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!

A journey of discovery

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

When Susan Greening Davis and Sally Criswell first saw the sampler in an antique store in Brugge, Belgium, they did not yet know that they were embarking on a special relationship.

Though they knew Sibbel just as a little girl who stitched a sampler in Amsterdam nearly two centuries ago, they began to feel bonded to her through her humble needlework.a journey with sibbel 300 dpi

Susan was so intrigued by the piece that she dove into historical research to try to understand more about orphan samplers. She wanted to know what life was like for the poor orphan child who did needlework to earn her keep.

That research led to A Journey with Sibbel: An 18th Century Orphan’s Study of Needlework, a beautiful new cross-stitch book Susan wrote with Sally Criswell of Gainesville, Florida. Susan lives in Bonita Springs Florida, and St. Louis, Michigan.

By studying the motifs on Sibbel’s sampler, Susan was able to infer quite a bit about her.

sibbel 3Motif samplers are often uniquely linked to regions, and the motifs can be used to identify schools and sometimes even teachers.  Learning about the life and times in Amsterdam when Sibbel lived and worked in the orphanage illuminated the poignant story of struggle and endurance in the lives of all little girls like her.

In her 44 years working in the cross-stitch industry, this story is probably the most important thing Susan has done, she said. Last year, I wrote about Susan’s interesting journey.

“The book is about Sibbel and all the other little girls like her,” she said. “It isn’t about me. “

sibbel 4Susan refers to Sibbel as though she was alive. I think that for Susan, she represents the beginning of an old story that is still very much alive in her own life’s journey. By telling this story, Susan gives the little girl a voice she did not have as a poor orphan.

“Perhaps she is looking down from wherever she is and glad that we are stitching now for sheer pleasure,” Susan said. “I hope she’s proud of her work and glad to see how needlework is now enjoyed and how children have been liberated from the grim toil that was her life.”

sibbel 5For Susan, telling Sibbel’s story validates the girl’s struggle so we can all acknowledge and appreciate her contribution.

“I know if she could see the book, she would be amazed that her story means anything to anyone,” Susan said. “It is a story of real salvation for all the little girls who had nothing.”

sibbel 6A Journey with Sibbel is full of beautiful projects based on Sibbel’s sampler. Look for it in your local needlework shop or order it from Kansas City Star Quilts.

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

Practice makes perfect

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

I need to practice hemming because I would like to do some finishing.

I don’t have a needlework expert in my back pocket, and my local needlework shop is 40 minutes away, so I looked around on the Internet for some online tips. I Googled “finishing techniques for cross stitch.” My first search came up with a bunch of neat ideas for finishing boxes and needle books, but that wasn’t exactly what I wanted.

Next, I typed in “cross stitch hem stitches.” After scouting around for a few minutes, I found a great tutorial by Carolyn Foley, of Brisbane, Australia, an embroidery designer and tutor. Carolyn’s tutorial is “Hem No1.” I have adapted this method slightly because I am not stitching over the edge. This version is basically a backstitch over four threads and pulled tight to form a picot.

I pulled a scrap of linen from my stash and gave it a whirl.

Here are pictures of my practice piece. Bear in mind, I’m learning as I go, so all my oopsie-daisies are visible. I am using supplies I have on hand: 36 count linen, a tapestry needle and DMC floss.

One tip I found most helpful was to pull out a strand of the linen to mark the stitching lines. This helped me see where I was going, kept me on a straight path and made it much easier to count.

PracticeMakesPerfect1

My first oopsie-daisy was using one strand of DMC floss instead of the called for perle cotton thread. I can now see that using a thicker thread results in a prettier picot.  I started with one strand of floss, but I switched to two strands by the time I got to the fourth side of the practice patch (top of photo). As you can see, two strands are better.

PracticeMakesPerfect2

PracticeMakesPerfect3

PracticeMakesPerfect4

The result looks like the entredeux I use when I am sewing lace on special garments, such as christening gowns. Instead of adding a premade picot with the sewing machine, I am stitching my own holes into the linen. It’s neat to find out how to do this and to find help in the form of a simple tutorial after a quick search online and to find that it isn’t at all difficult!

PracticeMakesPerfect5

I enjoyed learning how to do a finishing hemstitch. I am filing this one in the “Practice Makes Perfect” category for now.  Carolyn’s piece looks pretty spiffy compared to mine. I know that I will get better at this, and I feel it is worth the effort to keep practicing.

Please visit Carolyn’s blog to see her tutorial, with super easy instructions and photos.

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

Let it snow

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

The temperatures are dropping, and a winter storm is expected to bring 3 or 4 inches of snow by morning. It would be nice if my husband could stay with me all day, but he will not let snow deter him from his work. But I work from home, so I don’t have to worry about bundling up and battling the frozen world.

When the kids were at home, we’d get up early on snow days and watch the weather forecast for school closings. It was always fun to wait for the list to get around to our town and listen to the lad whoop it up if he got to stay home from school. SnowDay1.Sue stitchingJPG

In those days, the sleds would come down from the attic, and the neighborhood boys would all spend the day together. They’d trudge up and down the street from one house to another, pillaging for dry socks and gloves and raiding pantries. They’d make snow forts and have sled races, and when they’d get too cold, they’d come in and watch movies and eat popcorn, leaving their soggy gear draped over the banisters. Oh, yes. I miss those happy days.

With the kids grown and out of the house and the hubs at work, I start to think, “What will I do with a whole day all to myself?”

Never fear. I have a plan that I have been scheming about since the weatherman first started predicting snow.

First, I’ll wave goodbye to my husband. He’s a sweet guy and always suggests that I don’t go out in bad weather. To this I will reply, “If you insist, dear.”

I don’t want him to think I have it too easy, so I’ll try not to let the excitement about my snow day show on my face until he’s gone. Once he’s out the door, I will put my plan into action.

I’m going to stay in my nightie and cozy robe and slippers all day long. I will hunker down next to a crackling fire and pour myself a cup of steaming coffee (sugar and cream, please). I will pull my special chair up close to the fire, and I will arrange my side table so I can reach everything I need from the chair. I will position my phone with the charger so I don’t have to jump up from my nest to answer it. On second thought, I might turn off my phone.

Last, but certainly not least, I will have my stitching bag with my scissors and floss and a project or two that will be sure to entertain me for the whole dreamy day.

Since October, I’ve been working on stitching a poem I wrote. It’s coming along nicely, but I need to keep the ball rolling on that piece, so I’ll put that on my snow day list. SnowDay2_Progressonpoem

I got the pattern “The Big Red Ship of Life,” by Tracy Horner of Ink Circles, for Christmas. I will use 40-count parchment linen and a gorgeous cranberry Gloriana thread. I’m very excited to get started on that beautiful design. SnowDay5_BigRedShipofLife

It’s never too early to start Christmas stitching, so I might pull out “Four Pincushions,” by Jacob de Graaf of Modern Folk Embroidery.  I have already stitched one of the pincushions, but the other three are calling my name.  SnowDay3_Pincushion

SnowDay4_FourPincushions_ModornFolkEmbroidery

I am ready for my snow day, an unexpected gift of time with which I can do whatever I like. What would you do with a snow day?

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

The paper trail

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

I recently found a beautiful piece of needlework at a local antique store. It is a 17-by-21-inch piece stitched on 16-count perforated paper. The design is a large red brick farmhouse with the motto “God Bless Our Home” across the top. It has beautiful bead embellishments, which include clear glass bead windowpanes and beaded swag curtains.

This beautiful treasure inspired me to call Claudia Dutcher Kistler, of Dutch Treat Designs in Livermore, California. Claudia has been collecting perforated-paper needle art and motto samplers for more than 20 years, and she possesses a wealth of knowledge on the subject.Perforatedpaper1

Perforatedpaper2

perforatedpaper3

perforatedpaper4

After seeing my photos, Claudia told me my piece is a motto sampler on perforated paper from the 1880s. It is an original stitched in wool in the original frame. The colors are still bright, and there are no tears or water stains. It is an amazing example of perforated-paper needle art.

Claudia Kistler

Claudia Kistler

Perforated-paper samplers are somewhat overlooked in the industry, which largely uses linen or aida cloth for canvas. But punched or perforated paper was widely used in the 19th century for needlework.  It was a poor woman’s canvas because it was something that was easily affordable and accessible.

“If you didn’t have fabric or you couldn’t afford the new needlepoint things that were coming in, you used perforated paper,” Claudia said. “They didn’t have all the supplies we have today. The paper is like a thin cardboard with little holes in it. It is really quite durable. In the early paper, the rag count was almost like fabric, so it feels almost more like a fabric than a paper. As you go later in the period, it feels more like a cardboard.”

Perforated paper was manufactured in the United States and England in the late 19th century.

Perforated paper

Perforated paper

“The earliest sampler from England is from 1864,” Claudia said. “The motto designs came a little after, and the American ones started mid-1870s. The patent dates were in the later 1870s for the first ones in England. It started in the U.S. and went to the U.K., but perforated-paper needle art is an American product.”

Designs were engraved or stamped on the paper and mass-produced.  The most common designs were the mottos in the 8 ½-by-21-inch or 17-by-21-inch sizes.

Sunday school motto samplers are another interesting niche in perforated paper samplers. These were typically smaller, and they were always religious.

“The Sunday school mottos were not ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry,’ ” Claudia said. “They were ‘God Bless Our Home’ or a favorite Scripture.”

The stitches on perforated paper are simple cross stitch, straight stitch, backstitch and the long (or satin) stitch. The long stitch is any stitch that goes over more than one hole and is usually on a diagonal that slants to the right. Sometimes, you will see beads or embellishments. The backstitch sometimes appears in outlines on motifs.

perforatedpaper6A lot of people call perforated paper Berlin work. It’s not quite the right term for it, but it’s a term that’s accepted.

“Berlin work to me would be more needlepoint and all wool,” Claudia said. “Perforated paper really had a mix of threads. They used silk, beads or whatever they had available, and not just wool. A lot of the more traditional mottos you see will have wool, but it is not limited to that.”

Claudia uses a size 24 tapestry needle and bigger sheets of perforated paper for her projects.

“I use size 5 perle cotton or Caron Watercolours thread,” she said. “If you want to do a long (satin) stitch, you have to use a heavier thread that will cover across the holes on the paper. The Caron Watercolours are great because they cover really well.”

Because the canvas is paper, you cannot roll it on a frame or scrunch it in a hoop. The Dutch Treat frame is designed especially for use with perforated paper tapestry and is available on Claudia’s website.

“I needed something that would clamp the paper and keep it flat,” Claudia said.

You can work the smaller pieces in hand. If you crumple your paper, or if it gets a little wavy while you’re working on it, Claudia advises to iron it with a low-heat iron with no steam.

“Perforated paper doesn’t like to be wet, so never use steam,” she said.

perforatedpaper7Claudia sells supplies, charts and designs for perforated paper needlework on her website.  While you are visiting her site, be sure to check out her beautiful and popular Anne cloth cross-stitch table toppers.

If you’d like to read Claudia’s article on perforated-paper needlework, click here.

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

The big reveal

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

I am finishing 2014 with my first big “finish.”

Here it is! This piece is called The Quaker Medallion Sampler by C Street Samplerworks.  Finished Sampler Front

In January, I joined a stitch-along in the Sampler World Facebook group. I joined the stitch along because I do not think of myself as an experienced cross stitcher, and I wanted to stitch something beautiful. I needed guidance and encouragement, and I also needed a schedule that would give me deadlines for each motif.

Knowing that others were stitching the same piece at the same time was really helpful. The other stitchers in the group were there for me when I had questions, and they offered tips and encouragement throughout the entire process.

Ginny Kellar, the administrator of our stitch-along, was a great leader for the group. I was intimidated at the beginning of the year, but she quickly set my mind at ease.  Ginny broke it down so we would stitch a portion every month.

I bought my supplies in December, before the stitch-along began, and was ready to go. For the first five months, I was on target and stayed on schedule, finishing each assignment on time. After that, I fell off the wagon for a while and was behind. Then, in the fall, I started seeing finished samplers other stitchers had posted in the stitch-along group. Seeing the finished samplers motivated me to pick up the needle again and get back on track.

I made a few changes along the way. I didn’t have the brick color in the pattern, but I did have a beautiful burgundy, so I just used what I had. I liked the changes and made sure I carried the color throughout the sampler, so it would make sense.

The best part of the alphabet sections for me was the specialty stitches.  Here is a close-up.

Specialty Stitches

I’m glad I started with the alphabets because I grew tired of stitching letters, and I was ready for the beautiful motifs in the bottom section.

There were some specialty stitches, which I really enjoyed stitching. I had never done a Queen stitch before, and it was challenging. But it turned out beautifully, and I enjoyed the challenge of learning new stitches.

Queen Stitches

I write about cross stitch, so I have learned some great tips from my wonderful sources that I applied to my project.  I followed Barbara Jackson’s advice and started with basting. These basting lines were a big help. Without the basting lines, I would have been counting from the edges repeatedly. The basting lines gave me 10-stitch sections, which I could rely on as I worked through the pattern.

I learned to make time for my cross stitch from Cindy Rush, who stitches every single day!

I got some great tips from Hallye Bone, who has been a stitcher and teacher for many years. Her expertise has been invaluable to me. Hallye taught me not to “travel” my thread across many spaces on the back. I used this tip right from the beginning, and the back of my sampler looks pretty tidy, if I do say so myself. I have to admit I was tempted to “travel,” but in the end, I followed the rules. I have heard this tip from many other sources, and I’m glad learned that before I started.Finished Sampler Back

I am so pleased and proud of my finished Quaker Medallion Sampler. What a great way to finish the year. I am ready to find something new to stitch for 2015!Initials motif

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

Cross stitch good enough to eat

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

In my childhood, holidays were full of feasting, family and fun. I remember huge family gatherings, especially at Christmastime. My parents made gifts for everyone, including food, handmade clothing, cutting boards and wooden toys.

I also fondly remember the delicious food and smells from the kitchen – and always baking and decorating cookies.

My mother had a recipe for spritz cookies that she received as a wedding present. It became a constant in her family traditions, and I have carried it into my traditions with my own family.rollingpinandcookiecutter

Cookie baking and decorating was quite a production in my mother’s house, because she insisted on making a specially decorated cookie for each guest. My brothers and sisters joined our mother in decorating the cookies with sprinkles and colored sugars.

I had the idea that these cookies would be cute with a cross-stitch motif. I made a batch to show you, and I’ve included the recipe for you to add to your recipe file.candycanecookie

I used a rubber stamp X for my crosses, and it made a great single-stitch impression. I used the edge of a knife for the lines of stitches. I used colored sugar and nonpareils, which make perfect little crosses, for my decorations. bluebirdcookie

Here’s the recipe.

JOAN RUSSICK’S SPRITZ COOKIES

2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon almond flavoring
2¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder

Blend butter, sugar and almond flavoring. Add flour and baking powder.

Mix together until soft dough forms. Tip: If the dough is too dry, add half-and-half, 1 teaspoon at a time. (I never need more than 3 teaspoons.)

Roll out on floured surface to ¼ inch thick, and cut with cookie cutters.

Decorate lovingly.

Bake at 350 for 8 minutes only. The cookies will still be white when baked.

Remove to a wire rack, and let cool.gridcookie

It turns out that no matter what medium you choose, cross stitch is a labor of love. Making the cookies was almost as fun as stitching, and I think they look great!cookiedisplay

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

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.