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American Quaker Sampler stitched by Krista


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Beyond the Little X – An Interview with Pam!

For our November featured interview we meet Pam from South Carolina.  Pam tells us about her journey with stitching and how her love of samplers brought her to designing her very own… something, I imagine, that many of us aspire to do! 

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

I was 25 years old and married.  I went to the Milwaukee County Technical school adult class and learned to needlepoint.  The session was 15 weeks for $1.00.  Best dollar I ever spent!  My teacher was Pat Wagner.  She is one of the best needlework teachers.  She introduced me to the Badger Chapter-EGA, a very talented group of ladies.

What was the very first sampler that you stitched?

I got the kit from a shop on Silver Spring Drive in Whitefish Bay.  The kit was linen fabric and Danish flower thread.  The designer was a local needleworker.

What is your favorite time of day to stitch? Do you sit in a set place and what tools do you like to have on hand? 

I stitch whenever I can sneak a moment.  Usually after supper on the couch.  I always stitched after the kids went to bed.  They are grown now with kids of their own.  I don’t have any special tools just my needle, thread and scissors and my magnifying glasses.

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? 

I use the stick and stab method and prefer to stitch in hand.  I love to feel the linen.  I can take my needlework with me where ever I go.

Do you have a favorite linen and thread?

I love Zweigart natural linen in 30, 32 or 35 count.  I stitch with DMC floss as silk was hard to get and have stayed with DMC. 

Is there a specialty stitch or technique that you enjoy using?

I like the rice stitch and the queen stitch.  I don’t use them very often but do like their texture.

When did you start designing your own samplers?  

In 1979 after we moved to Nebraska.  I worked at a very nice needlework store and I sold my designs there under the name The Prairie Sampler.  My husband John always said that I see life through samplers.  Always looking for a verse, flower, house or event to put in another sampler.

What was the first sampler you charted?

Can you tell us about your creative process of reproducing samplers / designing samplers?  

I start with a color palette then pick house or verse or event.  Put a border around it.  Add an alphabet or two.  Put in cross borders.  Add motifs to fill in the open spaces.  Having the computer makes it much easier to do today than it did before computers.  Then we did it with graph paper, colored pencils, scissors and tape.

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

18th century American.  It truly amazes me how these children stitched their needlework with no electricity, heat or air conditioning on such fine linen.  Their skills are so amazing and their perseverance to finish their complicated designs.  I am 64 years old and my skills are not as fine as theirs or my perseverance.

Which designs appeal to you the most?  Certain stitches, colour schemes, animal motifs, houses, perhaps?

I call them double sided houses.  My first sampler design I stitched a double sided house.  I have a collection of them on my computer.  This is one of the pictures I have saved.

When did you discover the Scarlet Letter?

In 1980.  The Scarlet letter workshop was on Coffee Road in Milwaukee. Marsha is one of the reasons that I am stitching samplers today, Marsha shares her love of needlework with us.  Back in 1980 sampler making supplies were not readily available.  Here is a picture of my patterns from the SL.  I tell people I am the curator of my sampler pattern collections.

What was the first Scarlet Letter sampler you stitched? 

Heloise Williams.  It was designed by Marsha - not a reproduction.  I always take the sampler and make it mine.  I learn from the little girl that stitched their sampler so many years ago.  Here is my adaptation.

Adaptation of the Scarlet Letter's Heloise Williams sampler

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

I frame most of them.  I hang them singularly most of the time.   Groupings are nice but it is hard to see each sampler and what is on it in groupings.

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

My needlework and sampler book collection.  I have a library room with my books.  I have been collecting them since 1976.  My first book was A Pageant of Patterns for Needlepoint by Sherlee Lantz and Maggie Lane.

What other types of hand work do you enjoy? 

Bobbin lace.  I am just a beginner but it is very relaxing.

Any guilty secrets to confess? 

I always have a can of soda nearby.

What has been your worst needlework disaster? 

I have been stitching for 40 years and I have been very lucky.  I have never had a true disaster.  Knock on wood!  I have learned there is always a plan B.

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

I can’t pick just one. 
Each sampler tells a story...... 

.....and I love them all.

Are you currently working on a Scarlet Letter sampler or other sampler? 

I would like to stitch the Scarlet Letter Mary Hammand sampler.  I am currently working on a needle roll and sampler I designed.

What other hobbies or interests do you enjoy? 

I love to play golf, travel to 18th century American towns, volunteer as an 18th century needlework/instructress at our 18th century living history park in town.  Here I get to stitch in a re-created 18th century log building just as the little girls did so many years ago.  I get to educate the public on how important samplers are to our history and what they mean.  I designed a sampler for the park in 18th century style using the Meeting house on site as my theme.  We had the sampler made into lap throws and pillows to sell.  That was so much fun.  All of the proceeds went to the park.  They are no longer available.

Meeting House Sampler by The Prairie Sampler


Thank you so very much for sharing your story with us, Pam!  It is so wonderful to hear about your designing process and seeing your beautiful samplers.  I am sure we can all agree with you that samplers tell a story for us… the houses, the verses, the motifs all speak to us in a very special way.  No two are the same and why each and every one is to be celebrated! 


Nicola said...

A thoroughly enjoyable treat for a Sunday afternoon. Thank you Pam - I have admired your work for so many years. it was lovely to find out more about your passion for needlework.

Bethany said...

Thank you Pam for sharing your love of samplers, your designs and stitching with all of us. We all are so lucky that you and many others enjoy sharing their passions with us. One day maybe I will get the bug and produce a sampler of my own, with a favorite bible verse, house; maybe my own, and a wonderful garden area, with the wild life included.

Debbie Bauer said...

Such a delightful interview! So inspiring! Relaxed with a cup of tea and read it twice. Thank you for sharing.

Gail said...

I loved this ... just charming. It made me want to dash to my own stitchery room and browse through my (many) stitchery books and patterns ... again!