For this month’s interview we sit and stitch with Donna! We get to hear her stitching story as she shares with us her beautiful samplers. She enjoys stitching Scarlet Letter samplers and I know you will enjoy seeing them!!
Donna, how old were you when you first picked up a needle and who taught you to stitch?
I first picked up a needle at age 5 or 6. My Mother taught me how to sew a straight line to make a pillow in the evenings while we watched TV in the basement. I then advanced to Paragon kits which were very popular at the time in NY where I was born and raised.
What was the first sampler that you stitched?
It was the Celtic Band Sampler by Homespun Samplar. At the time I thought it was a large project and that I would never finish it. However, I did finish it and it hung on my walls until recently.
What is your favorite time of day to stitch?
My favorite time to stitch is anytime of the day!! I work part time during the school year, so I generally stitch in the late afternoon and early evening then. During the summer, I stitch more often.
|Jane Parish - Scarlet Letter|
Do you sit in a set place and what tools do you like to have on hand?
Right now I sit on the couch. We are currently in the process of purchasing new furniture, but I think I will still sit on a couch where I have my right arm free like I do now. As for special tools, I have a white seam ripper that came with an old Kenmore sewing machine. I use it to “carefully” rip out mistakes. Even after all these years, it is razor sharp. My scissors, hoop and needles are all inexpensive.
Do you use the stick and stab technique, or a sewing stitch?
I use the sewing method. I turn the linen as needed so all the stitches cross in the correct direction. It is super fast. I would not have completed so many samplers if I didn’t use this technique.
|Ann How - Scarlet Letter|
Do you prefer to stitch in hand, or with a hoop or frame?
Right now I am using an inexpensive plastic hoop. It works fine and I have been using it for years. I do have a wooden adjustable frame that I will use for satin stitch or other specialty stitches to get a tighter tension. However, I would like to purchase a wooden one from the Scarlet Letter soon.
What is your favorite linen and thread?
Right now my favorite linen is from Lakeside. I really like Vintage Light Examplar, Vintage Buttercream and Vintage Pecan Butter. Though I do like the thinner linen from R&R and Weeks Dye Works also. It’s all about linen color for me. Most of my samplers have been completed with DMC; I have done others in silks too. I have been stitching all my samplers on 40 count lately. I really prefer large, intricate projects done on a small count linen. I admire the ones that are done in a larger count, I just don’t enjoy stitching them.
Have you tried specialty stitches and do you have a favorite?
Yes, I have tried some specialty stitches on various samplers. However, I really just prefer cross. I do follow the patterns and never substitute easier stitches.
|Matilda Charles - Scarlet Letter|
When did you discover the Scarlet Letter?
I did not discover the Scarlet Letter until fifteen years ago. I found the Scarlet Letter on the internet when I was doing a search for Reproduction Samplers. I ordered Marie Abbott and was just amazed at the beauty of this sampler. Since then I have completed 12 Scarlet Letter samplers and many from other designers.
|Marie Abbott - Scarlet Letter|
What is your favourite period of sampler-making and why?
I really like Scottish samplers and samplers with people and animals. In my opinion, people and animals give the sampler life. I have completed three Scarlet Letter Scottish samplers and plan to stitch more.
|Margaret Gibson - Scarlet Letter|
|Marion Robertson - Scarlet Letter|
I like to have a little red in most of my samplers also.
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?
I used to think I was born in the wrong time period since I really enjoy sewing, cooking and everything to do with home and children. I don’t like the pressure I feel today to work outside the home either by choice or necessity. There is so much stigma for women today to do it all. I have learned to just enjoy my life and not worry about what society dictates.
How do you display your stitched samplers? Do you frame them? Hang them singularly or in groupings?
I have had some samplers framed and they are hung throughout my home. The other completed samplers are tucked in a cedar lined drawer and wrapped in cotton fabric. I don’t feel the need to frame everything. I am always looking for new ways to display samplers.
|Rachael Hyde (above)|
Sarah Hartley (below)
Do you collect antique samplers? Or have any other collections special to you?
No I don’t collect antique samplers. I am not a collector. I really don’t like clutter in my home so the samplers I complete are the only collection I own. I live a simple life and really just like the basics.
What other types of hand work do you enjoy?
I have tried many other forms of needle work and rug hooking. I also enjoy crochet. I recently crocheted an afghan in a deep, dark shade of green. I used a braid technique to join the squares together. I really like the effect of this technique. I have made numerous afghans that have either been given away or sold.
Any guilty secrets to confess?
I generally have ice water or diet soda near me. I wash my hands before handling my needlework. I cut off all the tails when the sampler is completed. After I complete sewing for the day or for an extended period of time, the linen and threads go into a Ziploc bag.
What has been your worst needlework disaster?
I bought a beautiful sampler into my local craft store to get it framed. The sampler came back with a black paint stain in the center. I was devastated. I really didn’t know what to do. I was able to get the stain out with a tiny amount of dish soap and water and a q-tip in that area. I worked very hard to get the stain out. On that sampler I used hand dyed linen and silks.
If you can pick just one, which is your favorite sampler that you stitched? And why?
The sampler that had the paint stain from the frame department….Sarah Siddall by Scarlet Letter. I feel like the linen can make or break the sampler. I like vintage and darker linen. Yes. I have been known to dip the sampler into coffee to age it.
|Sarah Siddall - Scarlet Letter|
What Scarlet Letter sampler are you currently working on now (or other current sampler)? What do you most enjoy about it?
I am currently working on Hannah Lancaster by The Porcupine Collection. I have admired that sampler for many years. It has the components I like most, people, animals and a little red. I generally just work on one sampler at a time and prefer large samplers.
|Hannah Lancaster - Porcupine Collection|
What other hobbies or interests do you enjoy?
I enjoy exercising. My husband recently purchased a recumbent indoor exercise bike that I have been using 30 min each day. When the weather is warm, my husband and I walk 2-3 miles each night. We live near the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and spend a lot of time hiking. It is very peaceful and beautiful here. I spend a lot of time with my 13 year old daughter doing all sorts of fun things, we are very close. Of course, I really like researching and reading sampler blogs to get inspiration and to learn and share with others.
Thank you for taking the time to read about me this month. I appreciate it. Sewing is a big part of my life. It is peaceful, relaxing and gives me great enjoyment. I really do not feel I would be as content and happy as I am, if it weren’t for this wonderful hobby!
Thank you Nicola, Krista and to all that help to maintain the Our Scarlet Letter Years blog and facebook group!! Thank you Marsha and ALL designers for making all these samplers available for us to stitch and for all you do!!
And Thank YOU, Donna, for sharing your beautiful stitching with us! Such an inspiration! The peacefulness and enjoyment you get from your stitching can be seen through your words and stitching. To keep up on Donna’s future endeavors please visit her blog, Cross Stitch Samplers.