For our interview this month we sit and stitch with Mary! It is wonderful to hear Mary’s stitching story and see her beautiful samplers and stitching. We hear about how she got started and how she enjoys stitching with her online group each week. Mary’s stitching is truly inspiring!
Mary, how old were you when you first picked up a needle and who taught you to stitch?
*The first time I remember picking up a needle and thread was at Girl Scout camp when I was seven or eight – I embroidered my cat pillow on left over upholstery fabric. I did a few embroideries after that, from there I tried needlepoint. Then I picked up a little Dimension “Take Along” cross stitch kit when I was about 15 or 16 and was hooked on cross stitch!
I am self-taught. About 15 years ago I went to my first needlework show and took classes and learned lots of finer points and some great techniques and specialty stitches. It was a thrill to be around people who shared my love of needlework! It was like pouring gasoline on the fire of my needlework addiction. Over the years I have taught family, friends and co-workers how to stitch. Thankfully some are addicted as well so we have great co-dependent relationships!
Do you recall what was the first sampler that you stitched?
*I think the first sampler I did was The Practical Sampler by The Sampler House. I remember struggling with the strawberry in Hollie Point stitch at the bottom and finally gave up and put my initials.
When do you find time to stitch? Do you sit in a set place and what tools do you like to have on hand?
*My favorite stitching time is Sunday afternoons, I stitch with my Facebook friends, chat and enable stash enhancement! I look forward to it every week! Most nights after dinner I try to stitch for a couple hours, unless it was a bad day at work and I’m afraid I’m going to mess up and create a night of frogging for the next night. I stitch in the living room on the love seat, usually the TV is on and I’m listening/half watching a TV show or the Boston Bruins or Red Sox play.
I work in hand most of the time, so the only tools I need are my project, my light, scissors, and readers. I rely on the Proper Stitch, Eileen Bennett’s Red & Blue Book of Sampler Stitches and Mary Corbet YouTube videos for references. I used to spend so much time looking for my scissors because I would either put them down next to me on the couch, on the arm of the couch, on the end table, etc. Last year I bought a magnetic scissors pendant and it has made life so much easier and productive!
Do you use the stick and stab technique, or a sewing stitch?
*I stick and stab. Occasionally if I’m filling a large area I will use a sewing stitch.
Do you prefer to stitch in hand, or with a hoop or frame?
*I prefer to stitch in hand, no hoop.
What is your favorite linen and thread?
*I love Lakeside Linens, and I generally prefer 36 count or higher linens. I love NPI and AVAS silks, but my wallet doesn’t! My fiber choice is frequently determined by price and how important the piece is to me. I use cat fur as a specialty fiber on most projects, no matter how diligent I am!
Do you like specialty stitches and have a favorite?
*I love specialty stitches. I like the queen stitch, bullion stitches, and detached buttonhole (I know, you all think I’m crazy!). I recently took on the trellis stitch on Judeth Payne – that was a challenge but eventually mastered it well enough to finish the sampler thanks to YouTube videos and lots of practice on a doodle cloth.
Judeth Payne – Scarlet Letter
I worked Mary Atwood in reversible stitching; that was a challenge I don’t think I want to take on again.
Mary Atwood – The Examplarery
What is your favourite period of sampler-making and why?
*Seventeenth century English band samplers are my favorite. I love the colors, stitches, textures and mad skills these samplers display.
Which designs appeal to you the most?
*Band samplers are my favorite. You have a sense of accomplishment when you finish each band, and if you don’t enjoy stitching a band, you only have to stick with it through the band. Although the past year or so I’ve really been drawn to Adam and Eve samplers and am building a stash of those now too! I’m a sucker for any design with a cow or a cat!
I’m drawn to color, texture and the overall design, I prefer samplers that aren’t symmetrical and balanced leading me to believe choices were made as she went along.
Pretty Cow – Scarlet Letter
Has working with reproduction samplers given you any new insight into the lives of the girls and women in the 17-18-19th centuries that you did not realize before?
*I love stitching reproduction samplers. By the end of the sampler I usually feel a connection to the young lady who created it. I am sometimes amused by some choices she’s made or frustrated by her skill and talent as I struggle to master a new stitch or technique. I am awed by the beauty and mastery in these talented ladies’ work, especially when I think about the tools and lighting they had!
I remember history lessons in school were always about significant events or players from the past (who were predominantly men), so women’s lives were seldom discussed or thought of. Reproduction samplers have broaden my perspective on the role of women then and now.
How do you display your stitched samplers? Do you frame them? Hang them singularly or in groupings?
*I have so many unframed pieces, it’s a crime. When I was younger, I only framed things I made as gifts. I didn’t frame what I had made for my pleasure because of the expense and I wanted to spend the money on more designs, linen and fibers. I have been working on getting a few framed at a time, so eventually I hope to get them most of them framed – hopefully I’ll have the wall space for them!!
Coraggio – Scarlet Letter
Ann Scutt – Scarlet Letter
If you can pick just one, which is your favorite sampler that you stitched? And why?
*Wow, that’s a tough question! I don’t have just one. I love Summer Arbor by The Drawn Thread. I love this one because my Mom started it and I finished it and gifted it back to her. It’s the only piece that we both worked on and to me represents our shared love of needlework and each other.
Summer Arbor – The Drawn Thread
My other favorite is Ann Bowers from The Examplarery. I love the colors and composition of Ann. She just makes me happy when I look at her.
Ann Bowers – The Examplarery
What sampler are you currently working on now? What do you most enjoy about it?
*I have four samplers in my rotation now, I’m doing the Ann Lawle SAL, And They Sinned and Elizabeth Gooch (The Examplarery), and Loara Standish (The Examplarery). I need to start doing smaller sized projects!
I’m enjoying Ann! I’ve had her in my stash for years but was very intimated by the cutwork and would always put it back into the stash when selecting a project. It’s nice to work on it with a group of people, there is safety in numbers!
Ann Lawle – Scarlet Letter
I bought And They Sinned shortly after it came out and that also sat in my stash for a long time, because it’s size. In 2015 I finally started it. I tried to finish this one before I started Loara Standish but I didn’t quite make it.
And They Sinned – Examplars from the Heart
I took the class for Elizabeth Gooch this past winter at Annie’s Christmas in Williamsburg. It’s a wonderful sampler with free hand embroidery on the right and left border of the sampler. The colors are delicious! I don’t do a lot of embroidery so it will be a good challenge to shore up those skills.
Elizabeth Gooch- The Examplarery
I started Loara Standish with my Facebook friends on May 15th. I have decided I am stitching her the non-reversible method because I want to enjoy her and stitching her reversible will make the project feel like work.
What other hobbies or interests do you enjoy?
*I enjoy reading. My favorite authors are Jodi Picoult and Janet Evanovich, but right now I’m trying to read Go Tell the Watchman by Harper Lee, but I’m having a difficult time getting into it.
I’ve done some genealogy work to trace back my Mom’s side of the family. A distant Aunt traced back my Dad’s side already. Unfortunately, I’ve hit a wall and tend to reach for stitching instead of tracing my roots, but I do want to get back to it.
Thank you so much, Mary, for sharing your story and your stitching with us all! Your samplers are so beautiful and equally inspiring for us all. We look forward to watching your projects grow!
We are all so fortunate that the internet and social groups such as facebook have given us the opportunity to meet other like-minded stitching friends and share that love virtually!