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!

Made with love

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

A few years ago, Jacob de Graaf was just looking into some crafts and wanted to do some stitching and some embroidery.

“I was at my mom’s place and saw this antique embroidery and was quite fascinated by that and thought I’d like to do something like that,” he said. “So I started making a chart and started embroidering, and from there on, I started making my own designs that looked old but were modern.”

 Jacob de Graaf

Jacob de Graaf

Jacob, who was born in a small town in the northernmost province of the Netherlands, has a really creative mom.  She is always doing embroidery, making dolls or sewing.

“So when the possibilities are there when you grow up, and since I had a talent for drawing, it was quite a logical step to go from fine arts to cross stitch,” he said.

In 2001, Jacob graduated from the Constantijn Huygens School of Fine Arts in Kampen, Overijssel, the Netherlands.

After graduation, he ran a gallery in the town of Sloten, Friesland, the Netherlands, where he exhibited and sold his drawings and paintings.

Jacob now lives in York, England, with his partner and two cats, in a home overlooking a Norman castle.

JacobdeGraaf_WorkspaceJacob sells his designs through Modern Folk Embroidery, his online cross-stitch store. He has downloadable designs that can be purchased and used immediately. He is starting to make and sell kits, and plans to write a book.

His work, meticulous in design and execution, is heavily influenced by his Dutch heritage. His monochrome palette is a distinctive feature of his designs. Jacob is mainly inspired by folk art and nature.

“I love using something from a different art field and using it in cross stitch,” he said. “I see patterns in other mediums I can use in samplers.  You use little bits and bobs from here and there and use them in a design.

“I think you feel affinity with certain areas as well. It’s funny because my ancestry is proper Friesian. I am rooted in the Northern Netherlands. Friesia is a very old provence found along the coast of what is now known as the Netherlands, the south of Denmark, the north of Germany, even up to the top bits of France. That whole coastal area used to be Friesia.”

Whoso Findeth me Findeth Love - A Quaker SamplerThe Rooster Alphabet Sampler






Tenderness of Heart - A Jane Austen Sampler

Birds of a Feather - 4 pincushions






Jacob still speaks Friesian.

“It’s a beautiful language, and it has its own culture, too. It has a lot of folk art, and there is a lot of cross stitch from the area. When you move away, there is a big pull toward your own roots. You say, ‘What’s my culture?’

“For me and my cross stitch, it’s the Friesian stitching, which is quite simple. It survived because it was so isolated. And the folk art was inspired by local arts, like costumes and things that went out of fashion in big cities and kept surviving in the countryside. People wear these costumes that had been fashionable in 17th century Holland. They were considered quite old-fashioned, but they still wore them.

“So it’s really Friesia and the northern areas that really inspired me to look more into the Scandinavian folk art, which I have always been attracted to, as well. It’s pretty much a couple of hours away, and you’re in Denmark, and from Denmark, it’s a small skip to Sweden.  They all link together, but each area has its own distinct style. I do feel really attached to that.”The Minster Patterns - Chapterhouse Tiles

There is a regional embroidery in Marken in the northern Netherlands, a centuries-old settlement with a unique craft of monochrome embroidery. In the 17th century, a lot of people from that area were brought to Amager in Denmark to teach farming techniques. The farmers brought their families with them. The artwork they made became unique to that part of Denmark. The art from the Netherlands was sort of transferred to Denmark and joined into this Amager art form, Jacob said.

This marriage of art forms parallels the way Jacob designs. He likes to look at things and be inspired and redesign them, or rework them.

“I saw a beautiful sampler from that area combining several elements from Marken and Amager,” he said. “You don’t know which piece is from which area, but the beauty is the handing down of things from generation to generation.”

Welcome Little StrangerJacob loves the simplicity of cross stitch.

“It is such an easy stitch, and everybody can do it,” he said. “If you can hold a needle and thread, you can do it. I love that it is such an easy thing to do.

“Whether you can do it properly or not, that comes with experience. Finesse comes with years of practice, but initially it’s something that people can learn really quickly that can be really satisfying, and I think that’s why it’s becoming popular again. You can sit down and relax after a day’s work, or take it with you when you travel.”

He does not use a hoop.

“I just crunch it in a big pile, and I stitch in-hand,” he said. “I love sewing onto the fabric. It’s very satisfying to see this pattern coming alive. There is something quite calming about counting your stitches. I think it’s a visual math. It is such a simple technique. You have a thread and a needle, and you make little crosses.”

Jacob uses a monochrome palette in his designs, and many are stitched in red. Through The Bitter Frost & Snow

“My paintings have always been quite minimalist, as well,” he said. “My work has never been very colorful. Shades of gray or blue, but big fields of color, or very subdued. It’s very monochrome. When I started designing, it was the monochrome that really spoke to me. I think it’s amazing when someone uses a hundred different colors and stitches a huge bouquet of flowers. But it would be very frustrating to me to do two stitches here and cut off your thread. It would drive me mad. You can do a lot more with monochrome than you think.

“I think the main thing is that what you do needs to be enjoyable while you do it. If the joy is not there, people should stop doing what they are doing. Pick something that you actually enjoy doing.  Everything I do, I enjoy 100 percent. There is nothing that I don’t like doing. I love finishing a piece and showing it to people and getting feedback. I hope that shines through in my patterns. It is all actually made with love.”

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


A world of options

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Our world comprises many cultures, all of which have unique styles. A chalet is identifiably Swiss, while a pagoda is Chinese.

Culture and regional styles are also seen in cross stitch. From the beautiful Celtic knots and mandalas to the rich and intricate geometric designs from Hungary, it’s fun to take an international cross-stitch journey.

It’s so interesting to look at patterns from other places, near and far, to see how they compare.

French - circa 1916_IvaRose

I love this French chart, circa 1916, with the knight in armor on his horse and a falcon on his wrist. The borders are fantastic, too. I found it at Iva Rose Vintage Reproductions.

Nordic Heart_ModernFolkEmbroidery_JacobdeGraaf

“The Nordic Heart,” by Jacob de Graaf of Modern Folk, is a modern interpretation of traditional Scandinavian design, stitched in red and with snowflake motifs

Mexican_sampler_1830-3.jpg_bentoncountymuseum.orgThis beautiful Mexican band sampler is notable for its vibrant reds, yellows, blues and greens and the Aztec stitch, which reflects the culture so perfectly.

Let your heritage guide you in your research. Even if you don’t find a charted design from your ancestral land, you may find a new motif that you can work into a design of your own.

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

Down the rabbit-hole

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

“Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next.”

“Curiouser and curiouser!”

                                _ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

I found a photo online of the beautiful woven cross stitch, executed beautifully and creatively by Carin Saga of  Queenie’s Needlework. (She got it from Sharon Boggon at Pin Tangle.)Woven Cross Stitch by Queeniepatch

While I was wondering about the woven cross stitch, I wandered the Web and got stuck in the “W” section of the cross-stitch, needlework and embroidery glossary on the cool Arts and Design website.  What I found was a rabbit warren of cross-stitch fun from A to Z.

In the counted thread category of stitches, I found waffle, walneto, wave, web, weaving, wheat sheaf, wheat stitch, whipped chain, whipped satin and wickerwork. There are nice stitch diagrams with brief descriptions.  So wonderful!

I found a stitch similar to woven cross stitch called the double herringbone stitch.

I stitched up a sample to demonstrate the woven cross stitch.  First, I tried an individual woven stitch. It’s a basic cross stitch, stitched twice in the same spot. The final cross is woven over and under.  The result is a double cross stitch, which is woven together in the middle. What’s not to love?

I then wondered what the woven stitch would look like if I stitched it in a row, and I also tried that variation in two colors.

Finally, I thought I’d try the woven stitch overlapping and not one on top of the other. Guess what I came up with?  The double herringbone stitch!The Woven Cross and the Double Herringbone

Alice found a bottle that said, “DRINK ME” when she fell down the rabbit-hole.  I fell in and never got to the bottom of it.

I think I’ll keep looking around.

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

Reflect on this

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Because I quilt and cross stitch, I often find that my thoughts mingle in the two areas. I will be thinking about a cross-stitch motif and wondering how it could be appliquéd or pieced in fabric, or musing about a quilt, and my mind will wander onto the topic of cross stitch.

This morning, I was contemplating a kaleidoscope pattern for a quilt project. My mind wandered to what I would need for supplies: fabric, thread, rulers and a mirror.

A mirror. It was an aha moment for me. I’m sure some of you have been using a mirror as a design tool since the dawn of time, but because this is my aha moment, I will share it for those who have not yet thought of it.vine 45degreereflection

The mirror is a super handy design tool for quilting and can also be used quite effectively to assist you in designing your cross-stitch patterns.

I purchased my mirror compact for $3 at the Forever 21 clothing store. The mirror compact has two square mirrors, is hinged in the middle and has a minimal frame. I use it when I am in a fabric store and need to see how cutting it in different shapes can alter a print.

If you hold a mirror on a piece of fabric and look into the reflected image, you see the geometric extension of the print in the reflection. Some prints change dramatically when cut apart in sets of triangles or squares and reassembled. We see this in the One-Block Wonder quilts by Maxine Rosenthal and in the Kaleidoscope quilts. Some fabrics are not good candidates for this technique, but with the help of a mirror, you can easily discern which print will work.

jagged linejaggedline45degreereflection








Using the mirror for designing in cross stitch is just as simple. I have charted a few simple motifs to demonstrate how to use the mirror.

If I hold the mirror next to the straight border section at a 45-degree angle, the pattern that appears in the mirror is a plus or cross, but you can also look at the pattern as a mitered border. Move the mirror up and down the motif, and you can arrange your stitches in the corner in different ways.

If I place the mirror on a section of the flower at a 45-degree angle, three more flower sections appear in my design in the mirror, and I can see whether I will like it before I stitch it out or chart it. I need only stitch or chart one-fourth of my design to be able to check it in the mirror. This saves me oodles of time and helps me envision the finished product.flower-45degrees

flower chartI have found that shapes I had not yet thought of are revealed to me in my mirror. I’ll stitch a pretty motif, place my mirror on it and voila. There in the mirror is the completed design.

I can even move the mirror over the image to come up with other geometric permutations of the design. If I hold the mirror at a 45 angle, I have an octagon. If I hold the mirror at 60 degrees, I will have a hexagon. If I hold the mirror at 90 degrees, I will have a square, or I’ll have, in effect, a frame or border.

Here is a pattern that emerged when I held the mirror to the back of the chair in my sunroom. This would make a nice motif on a pincushion.

chair back
Chairback 45 degree anglechair back 60 degree angleWith my little mirror, I am finding patterns and inspiration everywhere I look. Suddenly, I’m a designer!

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

A ‘luxuriance of fancy’

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

I should have guessed that Marsha Parker, owner of The Scarlet Letter, got her degree in English literature. Like Marsha, Hester Prynne, the protagonist in The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, did fancy needlework for a living.

Marsha started stitching when she was 8 years old.

“My mother forced me to stitch stamped pillow cases,” she says. “They were stamped with chipmunks. I hated it.”

Much later, her sister gave her a kit of the Williamsburg Chase sampler and asked her to stitch it for her. She finished the kit for her sister, stitched another for her mother, another one for herself and yet another for her mother-in-law. It finally occurred to her that she could be stitching her own creations.

It was around 1980, and she was living in England. She found a pair of samplers in an antique shop for 8 pounds. She copied the chart, making her own diversions from the original. It was so easy that she thought, “Hmm, I should do something with this.”

She was reproducing charts and enjoying it immensely, but she still had to support herself. She was working in publishing as a picture editor. She also did freelance writing and published a novel, Ghosts.

The Scarlet Letter

Lydia Hart

Then the Scarlet Letter began to grow. She produces reproduction sampler kits of fine antique and historic samplers. The collection encompasses four centuries and many ethnic, social and artistic groups from 17th century aristocratic England to 19th century rural America.

The Scarlet Letter now ranks among the top companies in the industry. Marsha has completed “somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 kitted charts,” she says. She also sells graphs and kits in cotton and silk.

Hanna Catharina

Hanna Catharina

She buys most of the original samplers at auction.

“I usually absentee bid because I can’t stand the anxiety, and you always bid more than you should when you’re under the gun,” she says.

She has a few favorite auction houses around the world.

“I’m not a phone bidder, and I’m not impulsive,” she says. “Just slow and steady. That’s probably where 90 percent of mine come from.”

MarshaParker and her chickens

Today, Marsha lives on 100 acres near Sullivan, Wisconsin, with her alpacas, chickens and cats.

“I am a cat magnet,” she says.

She keeps 20 acres in crops, and the rest is woodlands.

Marshanad baby Alpaca w_mother alpaca
She also lovingly cares for her significant other, Phil.

“We were going to get married, but he had a stroke about five and a half years ago, so now I am a caregiver,” Marsha says. “It was a very freakish thing that happened to him. We had six good years, traveling and scuba diving. He is half Italian and half French, so we would go to Italy and France and visit with his family there.

“Now he is in a wheelchair. It’s very sad. I live on the farm, and he lives in Madison. I am with him four days a week, and the rest of the time he has a nurse. It was really, really difficult in the beginning, but as time goes on, it’s my life, and I don’t have any bitterness.”

Marsha and Phil

Marsha’s caring shows in her meticulously executed reproduction samplers. Not surprisingly, she finds that the most difficult designs are her favorites. Lydia Hart is right up at the top. She also favors A Parrot A Leopard A Lion; Emily Lucille; Memento Mori; and The Lady and the Castle in an Autumn Landscape.

A Parrot A Leopard A Lion

A Parrot A Leopard A Lion

Emily Lucille

Emily Lucille

She starts a design by hand, she says.

“I do the preliminary sketches by hand because I like to stick my nose into the needlework, and you can’t do that on a program,” she says. “I go from there to a program. I use PCStitch Pro.”

Marsha uses Au Ver a Soie silks exclusively and likes the soie perlee and soie gobelins. Her favorite needle is called My Favorite Needle, which is no longer made, but the needle is short and blunt and moves through the linen easily. Marsha has six of these needles, which she thinks will keep her supplied for the rest of her life. She keeps them safely tucked away in a special case.

Though she used to use a handloomed linen, she now uses Zweigart or Wichelt, because the cost is not so prohibitive and she likes to stitch her models in the same fabric she puts in her kits. She has a Hardwicke Manor 6-inch round wooden hoop she has used her whole stitching life.

“I have the same hoop that my mother gave me when I was 8,” she says. “I have used it to stitch every piece I have ever done.”

Memento Mori

Memento Mori

The Lady and the Castle in an Autumn Landscape

The Lady and the Castle in an Autumn Landscape

Marsha stitches at home “in a big cushy pink chair with low arms, next to an open window overlooking my pond. I don’t use any magnification or special lights. I just use my naked eyeballs. I do have to wear glasses to do everything else in life.”

Marsha has four designs that should be ready by September. Hanna Catharina should be ready this month. The original (described on her website as “a finely stitched German sampler beginning with a single row of alphabets above an immensely intricate collection of symbolic cross stitched motifs”) is on 55-count linen.

Nathaniel Hawthorne eloquently described the scarlet letter Hester Prynne stitched. It seems a proper flattery for the gorgeous work of Marsha Parker: “It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy.”

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

The smaller, the better

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Samplers are wonderful and among the most popular of cross-stitch projects for good reason. But samplers take a long time to finish, and sometimes it’s great to have a project you can finish quickly.

Among the many creative small projects available are the tried-and-true biscornu (an eight-sided, tufted pincushion), snippet boxes and pendants. After you finish the stitching, you can get creative with ribbons, buttons or beads for cute finishing touches.

You don’t have to sweat it out under a large project in the hot summer. Keep your cool with a small one.

Here are some super-cute ideas for cross-stitch smalls, starting with four adorable little projects.

Four smalls by Cindy Rush

Four small projects by Cindy Rush

Stay out of the kitchen and serve up a tart!

Jack’s Tart by Plum Street Samplers, http://plumstreetsamplers.typepad.com.

Jack’s Tart by Plum Street Samplers

Going on a road trip this summer? Stitch up a lovely handbasket and take your small project with you.

Handbasket by Cindy Major Rush

Handbasket by Cindy Major Rush

Any handmade item is the perfect gift for a special friend. There is no time like the present – and no present like the gift of time.

Pocket watch pendant by Penelope Middleton Darby

Pocket watch pendant by Penelope Middleton Darby

Bigger isn’t always better. Boxes are useful, sweet smalls that can be stitched up quickly.

Snippet box by Cindy Major Rush

Snippet box by Cindy Major Rush

Now is the time to get started on your Christmas list. Ornaments are fun to stitch and can be finished in so many creative ways.

Ornaments by Cindy Rush

Ornaments by Cindy Rush

There are so many wonderful small projects available. I am sure you will find one you love.

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

Relishing the task

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Summer is upon us, and at Fenwick Farms, the garden is really getting big.

We moved our cucumber patch south of the house this year. In the new location, our cukes will have lots of room to spread out. For me, cucumbers mean pickles, and pickles mean canning. The Fenwick pickle legacy is a tough act to follow, but I’m getting better at making pickles every year.

I make pickles from a recipe that was Jeff’s grandma’s recipe. We call them “Grandma Fenwick’s Pickles.” Grandma Fenwick was Martha Rose Baldwin Fenwick. I met her in 1976, the first time I came to the farm with Jeff.

He had been raving about his grandma’s pickles. We opened a jar as soon as we got to her house, and she smiled while he gobbled up an entire jar all by himself.  Martha died in 1988, and Jeff’s mom took over the pickle-making job.

cukesNow that I am Grandma Fenwick, I grow the cucumbers and make the pickles at Fenwick Farms. I don’t think they will ever be as good as Martha’s pickles, but my family loves them anyway. Maybe my grandchildren will love my pickles as much as Jeff loved his grandma’s pickles. I should have it down pat by the time they grow up.

Because pickles are so important at Fenwick Farms, I decided we need some cross-stitched cucumbers for the farmhouse. I spent a day working on the chart. My plan is to stitch it up, frame it with some barnwood and hang it in the kitchen at the farm. This way, I will be leaving something of my own to add to the Fenwick women’s pickle legacy.

Cukes Chart copy

I have included it here for you to stitch, too. It has cucumbers that are ready to pick on a leafy vine. There are blossoms and baby cukes just starting to grow, with the blossoms still attached. While you’re stitching, think of me.  I’ll be picking cucumbers and canning pickles for the next few weeks here at Fenwick Farms.

Happy summer!

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