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!

Capturing history, one stitch at a time

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Did the ladies who stitched the Bayeux Tapestry understand what an important piece of history they were producing? Do you think they could have ever imagined when they were threading their needles in 1077 that their work would survive and be appreciated as precious historical artwork in the 21st century?

The Bayeux Tapestry is an amazing historical piece of needlework, a 270-foot long, 20-inch wide pictorial needlework depicting the events leading up to the Norman Invasion and continuing through the Battle of Hastings.

Nobody knows who stitched the tapestry. It was probably women of a then-famous school of needlework in Canterbury, England, known for the style of needlework found on the tapestry. The stitches are mostly stem stitch and couching.

If you would like to see the Bayeux Tapestry, go to the History Learning Site, which also has quite a bit of interesting information about the tapestry.

There is a brilliant opportunity to participate in a similar modern historical needlework project. Temma Gentles, an internationally acclaimed Judaic textile artist and artist-in-residence at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, started Torah Stitch by Stitch in June 2013.


More than 900 volunteer stitchers from more than 16 countries are taking part in this exciting project, in which, according to the website,  “Participants from numerous national, linguistic and spiritual backgrounds – regardless of gender or craft skill – are joining hands and hearts to stitch 1463 individual panels of the Torah in Hebrew, 4 verses at a time.”

Each stitcher receives a kit with all materials needed to complete a unique set of verses in a cross-stitch font created especially for this project. The stitchers commit to following the gridded diagram accurately and returning the finished panel within six months. Verses are assigned in the order of registration.


The individual stitched sections will be assembled into a traveling museum created by Phillip Silver, one of Canada’s premier stage designers. Temma is the project’s creative director.

If you would like to join this historic stitching journey, visit the website, where you can see finished panels and register to be a stitcher.

 Sue Fenwick is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield, Missouri.

The dangers of sitting

By Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

Sue Fenwick

How do you feel after you’ve been stitching all day?

If you are like me, you spend a ton of time sitting. It’s an occupational hazard for those who stitch. Our favorite activity requires us to sit still for long periods of time. In fact, everything I love to do I have to do sitting down.

I don’t apologize for not being an adrenaline junkie.  I really love my needle art. When I’m not stitching, I’m writing about stitching, and when I’m not stitching or writing about stitching, I’m quilting. I spend a lot of time sitting down.

The term “sitting disease” has gotten a lot of online attention lately. In this age of computers, more people are spending too much time sitting.  Who would have thought that for people who sit most of the day the risk of heart attack is about the same as the risk of smoking? Jeez!

Courtesy JustStand.org

Courtesy JustStand.org

The writing is on the wall.  Fellow stitchers, we have to balance the time we spend in the chair with some form of movement and exercise every day. We are unwittingly participating in a dangerous activity, and we need to be training for it.

Here are some good suggestions I’ve gleaned from the Internet:

First, get a pedometer or a personal fitness gadget that helps you keep track of your daily steps.  An average fit person takes 10,000 steps a day. We got a Fitbit, and I wore it all day. My disappointing one-day step total was under 1,000. It helps to know how far off track I am, and it motivates me to get up to walk around the block.  It feels really good to look down at the little bracelet and see that I’ve done enough to fall into the active category.

Truthfully, 10,000 steps isn’t as much as you think.  I was intimidated when I realized I had to be 10 times more active than I usually was, but after I walked 10,000 steps in one day, I felt better than when I had walked only 1,000. If you’re sedentary like me, start slow and build up.

Anchor kit,  Shaun the Sheep Exercise Time

Anchor kit, Shaun the Sheep Exercise Time

Get up every hour and stretch. I am so stiff after I’ve been stitching that it scares me sometimes. Sitting all day can be bad for your spine and makes your muscles contract. Take it easy and don’t overstretch if you are sedentary, but do reach for the ceiling, put your arms out to the side, to the front and gently pull them behind you, if you can.  Gently tilt your head side to side, and slowly roll it around. Wiggle your hands at the wrists up, down and around.  Stand up and touch your toes.

Drink more water.  While you’re up for your hourly stretch, get yourself a glass of water and drink it all.  You will be amazed at how much better you feel when you drink as much water as you’re supposed to drink.  The Mayo Clinic recommends drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day.

Consuming that much also gets you up to pee a lot more, so you’ll be adding more steps to your daily total just going to the bathroom.  It’s all good!

Invite your friends over for a day of stitching.  After your stitch and bitch, take a walk and talk with your stitching buddies. We have to be in this together, because we want to keep stitching. It’s a dangerous world out there, stitchers.

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

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.


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.




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!


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


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




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.