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!

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.

A sampler of distinction

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Recently, while researching examples of international cross stitch, I came across the Mexican Band Sampler from the collection of Lynne Anderson. The sampler was shown in a 2011 exhibit at the Benton County Historical Society & Museum in Philomath, Oregon.

The exhibition included 30 samplers from public and private collections in the state. It must have been a fabulous exhibition.

Mark Tolonen, the society’s curator of exhibitions, provided this label copy from the exhibition. I know you will be fascinated to read about the intricate details of this beautiful sampler.MexicanBankSampler1830_good pic from museum

Mexican Band Sampler, c. 1830

The girl responsible for stitching this marvelous band sampler is unknown.

Nonetheless, we can confidently attribute it to Mexico due to the combination of needlework techniques and the presence of a stitch that seems to be unique to Mexican samplers – the Aztec stitch.

The sampler is one long, rectangle, divided into two panels, one of which is unfinished. On the finished side there is a progression of bands with increasingly difficult techniques. Starting from the bottom, the first is a series of nine repeat floral and geometric bands done primarily in cross stitch. The second is a series of four repeat bands, done primarily in satin stitch bordered by four-sided stitch. The third is a series of five different patterns, all using the Aztec stitch.  And the last is a series of four bands of drawn thread work with different needleweaving patterns. Three of the bands use colored thread for the overcasting, a popular technique in Mexican samplers.

On the unfinished panel, there are five squares of drawn thread work, each with a different pattern, one of which is the Greek filling stitch. There are also a few small motifs such as a cat on a pillow, followed by a bottom panel in yellow and mauve of a previously undocumented stitch.

Mexican band samplers such as this resemble the band samplers stitched in England in the 17th century, although the selection of patterns and range of stitches are different. The length of the sampler is determined by the width of the loom. In this case the sampler is approximately 31.5 inches or .80 meter in length and 19.5 inches in width. The short sides of the sampler are the selvedge and the long sides are hemmed. As with many Mexican samplers, the back is as clean as the front – stitches are reversible and all stitches are started and stopped on the front.

Materials: Silk on hand woven linen
Dimensions: 31.5″ H by 19.5″ W
Stitches: Cross, double running, long-arm cross, herringbone, satin, four-sided, Aztec, braided, drawn thread, overcasting, needleweaving, antique hem.
Collection of Lynne Anderson

If you would like more information about these samplers and the amazing exhibition, Lynne Anderson wrote the exhibition catalog, Samplers International: A World of Needlework, which is available from the Sampler Consortium.

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

Our newest release: ‘Affectionately Yours’

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Designer Judy Whitman infuses each of her pieces with her classic, timeless style. Her pastel color palette and elegant finishes reflect her long-standing relationship with the needle and thread. Affectionately Yours cover

“I’ve been designing cross stitch for a long time,” she said. “I absolutely love it. Cross stitch brings a sense of peace and calm to my life. When I am busy and frantic, and I sit down with that fabric and thread, I feel my heart rate go down, and I feel myself relax.”

This relaxed calm is personified in her work, which has a quiet, gentle style and soft colors.

JBWinstudio2

 

“I would have trouble doing anything in purple and orange,” Judy said. “It just isn’t me. I do think you develop a style that is yours that you are comfortable with.”

Judy’s new book, Affectionately Yours: Elegant Cross-Stitch Designs for Special Occasions, includes 11 beautiful projects that can be personalized to suit your gift-giving needs, from weddings to babies and golden anniversaries.

It also reflects her love of family. With the exception of her family, Judy said, “cross stitch is pretty much the center of my life.”

Judy and her husband, Dick, recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. Judy, who had been a first-grade teacher, stayed home to raise their son, Mark, and their daughter, Kris.JBW_GoldenAnniversaryBox

A friend encouraged Judy to take a needlepoint class, and she loved it. After the family moved to the Detroit area, she joined the local embroiderers’ guild and took many Embroiderers Guild of America classes, and workshops and regional seminars.

“I thought I could use my teaching background if I could design teaching pieces and combine those two things and teach needlework,” she said.

JBW_QuiltSamplerWith more than 300 published designs, Judy has developed a pretty good design system.

JBW_WelcomeLittleChick“I have an ongoing list,” she said. “I have had it for years. Often I will see a piece of fabric or something, and I’ll think it will be a wonderful start of a design.

“I start out with a sketch of the idea of the project I am working on. I will write down fabric, color ideas. A lot of time I use embellishments, charms or ribbons, or finishing ideas. Sometimes, I will start with graph paper, but most of the time I use the computer.JBWlambs

“Years ago, when I started, I used colored pencils and graph paper, but charting on the computer is wonderful. I may only chart the top left-hand corner. I will make a print of it, and then I’ll go back to the desk with a pencil and paper and think, ‘Where am I going to go with this? What is the placement going on from that point?’ So it is a very gradual process.

“I’ll do a lot of renditions of that piece until it looks balanced. I stitch all of my own models. I often change placement and colors while I am stitching, so I am trying to be very careful about taking notes as I am going about what I have used. You really have to do that, especially if you use a lot of colors in one piece.

“It’s a long, slow process. Sometimes, the designs come along quickly, and sometimes you have to set them aside and come back to them.”

JBWstudio2Judy has a very comfortable office in her home.

“My husband says it’s his favorite room in the house,” she said. “I have lots of windows, and I have lots of collections. I collect antique trays and antique linens and samplers and books. He also teases me because I have many places for people to sit in this office. I have a desk where I have my office chair, another chair that I stitch in with my lamp. I’ve got a big worktable. I have two comfy chairs, a couch and several children’s chairs. It’s a great place to work.  It’s a happy place.”JBWOFfice1

This summer, she and her husband rented a cottage for the whole family. She and Dick have six grandchildren, and Judy spent time with the three youngest, teaching them to stitch.

“We didn’t use a pattern, and I showed them how to use a needle threader and some fibers,” she said. “They were so cute and so diligent about working on it.”

Judy’s new book seems to echo her life journey.  The projects are about family, the celebrations of life and love, and will provide you beautiful gifts to stitch, to honor the important times in life.

To order Affectionately Yours, click here.

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