Welcome to Star Stitch

We at Kansas City Star Quilts are pleased to welcome you to our cross stitch imprint, Star Stitch. We publish beautiful and inspiring cross stitch books by top authors, with compelling designs and stories.

We have three cross stitch books available, with more on the way later this year.  From the Star Stitch blog, you can visit our bookstore, go to our other blog sites and learn how you can submit a book proposal (buttons on the top menu).  Also, read some fun blog posts and get to know our authors. Enjoy!

Precious memories — and a free download

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

When you think of the people at the top of the cross-stitch pyramid of success, you think of Ginnie Thompson, who brought the revival of cross stitch to America; Betty Ring, the great sampler aficionado and collector; and Pat Carson and Gloria Steele, whose Precious Moments charts ignited the cross-stitch craze in the 1970s and ’80s.

Pat Carson is truly one of the few remaining people who rode the tide of success when cross stitch was in its heyday. Pat is also a lovely and gracious lady with a generous and kind heart. Her cross-stitch journey has been lucrative, and her business, Designs by Gloria and Pat Inc., is still in operation after more than 41 years.

Pat learned embroidery as a girl, stitching stamped pillowcases.

Pat Carson

Pat Carson

“Every summer, we girls were given a hoop and a stamped pillowcase and a needle and thread,” she said. “I hated it.”

She was introduced to cross stitch when she was a military wife with two little girls and a son. To meet people in her new community, Pat joined a club and embarked on a journey that would change her life.

Pat met Gloria Steele at the Newcomer’s Club in Sumter, South Carolina. Gloria owned The Cross Stitch Cottage, a small embroidery shop, where she taught needlepoint and Japanese Bunka embroidery. At the time, Pat was doing macramé and making Dip and Drape dolls.Pat's Dip and Drape doll

Her new friend told her: “Pat, I’ve got a little room in the back. Why don’t you come and do some arts and crafts classes? We don’t have anything in Sumter like that.”

Pat started teaching in the back room of Gloria’s shop, and about three months later, somebody came into the shop with little cross-stitch ornaments.  Pat was immediately drawn to the ornaments.  She remembered the stamped pillowcases from her childhood.

“There was nothing printed on the fabric,” she said. “With this cross stitch, you were the artist. If you could follow the chart, you could do it. I thought, ‘Now that’s for me!’ ”

The ornaments came from The Hammock Shop in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.

“We got in the car the very next day and drove to Pawley’s Island and met Ginnie Thompson, the most gracious woman in the world,” she said. “We sat down in The Hammock Shop, on the side porch on a small settee, and she taught us her famous 10-second course in a hoop. She said, ‘One, two, three, four, cross them back, one, two, three, four. Now you know how to cross stitch, and that is all there is to it!’ ”

Ginnie decided she needed to do some research to find out where cross stitch came from and how it began. She found out it started in Copenhagen, Denmark. There was a school called Danish Handcraft Guild for Foreigners.

“Ginnie went to Denmark and took classes, and then she invited me and a few others,” Pat said. “We went for 15 years, and we learned all the techniques from cross stitch to pulled thread to drawn thread and so many of the techniques that I used later in teaching. For many years, I studied at the Danish Handcraft Guild. I have now taught in 10 different countries.”

Even the queen of Denmark did cross stitch. Pat remembers that she would visit the class from time to time.

“You presented your work to her as she came in after you curtsied,” she said. “You presented the back of your work, because your backs were always supposed to be as neat as your fronts.  She would look at it and smile, and if she didn’t say anything, it meant maybe you should improve a little bit. Or she might say, ‘That was very nice,’ which meant it was acceptable.”

For Pat, it was a joy to be able to go with Ginnie and Ken Thompson on those trips.DesignsbyGloria&Patlogo

In 1973, they started Gloria and Pat Originals.  They incorporated in 1975 and changed the name to Designs by Gloria and Pat Inc.

In 1974, Dorothy Downey invited them to the Southeastern Yarncrafters show in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We went and were shocked at how well we did,” Pat said. “We were very grateful to Dorothy Downey.”

Gloria and Pat joined the National Needlework Association. Pat was on the board for a year. They traveled to six or seven trade shows a year.

“When we were on the road, we would try to go to church if we could,” Pat said. “I decided to stay and take care of the show one morning, and Gloria, who was Catholic, went to St. Patrick’s. On the table at St. Patrick’s were two little cards with these children’s designs on them. They were Precious Moments cards.

“Gloria brought them back to the booth and said, ‘Pat, these are so precious!’  There was no name, no anything on them, and we had no idea they were called ‘Precious Moments,’ but they were the Precious Moments cards that Mr. Samuel J. Butcher had created for a line of Christian booksellers.

“We took them home with us. Gloria was having her bedroom redecorated, and the interior designer noticed them and said, ‘Where did you get those? We just got something in the mail that they are going to be producing Precious Moments figurines.’ That was how we found out what they were called.”

Samuel Butcher and Pat Carson

Samuel Butcher and Pat Carson

Pat called Grand Rapids, Michigan, and talked to Samuel Butcher, who invited them to Michigan. They charted those two little designs, then showed them to him. He leaned over the table and asked, “How did you do that?”

They signed the contract that next day. They were the first licensees to sign a contract with the company. Pat recently received an award at the Precious Moments Family Reunion in Carthage, Missouri, honoring her 35 years with the company.Pat receiving 35year award from Precious Moments

Pat used to store her books in a 29,000-square-foot warehouse.  In those days, an 18-wheeler from Wal-Mart backed up to the warehouse to take away 100,000 books at a time.

Hobby Lobby worked with Pat to design 15 exclusive titles. The first order was for 5,000 each.

“When I printed my first Precious Moments book, I thought, ‘I don’t know if it will sell,’ ” Pat said.

The women printed 25,000 copies, which were gone in two weeks. They printed 100,000 more, which also sold fast.

“We ended up printing 150,000 copies at a time,” Pat said. “Those were the glory days of cross stitch. But you have to remember that we were one of the first companies to print books, so people just bought it up. They were learning and excited, and they wanted something to stitch, so they bought everything that was cross stitch. So I was fortunate, because I was one of just a few. Everything that was printed, they wanted it.”

Gloria Steele died in 1984.

“Many people ask me why I kept her name,” Pat said. “She was my best friend, and I couldn’t have done it without her. I’ve kept her name all these years as a tribute to her.

“I believe God has a plan for all of us, and I met Gloria at a time when He knew I would need something I could do, and do well, to make enough money to raise my children and help others along the way. Cross stitch has taught me patience, how to teach, and how to accept others and their way of life. It has blessed me to help women in many other countries use this gift to earn money for their families, too.”

Pat Carson at home in front of her sampler wall

Pat stitching her design at homeFor 41 years, Pat has been active in contributing to women’s shelters, orphanages and children’s hunger efforts in the United States and the Philippines.

At 70, she is slowing down. She has trouble with arthritis and finds traveling too difficult. Her days of traveling to the Philippines are probably over, but her work there will never be done, she said.

“Right now, I’m just trying to pay back for all the good I’ve had all my life,” she said.Pat with Children in Philippines - 2

To find out more about her charities, visit her Facebook pages, “Pat Carson–Because YOU Count!” and “Precious Moments Collectors– Care, Share and Give,” and her website.

Pat keeps a pad of paper by her bed to write down the ideas she gets in the middle of the night. One night she wrote “Owl.”

“I had this idea to have a little kit that we could use to teach cross stitch,” she said. “It was very simple, and we gave it to whoever wanted to learn to stitch. We gave away 1.5 million owl kits in my lifetime.”Pat Carson Owl - Stitched out

That little owl taught a lot of people to cross stitch.  Pat and Gloria gave them to Girl Scouts and schools and made them available to retailers so they could teach everyone who wanted to learn how to cross stitch.

Pat has graciously provided us with that owl chart to give away. To download the chart, click here. (Be sure to download the file to your hard drive before attempting to print it out. You might not be able to simply open the PDF on your screen and print from there. Instead, please open it on your screen, then click the download button to load it on your hard drive. Once the PDF is on your hard drive, open your Adobe reader, find the file, click on it to open, then print it from there.)

Please feel free to share the owl chart, or better yet, in the giving spirit of Pat Carson and Gloria Steele, use it to teach someone to cross stitch.

Sue Fenwick is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield, Missouri. She writes every other Tuesday.

The lessons of history

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

It wasn’t easy being a little girl in the 18th and 19th centuries. The boundaries set for girls were severe by modern standards, with few opportunities for individuality or ambition. There were set roles and rules for women and girls, and it was rare for them to stray from the strict parameters.

Today, we idealize the image of the sweet child sitting at the feet of her fond teacher, happily stitching away. But the verses in these samplers reveal what may have been a harsher reality for those little girls.

Photo courtesy Vickie LoPiccolo Jennett and Maegan Jennett, from their book, "A Schoolroom Alphabet: Cross-Stitch Projects Based on an Antique ABC Handkerchief." www.pickledishstore.com/productDetail.php?PID=1414

Photo courtesy Vickie LoPiccolo Jennett and Maegan Jennett, from their book, “A Schoolroom Alphabet: Cross-Stitch Projects Based on an Antique ABC Handkerchief.” http://www.pickledishstore.com/productDetail.php?PID=1414

In the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, in an article “American Needlework in the Eighteenth Century,” Amelia Peck, of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, says, “The verses found on many samplers reinforced … the importance of female virtue, the value of education, and obedience to one’s parents and to God.”

She also writes, “The acceptance of death and the remembrance of the dead, including the sampler maker herself, is another frequent theme.”

Here’s a verse from 1825 that is rather grim for a little girl to ponder while she stitches.

“Come let us think on death
While we are young and gay
For God who gave us life and breath
Can take them both away.”
Ellen M. Barrett, Age 11, Staten Island, NY 1825

Photo courtesy Susan Mesick, www.rubylane.com/item/523892-0002093

Photo courtesy Susan Mesick, http://www.rubylane.com/item/523892-0002093

Compared to today, death was certainly more prevalent in 1825. Because people had to accept the idea of death at such an early age, they must have balanced that notion with prayer and praise as consolation and relief from fear. Religion was most definitely the guiding force then. However, in some verses, the sentiments hover between consolation and threat.

Children were taught to spend their youth diligently praying and praising God. These were virtues to which all “good” people aspired in the 19th century, and we find evidence of this in the verses stitched into student samplers from that era.  In the next example, the verse starts sweetly but ends in a foreboding tone.

“Let the sweet work of prayer and praise
Employ our youngest breath
Thus we prepare for longer days
Or fit for early death”
Elizabeth A. Thomas, Baltimore 1830


Photo courtesy Pia's Antique Gallery at Rubylane.com, www.rubylane.com/shop/piatik

Photo courtesy Pia’s Antique Gallery at Rubylane.com, http://www.rubylane.com/shop/piatik


The verse on Sarah Elizabeth Brooks’ sampler is something different. She starts out aspiring only to humility and poverty, admitting no ambition for herself, and ends asking God to grant her independence and freedom, if only in her own mind.

“No glory I covet no riches I want
Ambition is nothing to me.
The one thing I beg of good Heaven to grant
Is a mind independent and free.”
Sarah Elizabeth Brooks, 1842

Photo courtesy the Scarlett House, thescarletthouse.blogspot.com

Photo courtesy the Scarlett House, thescarletthouse.blogspot.com

I hope Sarah found the independence and freedom she coveted. Maybe it was her teacher who guided her as she wrote this verse?

In 1842, the year Sarah stitched her sampler, slavery was still widely accepted in both the North and the South, but the anti-slavery movement was rumbling. It is interesting to note that the first child labor laws were passed around that time in Massachusetts. Did Sarah feel sympathies when the child labor laws were passed?

At times I feel sad for the little girls who stitched the old samplers.  Their lives were so constricted by societal convention.  I wonder if they enjoyed their stitching lessons or felt confined by them?

We are lucky to live in an era where needlework has become a leisure art and pleasant pastime. How will the verses in our samplers be interpreted in 200 years?

Sue Fenwick is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield, Missouri. She writes every other Tuesday.

Cross stitchers of the future

By Sue Fenwick

Back in the day, when a woman’s worth was measured by her ability to stitch and mend and sew, needlework was a compulsory part of every girls’ education.

We see samplers from 200 years ago by girls as young as 6 years old, and we marvel at their proficiency with the needle and thread. Today, we rarely see needlework completed by little girls. Cross stitch and the needle arts have become a leisure activity for women.

Amy Morrow of Ward, Arkansas, a parent teacher with the Cabot Christian Home School Co-op, is taking steps to change that. Amy is teaching children to cross stitch.

Amy and her husband, Michael, have three children, Olivia, 11; Mackenzie, 9; and Isaac, 5. All three are home-schooled.

“We are part of the Cabot Christian Home School Co-op,” Amy said. “It is a large co-op, so our children can have class time with other children. So with other home-school families, we get together and the moms and dads all pitch in and teach classes. The kids get exposed to all different sorts of things.”

Hard at workAmy has been stitching for as long as she can remember, probably 25 years. Her mother, who works at Leisure Arts in Maumelle, Arkansas, taught her to cross stitch. In high school and college, Amy was a pattern tester for Leisure Arts.

Amy is an accomplished, long-standing cross stitcher with years of experience, so it makes sense that she would teach others. The great thing about Amy’s class, though, is that all of her students are children. Amy wanted to bring cross stitch to as many kids as she possibly could.

“It’s exciting to see their little faces light up when they get it,” she said. “I had quite a few kids take the class, which thrilled me. To see them enjoy it was great.”

First Finish for cross stitch studentBecause an hour a week isn’t enough time to get a whole lot done, the kids took their projects home with these instructions: “If you get a knot, or get stuck or confused, stop and bring it back on Monday and we will work on it in class.”

“They did fantastic and were very motivated to keep going,” Amy said. “It was wonderful.”

Cross stitch studentsShe had a beginning and an intermediate class. One student had done needlework before.

For the beginning class, she used a freebie pattern, a simple birdhouse with vines around the edge, from Wichelt Imports Inc. that she had in her files. The pattern had just a few color changes, so it was easier for the students. As an incentive, the local needlework shop gave a charm embellishment for every finished project.

Happy young stitcher with finished projectAmy had 16 children in the six-week session. One has ventured into design and charting.

“She had done needlework before, and she would show me her graph paper at class,” she said. “She would design her own charts during the week and bring me the things she had worked on that she had designed herself. That was exciting to see.”

Three girls finished their birdhouses, and several others are almost finished. Overall, the responses were very positive.

“Once I got started and got used to it, it was easy,” one student said.

“Cross stitching is awesome!” another said.

The one boy in the classes was not quite sure he liked it.

“I kinda like it, I kinda don’t,” he said. “I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again.”

His older sister was in the older kids’ class and liked it, so he thought he would try it.

“I thought that was absolutely fantastic that he tried it,” Amy said.

coloring the chartShe will teach a “History of Antique Samplers” class in January. She wants her students to hear about 6-year-olds who stitched samplers.

“Kids today don’t have to sew their own clothes or darn their stockings,” she said. “Just threading a needle is a new experience for modern girls and boys, so those kinds of things are frustrating to kids when they are trying to learn cross stitch. I also want them to learn what it was about.

“The old samplers all have such history behind them, and I want to pass that on to the children.”

Smiling little girl studentIt’s wonderful to see the smiling faces of these children and to see how proud they are of their beautiful needlework. If we want the needlework industry to flourish, we should all teach children to stitch.

Amy Morrow is a great example for us all.

Sue Fenwick is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield, Missouri. She writes every other Tuesday.

Meeting the challenge

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sherry Ibidii is 63 and has four grown children and six grandchildren. She enjoys history, especially early American history, family history and genealogy. She loves crafting and cross stitch.

Sherry is also legally blind.

Sherry Ibidii

Sherry Ibidii

Sherry was born eight weeks early. While in the incubator, she suffered from fibrovascular proliferation, which caused serious damage to her eyes, including fibrous scar tissue.

“Basically, my eyes blew a gasket, but I was fortunate in that my right eye was not as badly damaged as my left,” said Sherry, who lives in Clearlake, California. “Most kids are completely blinded by that, and I have about 1 percent vision in my left eye.”

Sherry Ibidii_nice headshot stitching poseShe is now down to 40 percent vision in her right eye.

Her distance prescription today is -12.75 with a correction for astigmatism. She also has developed cataracts and glaucoma. Her vision is 20/2000 in one eye and 20/3000 in the other. She cannot see clearly past the end of her nose in one eye and can only see shadows with the other eye.

Cross stitching with such poor vision is certainly challenging. She started cross stitching when she was 12, when her vision was much better than it is today. She is glad she was able to see how to do everything before she became legally blind.

Preparing for a cross-stitch project is an important part of Sherry’s process.

“I study the patterns for a few days – think about it in my mind. It helps that I had a little more vision until I was in my 30s and did a lot of sewing,” she said.

She labels the floss so she can ensure she has the colors right. She also takes a photo of the image of the finished piece, and of the instructions and enlarges them to use as a reference.

“All my projects are quite different than the original pattern,” she said.

Sherry Ibidii working 2Sherry has to hold her work about two inches from her nose.

“I have pierced my nose and face a few times and sewn my fingers every year at least once,” she said.

Now that she has found size #7 aida cloth (seven holes per inch, and the same size as plastic canvas grid), she is able to stitch with her craft glasses.

“I do not even need the sharp needle, so no more piercing my nose or face,” Sherry said.SherryIbidii_Butterflies

Sherry Ibidii_cross stitch heartSherry has not let her blindness impair her spirit or keep her from her passion for cross stitch. Her positive attitude is so inspiring.

“I think as we get older we find ways to deal with reality and go around the rock in the road,” she said. “I am just glad I have tools now to do that.”

Sue Fenwick is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield, Missouri. She writes every Tuesday.

‘Paradelle for Cross Stitch’

by Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

She left her mark with a needle and thread
She left her mark with a needle and thread
Indigo blue birds in flossy nests
Indigo blue birds in flossy nests
Flossy blue birds mark her in indigo thread nests
And with a needle she left

Rough linen scraps carefully kept
Rough linen scraps carefully kept
Recorded stitches in cabinets
Recorded stitches in cabinets
Cabinets kept stitches recorded carefully
In rough linen scraps

Cross stitch sampler treasures
Cross stitch sampler treasures
By the work of girls who did their best
By the work of girls who did their best
The work of girls who did treasures
Cross by their best sampler stitch

With a needle, she left
rough cross and thread work cabinets,
her scraps recorded
in flossy linen treasures;
the indigo mark of sampler girls
who did stitch their nests
by blue birds, carefully,
in best kept stitches.

pettit point blue birdI wrote this  poem as a paradelle, which are fun and challenging to write. What I have found when writing them is that a new meaning appears when the words are rearranged, often revealing a poignant new perspective on the subject.

Billy Collins, a former U.S. poet laureate, invented the paradelle. The first, “Paradelle for Susan,” appeared in his 1998 poetry collection, Picnic, Lightning. Collins later said he invented the paradelle to poke fun at a fixed form of poetry.  Many people did not get the joke and thought, as he had claimed in jest, it was a French fixed-form from the 11th century. To Collins’ great surprise, new poetry in paradelle form began popping up everywhere.

Give it a try.  You might write something that could be stitched on a sampler.

Sue Fenwick is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield, Missouri. She writes every Tuesday.

‘C’ is for cross stitch

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

I’m always amazed when I see an old sampler that was stitched by a very young girl.  The samplers are so elaborate and intricate. It’s hard to imagine a 6- or 8-year-old girl working on a similarly complex project today. It’s possible, though, that I am underestimating the ability of a young child to do such a project.

Kate Dorsey and her son, Nolan.

Kate Dorsey and her son, Nolan.

If I break a sampler down, the motifs by themselves are quite simple. With plastic canvas, larger needles and modern designs, cross stitch is a craft that today’s children can easily enjoy.

My daughter Kate Dorsey designed a set of children’s flashcards that are just adorable. I thought they would be perfect for cross stitch, so we loaded her drawings for the “A is for Alligator” and “B is for Birds” cards on my MacStitch charting program. They are simple line drawings with a black outline. The color palette is also very simple, so they are perfect for beginners.

I love that Kate’s designs are fun and modern. They can be easily adapted to a larger canvas for children to stitch. They also can be stitched on aida or linen for a cute graphic art piece for a child’s bedroom.

These charts would be a great starter project for a beginner on plastic canvas or a really cute piece stitched out and framed for a baby’s room.

KateDorsey_AlligatorThe drawings finish at 6 inches by 6 inches, but they could be larger or smaller and still look cute. Any color could be used to fill in to match the décor of the room.

The black outlines could be stitched in crosses or in backstitch.

It’s not difficult to convert simple art to cross stitch. If you have a simple drawing that you love, consider converting it to a cross-stitch chart for an adorable handmade art piece.

KateDorsey_BirdsPlease teach your children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends to cross stitch. With one short lesson, they can learn to thread a needle and stitch a cross on a canvas. Pick out a single motif from an old sampler, or use a simple and attractive motif such as those above as a starter project. Get them started on a lifetime of enjoyment.

Sue Fenwick is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield, Missouri. She writes every Tuesday.

Stitching and quilting make the list

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Every single day, I am in a battle with myself. I have things I want to do, but I also have things I have to do.

I want to sit down and stitch. I have a Quaker Medallion Sampler that I am stitching.  I am almost done. It is calling to me: “Come stitch.  Come stitch.” I look longingly at my cozy chair. I think about settling in and switching on the light. I imagine myself threading the beautiful colors on the needle, studying the pattern and stitching.one motif on quaker sampler

Then I am pulled out of my reverie to my daily chores. I work at home, which means I am easily distracted by household work.

I want to go work in my quilting studio. I imagine myself standing in front of my design wall, arranging the beautiful fabrics and finding the perfect blends. I see the steps I need to take from the beginning of the project to the end: choosing the patterns, selecting the fabrics, cutting, designing, sewing, quilting and binding.finish design of hickner quilt-2

Then I am jolted awake from my quilting dreams to the realities of life. I really should take care of that sauerkraut, which is now ready to can. I also need to pick up the dry cleaning, water the ferns and do laundry.

I make lists. I start each list with “TTDT” at the top. This is an acronym for “Things To Do Today.” I make a little box next to each item on the list and then make a few empty boxes. I know there will be more things I need to do, which I will add as I think of them.to do list

I just realized something. I don’t ever put the things I want to do on my lists. I plan out my days based on what I have to do. Life goes on about me, despite what I want to do. Despite the things I have to do to maintain order in my life, to be happy, I need to do what I want to do. Does that make any sense?

So I am going to add my stitching and quilting to my TTDT list. This could morph into more than two hours, if I can get everything else checked off my list.

My wise mother once told me, “Do the things you have to do, so you can do the things you want to do.” I try very hard to adhere to this wise counsel. But now I think that it’s just as important to include things that are enjoyable on my list every day. I need to do those things that make me happy just as much as I need to do my daily chores.baby quilt binding-2

I better get busy. I have things I want to do today!

Sue Fenwick is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield, Missouri. She writes every Tuesday.