to them--so maybe I'll stitch their names near my mom's or something like that. I was thinking I could maybe do my mom's name and then underneath do a tombstone with her parents names on there since they have both passed on(does that seem cold?). I could do the same for my dad's parents but would add more about them, like a Masonic emblem and maybe a Shriner's Fez for my Papaw and an Eastern Star symbol for my Mamaw and maybe a cross since both were devout Southern Baptists.

My dad was a Firefighter and my mom was employed by the University of TN. I don't think there's any way to make an orange U and T look tasteful but I'll see what I can do. I mean Go Big Orange, I have to use orange-- no way around it. I also worked at UT for about five years so it's kind of important to me to represent it somewhere on the sampler.

So these are things I'm pondering at the moment. The design can easily get out of control and I constantly find myself wanting to add more and more family and that's crazy. I need to keep it as simple as possible or I'll have a sampler the size of a wall.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


This morning I decided to sit down and finally decide just what I needed to do to get started on this sampler project. I need to determine how wide my fabric needs to be and I can't do that until I make a few foundational decisions. One major decision that I thought I could leave until the end is the border. So I'm a bit slow. If I want a wide fabulous floral border that one might find on Scarlet Letter's Jane Atkinson I need to definitely plan for that. It's not a fly by the seat of the pants kind of decision and in all honesty I haven't put a lot of thought in the border as I've been so absorbed with what information I want to include on the sampler. Another option is the viney type of border one can see on the Examplar Dames - And They Sinned. Click on the image to make it bigger.
Since I'm from Tennessee the vine border might be more appropriate as I've been informed over that years that all the kudzu one sees along the highways and byways of middle and west Tennessee, choking out all the indigenious vegetation, was planted by my great-grandfather and a couple of great uncles. The state of Tennessee supposedly paid them to do this. I have no proof of this other than my Mamaw's stories, but it seems as though a nice lush vine border resembling kudzu might be a nice tribute to my great grandfather James Sparks(1884-1967). So I guess I'll be googling up kudzu and seeing if I can manage to chart off a section of vine to test stitch.
Another vexing issue is what to put across the top of the sampler. I've been thinking about something along the lines of the angel that Anna stitched here:
But I'm also partial to several others, the angel at the top of Kathy Barrick's Sarah Hook:
Carriage House Samplings - Old Favorites--scroll down for a look at Sarah or
Primitive Needle's Hornbook Angel or those wonderful funky angels at the top of Primitive Needle's The Dampy Sod. I'm a bit partial to Dampy Sod angels and may end up using them but at the same time, are these images being true to who I am? I'm not exactly a church goer. So I pulled out my handy dandy copy of Sampler Motifs and Symbolism: Patricia Andrle, Lesley Rudnicki: Bo and it says and I quote, "Angel: the messengers or attendants of God. In recent time, the angel has become a symbol of guardianship."
This is definitely something to ponder. Since I haven't set foot in a church for anything other than weddings or funerals in the last 20 something years maybe an angel across the top sends out a different message about who I am. On the other hand, there is something so comforting about the idea of the angel or angels at the top of my sampler because even though I don't attend church, I believe very deeply in angels and the spirits of those who have passed on being nearby. In the case of using the Dampy Sod babes I would like to think of them as representing my cousin Amy who was killed on her wedding day by a drunk driver and my Mamaw, who passed away a couple of years ago watching over my life. Amy was taken too soon and my Mamaw had a long life, in my opinion she was also taken too soon but since she was in her 80s when she died it's hard to argue that point.
I think the symbolism for me, the stitcher of this piece, the connection with loved ones that have passed on might make the angels work from the "angel as guardian" aspect.
This weekend I'll be researching good old kudzu and angels and other ideas for the top of my sampler. I need to make a solid decision on these points so that I can then make a decision about fabric width and type. I'm leaning towards using good old flax but there's this part of me that aches to use a cut of Days Gone By or Relic. I am planning the length of my fabric to be a linear yard of a 36ct, the width to be detemined. Flax for me is definitely more budget friendly and I could also opt for a cream and then coffee or tea stain it myself. Of course while I am usually a bit of a rebel and my philosophy is my stitching is for me right now and I don't care if my needlework survives 10 years or 100 years for this project I think I'm going to try to be as archivally responsible as humanly possible.

Friday, March 20, 2009


A few years ago I discovered Scarlet Letter's Margaret Gibson Sampler. I was beyond excited because my maiden name is Gibson. There are no samplers in my family's attic. It seems that on my mother's side and my father's side lots of items were lost over the years to fire. At least that's the story I always heard when my mother or mamaw would mention that this or that ancestor was a quilter or embroideress, yet their work no longer existed. Finding a sampler with my last name on it made me all tingly and happy inside. I went in search of other samplers with any of my family names on them and have tracked down two more, The Hannah Gibson Sampler by Simply Samplers(scroll down on the page) and The Laura Parker Sampler by Rose Tree Samplers(scroll down).

I love reproduction samplers. Years ago when I found the very first issue of Sampler & Antique Needlework Quarterly magazine I realized that other people "got" it. They saw the connection between today's stitchers and the past.

I have always had a fascination with life back in the old days. Especially life on the American Frontier. When I think about how much work housekeeping is today with all these conveniences at our disposal and then visualize women working their fingers to the bone doing laundry, working in the fields, cooking, making clothes, taking scraps to make quilts not because they are a pretty bedcovering and they loved nothing better than cutting fabric into smaller pieces and sewing them back together but if they didn't make time to make these blankets the family could freeze during the winter months. I could go on and on but I'm drifting away from the subject at hand-the sampler.

Samplers served many purposes, teaching young women their ABCs and 123s, recording family trees, and Bible study. Samplers were used as patterns for monograming or decorative embroidery on household linens. There were mourning samplers, stitched in memory of a loved one who has passed on. Rarely were samplers used as wall decoration as they are today.

Many stitchers today are in love with reproduction samplers but as much as they love them, and believe me when I say there are stitchers who have stitched 20, 30, 100 of these reproduction samplers, sometimes stitching someone else's name on your work gets old. Sure little Emily Jones stitched her sampler in the year 1841, but you are the one stitching it now. Stitchers don't want to add their name to a reproduction sampler, it's just not something that's widely done. I add this because I'm sure there are a few repro sampler stitchers that don't think twice about bumping little Emily's name from the sampler and stitching their own and that's fine but it's not really a repro after that.

This brings me to The 21st Century Sampler Project. Samplers are no longer a learning tool or a pattern reference for today's stitcher. Now stitchers find themselves stitching samplers because they love the traditional style. They love the often times funky artwork. They love the connection they have between the stitchers of the past and stitchers today.

What I hope to do with the 21st Century Sampler Project is to give the sampler a new purpose. After my discovery of the Margaret Gibson Sampler I began to plot out my own History of Melissa sampler. When I started searching for samplers with family names, I thought even though these samplers have our family names on them there is no real family tie to these stitchers of old.

The last few years have seen a surge in the popularity of scrapbooking. Crafters have discovered the importance of telling their family's stories, preserving them for future generations. People are tracking their family history at Ancestry.com.

I want to tell my story, my family's story, with needle and thread. It's my medium. I'm not a scrapbooker, I'm a failed scrapbooker. My family doesn't know me as mom the scrapbooker, they know me as mom the stitcher. It only makes sense that I leave my family their history written with needle and thread. Sure I've got Rubbermaid buckets full of pictures and one day they will find themselves stuck to acid free museum approved paper but only when I can no longer see the holes in my fabric.

My goal with this project is to create a Story of My Life sampler. One that my family can look at and say, we used to live at that address, or so and so passed away on this date. Sort of a reinvention of the sampler for today. Taking the tradition to the next level, giving it a new purpose.

I hope that other stitchers will join me in this project because one day when our decendants are going through our old needlework, don't you think they are going to wonder where little Emily Jones fits in the family tree? When they start sending things off to be carbon dated aren't they going to wonder why the sampler says 1841 but the carbon dating concludes it was in fact stitched in 2009?

And what about there being 550+ stitched Emily Jones samplers scattered across the country or world even? What does that say about our generation? Yes our ancestors stitched using patterns passed down from grandmother to mom to daughter, and yes there were commercial patterns available and there are stitchers who attended the same school and created similar samplers, but for the most part samplers were original works, the stitcher decided what story she wanted to tell with her sampler be it the story of Adam and Eve or being a virtuous woman, or as a celebration of everlasting life in Heaven. Whatever her choice, rarely do you find two samplers exactly alike. It's time we stitchers took back a bit of that originality.

Over the next few months, probably years, I want to share my progress as I create my own sampler. I am not in any way a designer and in all honesty I love nothing better than a chart that provides a stitch count, suggested fabric and threads all laid out there for me, but it's time to reclaim the sampler and spend a little time creating not just copying. I'll share my sources for patterns and fonts and if I end up designing a bit on my own I'll share what has inspired me.

Will you join me in this project? Let's leave future generations a piece of ourselves, our history.