For our first interview in Our Scarlet Letter Years we are visiting with Robert! Many of you may already follow his blog at A Gentleman's Samplings and have been WOW’ed by all of his amazing stitching! Here he tells us how he got started and some of his favorite things in this craft we all love.
Robert, how old were you when you first picked up a needle and who taught you to stitch?
I was around 25 years of age when I first learned to cross stitch by a young lady who I met while my wife and I were stationed in Iceland. One day while we were sitting around and talking I asked her what she was working on. She showed me a small piece that she was stitching for her new born son. A couple of weeks later she gave me a small kit and from there I was hooked.
I grew up though with crafts all around. My mother, grandmother and aunts did embroidery, crochet, and knitting. I have an uncle who is 92 and has been doing crochet for as long as I have known him. My brother and I also used to sit next to each other watching TV and doing latch hook rugs or macramé when that was the thing back in the 70’s.
What was the first sampler that you stitched?
My first official sampler was probably a piece from the Ellen Stouffer Country Cross Stitch (An American Sampler) book. Although not reproduction it had all the makings of a sampler. I found the book while stationed in Panama and stitched nearly every pattern in it since I did not have access to a cross stitch shop. Materials were also limited to the Jobelan Linen and DMC floss that I could find on base.
Along the way there were other books with designs by Paula Vaughn (Quilt design in cross stitch) and a lot of them from the Vanessa-Ann Collection.
After I got out of the navy and returned to the states in 1989 I found a couple of shops which specialized in cross stitch and was introduced to finer linens, threads, and of course historic reproduction samplers.
When did you discover the Scarlet Letter? What was the first Scarlet Letter sampler you stitched?
I first discovered Scarlet Letter around 1999 with my first pattern – Elizabeth Ginger. I completed Elizabeth Ginger in 2000 followed by Ann Grimshaw completed in 2003.
|Ann Grimshaw 1818|
What is your favourite period of sampler-making and why?
I am more drawn to the style of a sampler and not necessarily the period.
Which designs appeal to you the most?
The designs that appeal to me most at this time are Adam & Eve samplers followed by the Dutch and German samplers.
What is your favorite time of day to stitch?
I usually stitch for a couple of hours in the evenings. Day time stitching is usually limited to weekends.
Do you sit in a set place and what tools do you like to have on hand?
I have a couple of chairs at home that are my favorites and each of them has a daylight lamp over my left shoulder. I do not have a lot of supplies, usually just a pair of scissors and a needle cushion with several needles at the ready.
Do you use the stick and stab technique, or a sewing stitch?
I use both methods depending on the count and density of the linen. I prefer the sewing method.
Do you prefer to stitch in hand, or with a hoop or frame?
A hoop is my go-to tool. I have used a frame but only when it has a lot of specialty stitches that requires two hands. But then I only use a stand (floor or table top) to hold the hoop while I work with both hands. But most of it is in a hoop being held with my left hand and stitching with my right hand.
|And All Was for an Appil - progress photo|
What is your favorite linen and thread?
I am a big fan of the over dyed linens – Lakeside and Weeks Dye Works – especially in the 36, 40 and 52/64 count linens. Favorite thread is silk (regular and over-dyed) but I still stitch some samplers with DMC and the over-dyed cottons.
Have you tried specialty stitches and do you have a favorite?
Specialty stitches are my favorite. They add so much texture to a piece. My favorite has to be the Queen Stitch. I use to really dislike this stitch because it never seemed to look right. But after being shown by a couple of teachers and working it now on multiple samplers, I have learned to like it. The next stitch that I would like to master is the detached stitches. I have a few samplers that all I need to do is the detached work and then they would be done.
|A Flamestitch - progress photos|
How do you display your stitched samplers? Do you frame them? Hang them singularly or in groupings?
Most of my completed samplers will end up being framed. I have over 40 samplers that are stitched and in archive boxes that need to be framed. I have about 20 pieces framed and hung around the house. I have a few that are more seasonal in nature that only come out a while during the year (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc.).
What other types of hand work do you enjoy?
I just started a small wool appliqué pin cushion. I saw this at a quilt show and decided it would be fun to give something else a try. Not far enough along to show at this time.
Any guilty stitching secrets to confess?
I guess since it is Lent I can do some confessing – there is usually something to drink on the small table by my chair to wet the lips – water, coffee or something with a little bit more of a kick(single malt scotch anyone?). I also use to leave long tails on the back of my work until a good friend commented about their length. Since then I have been very good at cutting them close to the fabric and burying them in the back of my work.
What has been your worst needlework disaster?
My worst disaster has to be stitching with the Belle Soie Sister Scarlet silk when working on Sarah Woodham 1770 from Shakespeare’s Peddler. The thread bled something awful while stitching and I did not even get it wet. I have never had an issue like this with any other color or thread.
If you can pick just one, which is your favorite sampler that you stitched? And why?
My favorite sampler that I have stitched is Tour van Holland from Amy Mitten. This was my first piece completed from a class with the designer (even though I bought it while attending a class for Not For Us Alone). This is a piece done in the style of the Dutch samplers and got me started on my love for these samplers and motifs.
|Tour van Holland - Amy Mitten|
What Scarlet Letter sampler are you currently working on now? What do you most enjoy about it?
The last sampler that I started as a part of Nicola’s Scarlet Year is AED 1746 (a German sampler). I love these types of samplers and it has a couple of things I really like – Adam & Eve and a ship!
Robert also had some amazing finishes during the Scarlet Letter Year Challenge….
|And All Was for an Appil|
Thank you so much for sharing your story and stitching, Robert. An inspiration to us all! We will all look forward to seeing your AED 1746!
To see more of Robert’s wonderful stitching be sure to visit his blog at A Gentleman's Samplings. It is well worth the visit!