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American Quaker Sampler stitched by Krista


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Beyond the Little X - An Interview with Melinda of Merry Wind Farm!

Happy New Year!  For our first interview of the year we visit with Melinda from Merry Wind Farm

Some of you may be familiar with Melinda from her blog where she shares her stitching and rug hooking and life at Merry Wind Farm in Ohio.  Today she is sharing all of these things with us, especially, you will see, her love of Scarlet Letter samplers! 

Melinda, how old were you when you first picked up a needle and who taught you to stitch? 

My mother was quite the seamstress and tailor. I can remember sewing beside her at a very young age.  I made doll clothes, woven hot pads (remember those?) aprons, etc., before progressing on to my own clothes. My mother and I made my clothes up until the age that I decided I didn't want "homemade" anymore, probably as a teenager. Then there was probably a time span of 8-10 years where I abandoned sewing, before discover stitching.

What was the first sampler that you stitched?

My adventure with sampler stitching began in 1978, when while on vacation I stopped into a shop somewhere in Wisconsin (no, it was not the Scarlet Letter) and purchased a screen-printed motto sampler, God Bless Our Home.  I was hooked.   I do still have it, but it is quite hideous.  As bad as it was, it hung over the kitchen sink for many, many years.

What is your favorite time of day to stitch?

I always stitch while listening to the television.  Evening is my favorite time.  I usually stitch, or sometimes rug hook, from about 8 to 12.  If something happens, like company, that I cannot stitch, I feel very nervous and anxious and can't get to sleep.  I think I have a stitching addiction!  It is a regular part of my day and I really *must* stitch!

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

In my home, the colonial "look" is the most important thing.  As long as I have a chair with a small table for my ott light on my left, I'm set to go. The only kind of chair that fits in with my decorating style is a traditional wingback, so that is what I stitch in.  

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

I always considered the way I stitch a "sewing method" but I now realize it is different.  Each stitch is completed as I go, and I stitch in this direction: Upper left, lower right, lower left, upper right, then underneath the previous stitch going to the left to start the next stitch.  I turn the sampler up and down, and this stitch can also be done vertically.  The only downside is that more thread is used, since you go completely under each stitch to start another. Since I rarely use expense silk floss, this isn't an issue with me. Using this method, I never have to stop and reach behind the linen. I have stitched probably around 100 samplers, and never would have been able to do that without this quicker method.

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

I use a 6" English wood hoop that I purchased from Scarlet Letter years ago.  I have wrapped the bottom hoop for additional hold.  I love this hoop and never use anything else!  I am even using it for Manifesto and stitched Dutch Beauty with it also.

What is your favorite linen and thread?

My favorite count of linen to stitch on is 32, because I find that is the easiest on my eyes.  I also love 34 legacy, as it is so nice and soft and easy to handle.  I can manage 35 and 36, and barely 40.  I don't use a magnifier, so I only stitch on what I can see with my regular glasses. My philosophy is that if I can't see it and have to struggle, it isn't fun!!

Have you tried specialty stitches and do you have a favorite?

I hate, hate, hate queen stitch, and I WON'T do it!  If there is a sampler I like and it has queen stitch, I will probably pass on it.  I don't really know fancy specialty stitches, other than satin, rice, herringbone, double running, etc.  

Ann Wallace Sampler (left) and Scarlet Letter Christmas Sampler (middle)

When did you discover the Scarlet Letter?

It was my Mother who originally discovered a Scarlet Letter ad in a magazine, and I sent for the catalog.  I would guess this was in the early 90's.

What was the first Scarlet Letter sampler you stitched? 

I'm really not sure of what was my first Scarlet Letter sampler.  It could be one of many, all stitched in 1994 or 95.  Red House Sampler and Rebecca Robinson were early stitches, and both of those have been given to a dear friend.  The other possibilities are this Dutch sampler, 
the Antique Alphabet, Martha Smith, or Mary Ann Hutton.  These are the ones that I can remember that were stitched early on.

Letterndoek IT

Antique Alphabet Sampler

Martha Smith Sampler

Mary Ann Hutton Sampler

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

I would say my favorite era of sampler stitching was early 19th century, 1800 until maybe 1830 or so.  I have done one 17th century sampler, Martha Salter.  

Martha Salter is pictured 2nd from right in top row.
Ann Hair is pictured middle in the top row.
Jean Scrimgeowr is pictured 2nd from right in bottom row.

Now that I look through Marsha's list of 18 century, I see 4 or 5 that I have stitched.  And I was surprised to see that Jane Atkinson is 18th century, which is one of my favorites.

Which designs appeal to you the most?

My absolute favorite of all types of samplers is Scottish House samplers, followed by English, samplers with houses, animals, then Quaker style.  My ancestor was taken prisoner during William Wallace's war and sent to Rhode Island as an indentured servant. Merry Wind Farm was built in 1810 by Quakers, so I enjoy stitching Quaker samplers also.

M Quertier
Stitched during the Scarlet Letter Year challege

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?

Something that amazes me is that these young girls did these samplers with only daylight!  Here we sit with our ott lights and your magnifiers, and still struggle to see.

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

I frame my own samplers most of the time.  I have tons of vintage and antique frames I have collected, and I love the look of samplers in antique frames.  Since my home is decorated with antiques in a colonial style, they look great with my decor.  They are hanging everywhere!  Except for the bathrooms, there is not a single room that does not have samplers.  I chose what to display where depending on what I think looks the best.  

Dragonfly Sampler (center)

Maria Theresa Wilkinson Sampler

Freelove Hazard Sampler (left)  

Susan McPherson Sampler (right)

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

I never really thought of it as a collection until now, but yes, I guess I do collect antique samplers.  For several years I have had it in the back of my mind to reproduce them and have my own little company, which I will call Merry Wind Farm after my home.  After several years of thinking about it, I have actually finished charting my first antique, Elena Trainman 1824.  I'm currently working on stitching my model, and hope to have it available in a couple of months.   Here is a peek of the antique.

Elena Trainman 1824
For a further sneak peek of the reproduction progress
see Melinda's most recent blogpost here!

I collect many things, too many things, actually, all related to antiques of some sort.  Pewter, flow blue china, antique history books, pottery. And cats and dogs!!  The real ones!!  LOL

What other types of hand work do you enjoy?

I enjoy quilting, rug hooking, and punch needle.  I also like to make primitive stitchery related items and sometimes sell them on EarlyWork MercantileThe first picture is an example of one of the things that I make.  There was no pattern, I just started in, picked a verse, and just stitched what came to me.  It is mounted on a vintage breadboard which I painted and aged.

Any guilty secrets to confess?  (e.g leave tails on the back, drink tea or coffee whilst stitching, let your cat sleep on your work, etc)

I don't leave tails, but yes to everything else!  Cats, coffee, pop, you name it.  :)

What has been your worst needlework disaster? 

I don't even have to think about this one :)  It was when one of my cats, how can I say this delicately, had a #1 accident on this beautiful needlework book designed by With My Needle.  I spent months and months working on this, first stitching all the pages and then putting it together.  And, to make matters worse, I stitched it in silk, which I never do.  I was able to soak it over and over and over and get the smell out, but it is very faded now.


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

I think number one would be Isabel Redie, followed closely by Sarah Wilson.  I love Isabel Redie and it is also special because it was one of the first large samplers that I stitched, and I was so pleased when I finished it.  

Isabel Redie Sampler

Sarah Wilson is special because Marsha had published a picture of the antique, and I believe that I was instrumental in getting people together to pester her to chart it. Sarah was also one of the first large samplers that I framed myself.

Sarah Wilson Sampler

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

I'm currently working on Manifesto on 34 count legacy with DMC floss.  This is my first needlework "picture" and I knew when I saw it that it would be beautiful in my home.  I love stitching on this sampler.    If I want to concentrate on my work, I can stitch on some of the pictorial elements.  If I want to watch tv and just mindlessly stitch, I can work on filling in background.  I knew this would break the bank to frame, and I have already found a vintage frame that will be the perfect size, I only need add a couple of background rows to make it fit.  I'm already debating where the perfect spot will be for it, maybe over the mantel? Note artistic addition of cat tail on photo, haha!

Manifesto in progress

What other hobbies or interests do you enjoy?

I live on a small farm with three adopted off-the-track retired racehorses, 4 dogs, 13 cats, my son, Evan, and my elderly Mother.  I am a widow as is she.  

We both love our animals, and love to garden also.  

I am also quite obsessed with antiques and decorating, I am constantly changing things around.  The farm was settled in 1804 and the current home built in 1810 by Quaker farmers, so my love of samplers, antiques, and hooked rugs fits in well.  

This place is a lot of work but I feel blessed to live in such a peaceful, beautiful location.

Thank you so very much, Melinda, for sharing your story, your love of the Scarlet Letter, and your beautifully stitched samplers!   Your work is so inspiring and lovely to see displayed in your colonial style home, it has been a wonderful tour!! 

Thank you for sharing the sneak peek on your own reproduction sampler.  We look forward to seeing your progress on Manifesto and your very own reproduction sampler! 

***Update!***  Since our interview, Melinda has finished her first reproduction sampler, Elena Tratman 1824!  Here is a look at this beautiful sampler and a link to Melinda's blog post all about it....here. Congratulations, Melinda!  

To follow along with Melinda’s and her future endeavors please visit her blog at Merry Wind Farm


Nicola said...

Melinda - thank you so much for a brilliant interview. I have thoroughly enjoyed every word and the photographs - well what can I say !!!!! I know I will be returning many times to drool over them.

I would love to visit Merry Wind Farm one day. Through your love of antiques you have created a warm and cosy home that looks so welcoming.

I would be interested in acquiring your design as soon as it is available.

Garbo y Salero said...

Very interesting and. Motivational....what a great place to live and stitch....I particularly enjoyed seeing all the samplers.....it transpires love for life....thank you for letting us into your paradise....

Cynde Marschner said...

Melinda, it was wonderful to read this interview. I love the same samplers you do and in the same order ,too.! I have always enjoyed hearing other people's history and wish I had had the same growing up.it is so nice that you have that and shared it with us. I would love to visit the area. I live in Michigan and it is always interesting to me to see other peoples antiques,etc...thank you for sharing your interests.

Catherine said...

Loved this!! Your home is amazing ~ so comfy and inviting! I have a feeling a lot of us would love to be guests for a weekend!

Bhooma said...

WOW !! Melinda! I loved reading your interview. I am in awe of all the awesome samplers you have stitched. I am sure I will be back here again and again and look at your samplers.

Mary Banks said...

Thank you melinda for such an interesting interview. i am in awe of your stitched work.

samplerlover said...

Melinda, I also thoroughly enjoyed your interview. I have always enjoyed reading your blog and along with Carol Sims,the pair of you are my inspiration :). Thank you.

It was so lovely to have the chance to spend time looking at your beautiful samplers. I have many of them kitted up to do. I was also thrilled to see Maria Foster who hangs on my loungeroom wall. She is such a beautiful sampler. Thank you again. Thoroughly enjoyed it. - Sandra.

Beth in IL said...

Thanks for the wonderful interview.

Chocolates4Breakfast (TerriBoog) said...

What a treat! I have loved Melinda's farm, garden, home and stitching since I first discovered her blog, years ago! What a great interview and such a special collection of samplers!

Theresa said...

Yay, yay, yay! I am so glad to see this interview!
I love your blog Melinda, and have been hoping some day
there would be an interview of you on the SL blog! Your stitching is awesome.
Do you have any wallspace at all left? : )
and you quilt and hook rugs and have animals and lovely gardens...wow. Do you ever sleep? : )
Really enjoyed reading this.

donnacrafts said...

Melinda...thank you so much. Your work is outstanding. I love your home!! You are truly an inspiration.

queenstownsamplerdesigns said...

Thank you Melinda for sharing your life's works & marvelous home with us. You are truly a delightful inspiration. I am looking forward to your new sampler chart and hope more are to come.

ilana kaye said...

You are such a prolific and accomplished needle worker. I enjoyed reading your comments and am inspired by your work:)

ilana kaye said...

Thank you for sharing your wonderful prolific body of samplers. You are an inspiration to all of us. :)

Elizabeth Annen said...

What is this "Dutch sampler?" I LOVE it.

Margaret said...

I had to save this for a time where I could sit down and enjoy it. I'm so glad I did. A lovely post and interview!

marly said...

Truly enjoyed seeing your beautiful and extensive collection of samplers. Perfectly stitched and framed. I am totally with you on the Queen! Thanks Melinda ... and Krista.