Header Photo

Header Photo
American Quaker Sampler stitched by Krista


Friday, 14 August 2015

Beyond the Little X - An Interview with Sigrid!

For our August interview we meet Sigrid!  She is a member of our group from Germany and she shares with us her stitching story and embroidery skills.  You can see Sigrid’s enjoyment of needlework in her words and works. 

How old were you when you first picked up a needle and who taught you to stitch?

I was 19 years old. My oldest sister embroidered small cross stitch things from the book "Liebenswerte Stickereien".  I liked the little Lavender bag.  I bought material and embroidered away.  I was so excited about my work that I borrowed from all literature and bought and just began to read and to rework.  Step by step I've taught myself.

What was the first sampler that you stitched?

My first sampler was a yellow ABC cloth only in cross stitch.  It was a challenge in the beginning, the counting and reading the chart.

What is your favorite time of day to stitch?

I stitch whenever I find the time to do this, spread over the day, but every day!

Do you sit in a set place and what tools do you like to have on hand?

I have a bright place next to the window.  There I sit in an old Daddy Downing chair.  My really big magnifying glass and various hoop should not be missing!

Do you use the stick and stab technique, or a sewing stitch?

I use the sewing stitch if I work free embroidery most in a loose-stretched frame.

Do you prefer to stitch in hand, or with a hoop or frame?

I use only wooden embroidery frame and have them in all sizes.  Some kinds of stitches are better free to stitch, so I free stitch in my hand.

What is your favorite linen and thread?

I have no favorite.  I'm trying to adjust linen and thread that it appears most faithfully true.

Do you like specialty stitches and have a favorite?

Special stitches are most fascinating in embroidery and I love them. Generally, the special stitches are my favorites.

When did you discover the Scarlet Letter?

It was a love recommendation by Dorothee Kandzi of "Historische Stickmustertücher" in Germany.  I asked her for sources of possible high-fidelity reproductions because it was not available in Germany. She gave me the tip with the Scarlet Letter.  I was so happy!

What was the first Scarlet Letter sampler you stitched?

It was Lydia Hart.

What is your favourite period of sampler-making and why?  Which designs appeal to you the most?

Each period has its appeal. I have no favorite, I enjoy them all.  I love all different samplers.  I love the band samplers of the 16th century.

Has working with reproduction samplers given you any new insight into the lives of the girls and women in the 17-18-19th centuries that you did not realize before?

On each case.  I have four kids of all ages.  When I consider what these very young girls have created in this age of works, I might just be jealous.  If I stitch a sampler, I think of the particular person and work after this with a certain AWE.

How do you display your stitched samplers?  Do you frame them?  Hang them singularly or in groupings?

I bring a finished sampler directly to the framer.  The pictures hanging distributed individually or in groups in the House.  I have no procedure.  My husband and I are looking for a beautiful place.

Lydia Hart Sampler (far left) and Mary Hurst Sampler (far right)

Do you collect antique samplers?  Or have any other collections special to you?

I have two old sampler, which I purchased by random.  Two small ABC are embroidered towels around 1900.

What other types of hand work do you enjoy?

I love all about wool, the processing from the raw fleece, spinning at the spinning wheel and knit. I weave on my loom and love tablet weaving.

A great favourite of mine is still our traditional Schwalm whitework embroidery. It is a nice change from counted embroidery.

Any guilty secrets to confess?

Oh Yes... I have to admit that I'm drinking lots of coffee and tea when embroidering.  The cup is always far enough from me so that spills can´t happen.

What has been your worst needlework disaster?

Oh my... I had in fact on my double Dutch sampler.  I worked more than half of the left border as I noticed that something must be wrong.  The border was shifted to a number.  I wanted to cheat.  The image would have been no longer symmetrical.  My husband said I should stitch back to correct.  It was fine coloured silk.  I cursed.  It lasted days until I reached the error.  I want to check more often!

I had my second disaster on I.C. Rubbens.  There was weaving to be done and I wanted to work with the silk.  The silk locked up and I threw it in the corner and refused further to embroider it!  My husband scolded me and said can you make a finish of it.  There I met Thread Heaven (in Germany unknown) and behold, it went wonderfully.

What Scarlet Letter sampler are you currently working on now? What do you most enjoy about it?

At the moment, I am stitching the Scarlet Letter Dorcas Haynes sampler…

What other hobbies or interests do you enjoy?

I love to ride my Moto Guzzi motorcycle.  I love to hike.  A big dream is to explore England, Scotland, and Ireland together with my husband, and to cope with the way of St. James.  I listen to the music of Rammstein when I stitch, I love it.  In the evening I like to read literature of my Hobbies.

Thank you, Sigrid, for sharing your story with us!  Your embroidery and stitching is gorgeous.  You have an amazing talent for stitching specialty stitches, they look perfect!  We look forward to seeing updates on your Dorcas Haynes sampler.  She will be another beauty to grace your walls! 

Thursday, 13 August 2015


A little more progress. This is not a quick project but extremely rewarding.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Dorothy Walpole

This lady needs no introduction, she is one of the all time greats. This is a heads up that the original will be auctioned by Garths on September 11th.

I wonder who is going to be the lucky new owner.

Dorothy Walpole and her daughters Lot 1057

Monday, 13 July 2015


Last week I was asked how I stitched the red and pink flowers at the opposite ends of the row in photo one. I promised when I stitched the next one I would demonstrate. The following photos show the stages. I am self taught and my way may be incorrect.

You can use a pencil to mark out the stitch direction or as I have done your thread. Note that the stitch I started with at the bottom was going in the wrong direction when I finished laying out the guide lines. I just laid another stitch over it as it will not show. 

I have not taken the stitches all the way into the centre. I am leaving room for the next passes..

Gradually I am filling the flower moving around as I stitch so that there are no clumps of stitches.

The centre is now filled in but I am parking my thread for now in case I need to add some more stitches after the outer part has been stitched.

I fill in the stamens.

Next I repeat the process on the outer part.

You can use your thread to gauge your stitch direction.

First pass complete.

Start to close up the gaps.

Note that the outer stitches in the bottom left hand corner has caused the inner stitches to gap. Pick up your parked pink thread and fill in the gap.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Beyond the Little X – An Interview with Sabine Taterra-Gundacker!

For our July interview we travel to Berlin, Germany and sit and chat with Sabine Taterra-Gundacker!   Sabine is sharing with us her journey in stitches and we hear how she began charting reproduction samplers.  There is much inspiration to be found in her beautiful samplers, which also includes some Scarlet Letter samplers!  Enjoy!! 

How old were you when you first picked up a needle and who taught you to stitch? 

Oh, that was a long time ago.  At that time, my mother wanted me to stitch her an Easter tablecloth: printed bunnies, daffodils, decorated Easter eggs – always along the lines!  I think I was 12 or 13 years old.  She must have kept it for more than 50 years and often used it.

What was the first sampler that you stitched?

In 1981, there was a modern version of a sampler to be reproduced in the German women’s magazine Brigette, with typical elements – alphabet, house, tree, flowerpot, flowers, figures.  And I enthusiastically stitched my first sampler!   In addition, I heard about the meaning and the function of samplers and I saw small pictures of historical samplers.  In my working life I was stitching plenty of little somethings like flowers, wreaths, Santas, Easter bunnies, birth pictures, needle cases with heart and soul and for recreation.  The first complete sampler?!  I was hooked!

What is your favorite time of day to stitch? 

My favorite time to stitch is the hour after breakfast:  The table is cleared and my husband reads to me out of the newspaper and I stitch without paying much attention – calm and relaxing.

Do you sit in a set place and what tools do you like to have on hand? 

I sit at our small kitchen table – a pane of glass on top of an old iron sewing machine stand.  The natural light is very good, even in bad weather or in winter.  Two or three little scissors and my needle magnet lie on the window ledge.  I take my notebook to this place and feed new charts into the computer.  

I look at a typical Berlin back yard of an apartment building and into my tidied kitchen.  As of late, I need a magnifier tightened at the pane of glass in order to see the fine stitches of the originals.

Do you prefer to stitch in hand, or with a hoop or frame? 

To stitch in hand is the most practical method to me:  I am able to move to another place in our home, e. g. while cooking, and I can uncomplicatedly take my needlework on a bicycle tour or on vacation.

What is your favorite linen and thread?

In the past, I used to make large crosses.  Over the years, they have “become” smaller – but always on white linen.  I do not like artifically aged fabric and I do without antique yarn, too.  I prefer Zweigart linen in 36 ct or 40 ct.  The white background and the plain framing should form a “point of rest”  for my very different “stitching loves”.

My yarn came from MEZ/Anchor, from a department store or from a needlework shop.   I received the full palette of DMC step by step as a colorful bouquet for birthday or wedding anniversary by my husband, as a souvenir from journeys or by my best friends.   Now, I do have  all colors by both companies.   My basis!

If I have the chance to lay colors at the original piece in a museum, I take with me the cut color charts.  At an earlier time, I had my yarn cases with all colors on me.

When did you start charting reproduction samplers?  What was the first sampler you charted?

Some antique samplers were hanging in the apartment of my friend Marina.  She loaned one to me in 1990.  I was allowed to take it to my home:  I “laid” and chose colors, drew symbols on graph paper and worked my first reproduction  – “DS 1842”.   I was really proud.... Two magazines published it!   I even got money for my pleasure and for my work.

Can you tell us about your creative process of reproducing samplers?  
The important part of the creative process is the decision:  Why exactly this sampler?  It is a very individual and emotional decision since I do not know what sampler lovers would like to stitch.

Pretty much the same is wonderful but also trying work to choose the colors:  Why this shade and not the other one?  What do I do with the light damages?

Sometimes a shade of color is missing and then I use floss colors by both companies.

When did you discover the Scarlet Letter? What was the first Scarlet Letter sampler you stitched? 

After my first sampler I was in search, I was hooked as you know, for providers of reproductions.  Permin of Copenhagen, The Scarlet Letter and The Essamplaire were offering reproduction samplers, too.   I was collecting catalogues, ordering charts and purchasing needlework kits.   I worked lots of reproductions like a maniac and with great pleasure!  My first Scarlet Letter sampler I was working in 1995 – “Sibmacher 1763”.  

Sibmacher 1763

The second one, “Continental” in 1998.


What is your favourite period of sampler-making and why? 

I cannot say which century or which European region I prefer.  I am a stitcher in the main:  When I am fretful I cannot stitch samplers from the Biedermeier period – too many color changes so my glance goes to graphically clear samplers or monochrome pieces – school samplers, darning samplers, samplers from the 17th and 18th century.  When I am balanced and well, I am not shy of 30 to 35 colors.  It makes no difference to me whether in colorful Vierlanden samplers or Biedermeier samplers, in samplers from the Netherlands or Scotland.

Which designs appeal to you the most?

I am fascinated by the creativity of young girls/women who got the task or who made it their business to turn an empty piece of fabric into a sampler no matter if  she had a private teacher or if she attended a convent school, if she was well-off or poor, if she was living in an orphanage or attended a public school.

How do you display your stitched samplers?  Do you frame them?  Hang them singularly or in groupings? 

Each of my finished samplers is being framed and gets its place.  In the beginning, my first samplers were scattered on the wall together with photos, bead bags, and souvenirs.  Now, I hang them in groupings:  my Biedermeier room, our 17th century/18th century living room, the Vierlanden-Ackworth-wall, and the red-blue walls.

Do you collect antique samplers? Or have any other collections special to you?

My husband would say: “What do you not collect?  It is simpler to itemise.” I have a small collection of whitework samplers – I cannot stitch them.

I own a variety of needlework scissors and my antique patterns.  I finished collecting and processing ancient fabrics, they do not “grow again” and have become very expensive.  In the past, I produced patchwork blankets, cushions, and patchwork kits.

I offer the last beautiful pieces at the Textile Art Berlin because women love to see and touch the textiles.

What other types of hand work do you enjoy? 

I like to patch in front of the TV in the evening – watching newscast, detective stories – or as a passenger in the front seat of our car on long journeys.

Any guilty secrets to confess? 

Sometimes, I miscount while stitching or I have made a wrong selection of colors and I realize the fault much later.  I rant and rave about my mistake!  My husband always advises me to cheat.  But I show photos on my website and on Facebook.

What has been your worst needlework disaster?

Mistakes and frustration apparently do belong to needlework, undoing and proceeding, too.  None of my samplers deserves to become a skeleton in the closet when I am no longer in the mood for it.  I was told in a Berlin museum that plenty of their samplers in the archives met this fate.

If you can pick just one, which is your favorite sampler that you stitched?  And why?

“BW 1880” and “BKRM 1779” currently are my favorite samplers.  

BW 1880

BKRM 1779
Both of them impress with a harmonious composition without repetition in the motifs.  One can see on these samplers that the stitchers had a lot of fun creating them in those days.  And it also was a pleasure for me to count, chart and stitch them.  


But there can be a change at any time: MAMAN 1880-1890”  and “Mary Gunter 1811” are pushing their way to the front.

MAMAN 1880-1890

Mary Gunter 1811

Thank you so very much, Sabine, for sharing your story!  Your samplers are a feast for the eyes!  It is wonderful to hear about your process to charting samplers and your love of needlework.  To learn more about Sabine, her samplers, and her future endeavors please visit her website European Reproduction Samplers – click here!