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Header Photo
American Quaker Sampler stitched by Krista


Monday, 11 November 2013

Beyond the Little X - An Interview with SamplerAnnie!

Here we are in November!  Can you believe we have been working on our Scarlet Letter Challenge for almost a year now?  There have been so many wonderful finishes so far this year.  Our interview of the month is someone who has contributed a few finishes this year as well.  It is time to meet SamplerAnnie! 

SamplerAnnie has been stitching and stitching and stitching for many years and is now sharing her story and her Scarlet Letter samplers:

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

My mother tried to introduce me to the needle through embroidering stamped dish towels and panties, one for each day of the week when I was perhaps in elementary school.  After that many unsuccessful attempts, she tried ordering stamped kits of old mills, covered bridges and trains and even ordered a needlepoint flower kit.   All left a bad taste which I tried to forget.  In my mid twenties, circa 1966, I completed a set of stamped kits from Good Housekeeping that whetted my interest.  

Good Housekeeping Kit Samplers

This was while I was a student at LSU.  In those days they had a workshop so I cut the wood and framed them myself. There were a few blind starts if I recall correctly.  As all beginners must do, I experimented with samplers designed by both June Dole and Merrily Beams counted thread samplers among others.  The Chase and The Hunt were two stamped kits which convinced me that sampler making was worthwhile and I started looking for that type in counted thread.  In about 1979 I discovered THE SCARLET LETTER and reproduction samplers.  My first TSL samplers were Mary Baker, Heloise Williams, Dora Sanger and Ann Carter.  These are still some of our favorites.  By then I was completely addicted and continued making the frames.

Dora Sanger and Heloise Williams shown in the upper left corner

What time of day do you stitch? Do you sit in a set place and what tools do you like to have close to hand. Does everything have to be in a certain place in order for you to relax and concentrate on your work?

The best time for me is the first thing in the morning in my robe and a fresh hot cup of coffee in hand (ok several cups). We converted a family room to a computer/ reading/ hobby/ stitching room which is off limits to everyone unless invited in, so nothing has to be picked up or tidy.   Projects are left out so they are easily accessible any time. The tabletops are covered in floss bags, scissors, ort jar, kleenex boxes, coffee cups, lotion, an assortment of magazines and books. It’s messy but productive. 

I have two stitching stations, one inside the house for the winter season, and an enclosed porch with two stitching chairs in summer.

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

Both, depending on the area and the sampler and what is going on around it and whether it is in a hoop or on scroll bars.

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

I’ve always loved 17th century English Band samplers so that is an all time favorite. Perhaps it is because their designs are exquisite. I’ll never have enough years to stitch all of them that I want to. The Scottish samplers are also a close second. 

Katie Sym

I love solidly stitched areas and can be tempted by almost anything that is 100% covered in stitches. Big solid lawns with paths and sheep or animals and people are especially tempting.


Which designs appeal to you the most? (e.g. Scottish, certain stitches, color schemes, animal motifs, houses, figures, Quaker style, etc)

As far as stitches go, I love queen stitch and holbein as well as montenegrin, satin, stem etc. The more variety the better. Bullion always adds detail and dresses up a sampler.

Some of my all time favorite samplers are Ann Grimshaw, Sara Tatum, Amelia Boyce, Joyce Leedes, Betsy Davis and Betsy Manchester, Ann Scutt and ad infinitum.  Tastes change daily with new samplers being moved up to favorite constantly.


Sally Fiske

Do you have passions other than stitching?

The main rival to samplermaking is photography. I struggle in constant battle between the two. I love nothing more than photography and traveling.  Currently, I’m helping edit an upcoming book for two professional photographers. We both love to hike and try our best to get a daily walk. I love to read documentary, nonfiction and historical fiction.  I’m a wanna-be knitter who gets frustrated by not being able to find time. I love to dig up new recipes and used to cook but since his retirement dear hubby has taken up cooking as his passion, so I’ve become a sous chef which suits us both quite fine. I find recipes, help prep and do dishes while he dirties every pan in the kitchen and cooks up delicious concoctions focusing on ethnic cusines. While I do not make desserts or sweets except at Christmas, for nearly fifty years breadmaking has always been a regular activity once or twice a week.  Herb gardening in the summer tops the list.  A vegetable garden takes our time but we could not do without it. Freezing and drying the harvest is part of it. The need to add new activities without giving up any is becoming a preoccupation.

We have three grown children and two preschool grandchildren, living 2,000 miles away. Of our three children, none does needlework although they are creative in their own ways. Our oldest daughter is an artist and has spent several years working in Peace Corps in Morocco designing and weaving handmade rugs and most recently she has worked in Nambia with basketweavers who make one of a kind handmade baskets from local resources digging plants to dye the grasses themselves. Her work is colorful and intense.  

Do you have any rituals for stitching?

There are no stitching rituals in my household. My motto is ‘just do it and get it done” in a good acceptable way, naturally. I like neat backsides but nothing obsessive like doing reversible. I adore an exact reproduction (as close as possible, knowing there are no exact repros.)   I clip thread ends closely and start and end neatly but nothing out of the ordinary. I try my best to remove linen from new kits, press and hang so as to prevent permanent crease marks. I do cut skeins of silk into 18” lengths before beginning and bag them by color symbol on a ring for easy access. I stitch best using tiny #28 needles.

Thank you Nicola for making this a sampler stitching year and letting us all enjoy each other’s work as well as giving me the opportunity to join your special world of stitching.

I hope you have all enjoyed meeting SamplerAnnie as much as I have.  I think that she should give tours of her ‘gallery’.  I know I would be first on line!  Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Annie!  I am in awe of your stitching!!  I have had great fun looking at your sampler walls.  Do you see many you know?  and many you wish to someday stitch too?


Melissa said...

Amazing stitching! Thanks for the interview!

Nicola said...




Donna said...

Lovely sampler walls such an inspiration..what is the sampler next to AEIOU under the wreath with the red berries has a red house and nice border

Bhooma said...

Nicola, You would LOVE a tour of Annie's sampelr walls. Whenever I can, I visit Annie on my way to Ann Arbor. The first time I visited her ( about two years ago) I was awestruck by her work. Samplers and needlework everwhere in her house. She is also very knowledgable about samplers, needelework, etc.

Bethany said...

Amazing interview. Thank you for sharing, opening your home your life and your family. It is wonderful to meet new people who love our same passion. Also, great to see how others display their finished stitching. I love that you frame your pieces, what a wonderful savings...... Annie, it looks like if you sent out the invite, your home would be full up................. Thank you for sharing.

Erica near Chicago said...

Oh my oh my oh my. Absolutely amazing.

Heritage Hall said...

That oft-used word, awesome, fits
to a T here, said she with the dropped jaw. Just wonder what the
total count is on all the needlework displayed.
Annie, good thing you gave Hubby
the cuisine duty; worth about
ten samplers stitching time. Brava
to you! Wonderful interview.

Debbie Bauer said...

Thank you! I can't thank you enough for allowing us a peek into your life.(your samplers and family)Your work is amazing. I just loved seeing your daughter's baskets. Just let me know when the tour is and I'll book a flight! LOL!

donnacrafts said...

Just wonderful. Thank you Nicola and Annie for this interview. Your work is outstanding. Thanks for sharing your passion and home. It is so much appreciated.

brod'attitude said...

Thank you for this interview. Fantastic wall.

Lanie said...

Oh my goodness! .... all those gorgeous samplers! Amazing Annie! I, too, will be there for a tour in a heartbeat ... I just don't know how you will get us to leave once we are there :) Thank you for sharing your story!

Samplings from Spring Creek said...

Wow wow wow. When does the home tour begin. Absolutely beautiful

queenstownsamplerdesigns said...

Thank you Annie for the fabulous tour.

Lovely interview.

KathieB said...

Wow--jaw dropping display! I see my favorite--Lucy Fiske, and The Red House too.

KathieB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~mj~ said...

Such an amazing collection of samplers! Thank you so much for this interview...I keep returning to it again and again to admire and drool...

Cindy L said...

Amazing! I feel like we walked through a SL gallery. Thank you for such a wonderful interview and such amazing photos. I too will keep returning to admire your work.