This month we visit with Janet from Buckinghamshire in the United Kingdom! We sit and chat and learn about Janet’s stitching story. She shares with us a bevy of beauties: from antique treasures to special needlework samplers and projects that are near and dear to her. Take a look and see…..
How old were you when you first picked up a needle and who taught you to stitch?
My mother always made clothes for us as small children and I have a photo of me in a smocked dress. I was always interested in crafts, I remember stitching together hexagons which had been tacked over pieces of cornflake packets! I can’t remember when I started, there was always needlework around. As a teenager I made many of my own clothes, studied Domestic Science/Needlework through to A level and made my own 21st birthday party dress and wedding dress.
|Janet in her smocked dress|
What was the first sampler that you stitched?
My first proper sampler was the Grateful Heart band sampler designed by Sharon Cohen and published in Just Cross Stitch Jan/Feb 09 & Mar/Apr 09. A modern interpretation of old patterns and beautiful colours.
|Grateful Heart Sampler|
What is your favourite time of day to stitch?
I lead a busy life and so my main stitching time is in the evening. Not necessarily my favourite time as it can lead to mistakes and reverse stitching!
Do you sit in a set place and what tools do you like to have on hand?
I have an Orkney chair which is very comfortable. However, I do need a cover down the back as the woven sea grass is a bit scratchy! I keep my tools on a tray which has a tray cover designed by Thea Dueck of The Victoria Sampler Company. Usually my needle case, beautiful Italian scissors, tweezers, threads on wooden thread organisers and my Ort pot, of course, are all to hand!
Do you use the stick and stab technique, or a sewing stitch? Do you prefer to stitch in hand, or with a hoop or frame?
Stick and stab definitely. I like my fabric taut to get a nice even finish. I will even machine baste a strip of fine calico on to a small piece in order to get it onto the frame. I have gradually upgraded my stand and frame and now have a top of the range Millenium stand and several frames of varying sizes. Every time I went to a stitching show where John of “Needle Needs” had a trade stand I treated myself to another frame. I was so lucky that this was before he was “discovered” by so many ladies that he is struggling to keep up with demand. They are the best ever and well worth the cost and the delivery wait.
What is your favourite linen and thread?
I like stitching on any linen, except white, normally Zweigart as we do not have quite the selection there is available in the US. Count – since my introduction to the Scarlet Letter I have a couple of pieces on 40 count but I do still work on 28 or 32 count. Threads – DMC but more and more turning to silks.
Do you like specialty stitches and have a favourite?
I love speciality stitches and enjoy the challenge of mastering new ones, I think my favourite has to be Queen stitch. I tend to get bored with a piece stitched in just cross stitch and need to rotate with more challenging pieces.
|Special gift stitched for a neighbor|
When did you discover the Scarlet Letter?
This is quite a convoluted story! I am a member of Jane Greenoff’s Cross Stitch Guild and at one of the CSG weekends a lady brought a Victoria Sampler piece – “Where Stitcher’s Gather” – for Bring and Brag. I loved it so much I tracked it down, stitched it and a number of other VS pieces. I travelled to Victoria for the VS retreat in April 2011. We received many gifts including several of Thea’s alphabet small samplers. I was told that someone has stitched all 24 as a single piece, searched www and found a picture of Nicola’s beautiful work. Following her blog and there it was –the Scarlet Letter- and I was hooked!
What was the first Scarlet Letter sampler you stitched?
I am almost embarrassed to admit that I am only about 6 inches in to Mary Hurst! This was to be my 2015 main piece and I hoped to keep up with Nicola as she gave us such detailed notes but too many other things have got in the way this year. Now we are going into the autumn and winter I definitely plan more stitching time but need to schedule time in the day when my concentration levels are higher! I have the Huswif to stitch, all framed and ready to go. I was lucky to receive Margret Gatis in the draw during the visit to Elizabeth and Michael Feller’s home. That will be my next challenge. My stash of Scarlet Letter charts will be increasing soon.
|Mary Hurst Sampler in progress|
What is your favourite period of sampler-making and why?
No favourite period, I do however prefer patterns and alphabets to pictures.
Which designs appeal to you the most?
I love the colours in the Scottish samplers, especially the alphabets.
Although only cross stitch, the Quaker motifs are amongst my favourites. I am lucky enough to own an original dated 1776.
|Quaker 1776 sampler|
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 enjoyed reading both the Feller books about their samplers and just chatting with Michael during the visit I learnt so much more. I am also interested in reading about the Bristol Samplers and the young people that stitched them.
How do you display your stitched samplers? Do you frame them? Hang them singularly or in groupings?
My collection of antique samplers is displayed on the wall up the stairs with a couple in our bedroom and several on the landing.
My own stitching is on the walls of my craft room. A room shared with my partner as he frames my pieces and his own photographs. We are rapidly running out of wall space!!
Do you collect antique samplers?
Yes. I look in antique shops when we are travelling and I also go to a small local auction house where they occasionally have just one sampler in a catalogue. I have managed to purchase several nice pieces there including a map sampler which I obtained at a very reasonable price.
|Antique Map Sampler|
My very first antique sampler was when my partner’s sister was sorting out an old chest belonging to their eldest sister who lives in Beirut. This came out over her shoulder, I commented Oh that’s nice, was told “take it if you like it.......” Of course I did!! I had it mounted and reframed by Jane Greenoff as it was before my partner did his framing courses and it hangs on my bedroom wall.
|First antique sampler|
My favourite antique is definitely my Quaker 1776 piece. This will probably be surpassed as I have just purchased Dorothy Walpole plus her daughters from Marsha in a pre auction sale agreement. Dorothy is so beautiful I just wanted to invest in her.
|Antique Dorothy Walpole Sampler|
Do you have any other collections special to you?
Over the 25 years of his career I collected many of David Winter’s miniature cottages and other works. I met him several times and always enjoyed meetings and get togethers with other collectors.
|Janet's David Winter cabinets|
What other types of hand work do you enjoy?
I enjoy machine patchwork and quilting. Here is my nearly finished quilt being tried for size before setting the corners.
I inherited my mother’s lace pillows and bobbins and have done just a little, attending several classes. Here is my second bobbin lace project.
I have also done a small amount of gold work, again at classes. As with my stitching there are just not enough hours in a day for all the craft I want to do! I have found that attending a class or a weekend, or even a week if possible, allows me to devote time whereas at home there are always so many other things that need doing. How anyone who is retired can say they don’t know what to do I cannot imagine!
Any guilty secrets to confess?
I cannot fudge a mistake! It has to come out – I know that often it would not be noticed by someone else but I know the error is there so out it must come! My cat does help and likes to walk over the chair and tray of tools but so far she has not been caught asleep on my work, although she does like my quilt template folder if I am working in the craft room!
What has been your worst needlework disaster?
Getting to the bottom of the letter C on the VS alphabet sampler and finding the bottom didn’t line up with A & B because of a thread count error 2/3 of the way down – and Yes – it did come out and get re stitched! I then basted in the grid marks to avoid doing it again!
If you can pick just one, which is your favorite sampler that you stitched? And why?
It is still “Grateful Heart” until I get a Scarlet Letter finish. I just loved the patterns and the colours.
My other favourite is a small sampler, again from Just Cross Stitch, which was my first on a finer count fabric. It was a real challenge but I was so pleased when it was completed.
What Scarlet Letter sampler are you currently working on now? What do you most enjoy about it?
Mary Hurst. It is my first - I love the design and really want to get on with her. I need to complete the white work (I am using the pale blue silk) and get that done, I am sure it will progress faster once that is complete. I need to schedule a day when in peace and quiet I can concentrate, I think that is why I have not made progress yet.
What other hobbies or interests do you enjoy?
Ah – now that is where my problem lies!! I keep bees, two hives only at the bottom of my garden, but they do need attention. Here we are extracting the honey.
|Hives, bees, Extraction day, and buckets of sticky stuff!|
My main other hobby is small bore target rifle shooting. My stitching friends joke about the fact that they don’t know another stitcher who keeps bees and shoots!!
I have been competing for nearly 30 years, was once at minor International level, but now am a good Club and County level competitor. As County Captain for Buckinghamshire I have 45 shooters competing in winter inter county leagues, shooting at paper target at a distance of 25 Yards indoors. Cards are signed, witnessed and dated and each round is sent to a scorer for marking. Most of the Counties in the UK have teams, all divided into leagues according to current averages and ability. Dealing with these as well as my own competition commitments is why my craft suffers for lack of time. It may not be too long before arthritis prevents me shooting and then I can concentrate on the crafts!!
|GB Ladies team for Randle match August 2015 and winter league team cards|
I qualified to shoot in the GB ladies team against the American ladies in August, we set a new GB ladies record and also won the match. Each team of 10 ladies shoot their cards at their National Championship with an independent witness present who watches the scoring and any gauging of shot holes and signs the score sheet which is submitted to the organising committee. The GB Championship week in August is the last so we know the result quite quickly.
I also enjoy reading. My favourite author has to be Terry Pratchett. I have the full set of disc world books and will soon be starting back at the beginning and re reading them all.
Can you share a current project with us?
My Quaker sampler has been charted by a stitching friend, Jane. My stitching friend Christine, who is a wiz with the IStitch programme, helped me size it and move the motifs around to fit the top of a beautiful wooden work box I found at The Button and Needlework Boutique in Victoria when I attended this year’s VS retreat.
|Box for Quaker sampler|
|1 strand space-dyed Gloriana silk over 2 threads on 40 count|
Thank you so very much, Janet, for sharing your stitching journey with us all! It is so wonderful to see your beautiful antiques, stitching and needlework techniques that you enjoy. It is so great to learn about your hobbies that mean so much to you. While it is not possible for us to all meet each other in person your words and works are full of life and it is like you are sitting with each one of us!