Monday, July 26, 2010

Let Love Abide

This week we would like to introduce you to a friend of ours, Mrs. Marian Soss of Burlingame California.  I was lucky enough to meet Marian many years ago and our friendship has continued mostly via the and letters back and forth keeping each other up on the happenings in our lives, both sampler and family related. I had the opportunity to visit Marian again this last week, when my daughter Natalie and I tagged along with my husband on a business trip to the area. We arranged to meet Marian for lunch at a delightful restaurant - the Iron Gate in Belmont, CA. 

Marian has had a very interesting life. Her story could make for quite a book in itself, but what first drew me to Marian was her sampler collection. 

The first trip to visit her was with the Northwest Sampler Guild on a field trip to the Bay area. The story of how Marian's sampler collection began and continued to grow was such a story of love and was so endearing.  She has continued to use her sampler collection to do good works for so many years now, donating to Mission Hospice the honoraria that she receives for her "Sampler Talks", that she so generously gives throughout the year to interested groups, which she invites into her home.  

Marian has been honored many times for her good works and once you meet her you know why. She is a shining example of how one person can make a big difference.  

A couple of years ago, Julie and I invaded Marian's home and spent three days photographing and documenting Marian's sampler collection. Our friend, Barbara Rombold-Gillies, helped to record information on each sampler and from this we published the book "Let Love Abide".  

In those three days we photographed each piece, measured it, and documented the stitches and materials used. 
Some of the pieces have special little stories about how Marian came to own them or found them and those were noted as well for inclusion in the book. 

There were over 100 samplers in her collection at that time, though she has since added to her collection!  All of the profits from this book are given to Mission Hospice in San Mateo (currently moving to Burlingame, CA, to a new home base.) Mission Hospice is very dear to Marian's heart and has been her favorite philanthropy for her sampler work for many years.  **Note, we still have this book available on our website if you have missed purchasing a copy! It is a special story and one so many have enjoyed hearing. It starts with Marian receiving a small ragged piece of linen (sampler) from her soon-to-be mother-in-law at her engagement party! 

On this trip I was excited to share with Marian a recent book I had read. My friend Lynn had suggested it awhile back and I had enjoyed it so much, I have shared it with many people.  Now I wanted to share it with Marian. The story is one very familiar to her and so similar to one of the fascinating stories she had shared with us about her life.  The book is "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford, and the story takes place in Seattle's International district, cutting back and forth between 1986 and the 1940's during WWII, when the Japanese were sent to internment camps. Here in Seattle they were first sent to Camp Harmony in Puyallup.

I know Jamie Ford wishes he had learned of Marian Soss and her work there prior to finishing this novel, but still the story is special.  Marian attended Garfield High School here in Seattle. At the time this novel takes place, it was her senior year.  That spring, before the end of the school year, and before the Garfield High School Annual was complete, her many Japanese friends were rounded up with their families and sent to the internment camps. Those who were seniors would not graduate after all their years of hard studies! Marian just could not live with this and worked with all the leaders in the various high schools in Seattle and the principals of the schools to make arrangements to deliver the diplomas and half-finished year books to the Japanese students from the Seattle area now living at Camp Harmony.  

They held this small ceremony under the watchful eyes of the military officers who surrounded them with their guns by their sides.  As you can imagine, Marian tells us of how emotional this time was... not knowing what was to become of friends and their families in the camps. They so much wanted a bit of time to share with each other and were granted 15 minutes and no more! So they raced to the central area where they were allowed to mix and wrote like mad in each others' year books.  But when those 15 minutes were up they were quickly escorted out and left to wonder when they might see each other again. 

Just recently Marian received an honor for her part in this ceremony from the Japanese Society. She also received a phone call not very long ago from one of those Japanese students who saw that she was receiving the award. He told her how her message, written in his yearbook, kept him strong during that difficult time. 

Other stories abound...  she met her beloved husband Thomas during WWII when she befriended his sister, who later married her brother, and began to write to him when he went off to war.  One of her letters got through to him at a time when no other mail was making it to where he was.  He reportedly turned to a fellow soldier in his foxhole and said "If we get out of this thing alive, I'm going to marry that girl."  Later, Marian sang with the USO, traveling to many different places to entertain our men and women in uniform.  Her husband has also been honored for his work as one of the liberators of the Mauthausen concentration camp.  He took many photographs of the camp as well as the victims, living and dead, to serve as proof of what had happened there. 

As you can see, Marian is one of the most amazing women we've ever met - yet so completely warm and approachable.  She loves people and she loves life so much, and this love has touched so many people!  She is a true grand lady and we feel so privileged to know her and to have worked with her.   


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sampler Design

 Sampler designed by a group of friends, using published Quaker medallion designs.

This week we want to have a conversation with all of you on your favorite books you use when designing various pieces.... designs you create for everything from commemorative samplers to tokens of friendship. What key elements should you include and how will you personalize them to make them unique for your needs?

What are we leaving behind for others to find in the next couple of hundred years?  Are those who follow going to find reproduction samplers and wonder... "How is this 1797 piece so pristine? What unique fibers they used - I didn't think they existed in 1797!" So how do you complete your reproduction sampler? Do you include somewhere on the piece or in the margin your name and date?  When you create a design of your own do you put your name and date, initials and date, who it is for and why and DATE?  You notice I emphasize date! 
But also, your name is very important. Do you have a unique way to sign your pieces, your own font, your own cipher, or do you wish you could have your name in your own handwriting there on your piece?  Julie is going to show us how to incorporate your own handwriting into your piece to make it especially unique.

I have to admit, I have been remiss often in not signing or dating pieces I have reproduced or created, not knowing where I want that information. Especially on some smalls, there is not a lot of room to include all of that information along with the design elements I have chosen. But I should, as I say to everyone else, at least put it in the margins, the seam or somewhere that will not be noticeable if I cannot truly find a visible space that works. 

Do help those who come after us, or those family members who will want to know which member of the family created this or that and why!  If you have designed a piece, especially a sampler to commemorate an event - wedding, birthday, anniversary, birth, the life of someone, put a plastic sleeve or even adhere a zip lock bag to the back of the framed piece on the dust paper and inside put a written note of explanation.  In my case, it would be typed, so that they can read it, although if your penmanship is nice, someone's personal handwriting is always so beautiful to have!  In your note, provide details about what this piece was created for and why you included the elements you did.  Don't make them wonder if there is a secret message in that pansy or yellow rose. Tell them the meanings or the reasons you chose what you did for your design. Who was it for and what was the occasion and again, I would include the date and name on this piece and where you lived when you created it.

Now for creating those special gifts, large and small, what design sources are your favorites? Please share with us and Julie and I will do the same here below. Our libraries are overflowing with so many wonderful books and charts and pamphlets, but I know there are a few I tend to gravitate to more often and it always surprises me.  I don't feel we need to reinvent the wheel... if a great motif has been designed and is right for you, then use it in your own design. Many times when I purchase a chart I know I will never stitch the whole sampler, but it has several great details or motifs in it that I know I would love to use some day for something! I have oh so many of those "some day" projects in my cupboards. But do not just copy a major portion of someone else's design and call it your own. If you are doing that then give them credit and it might be nice, too, in your documentation to list what your sources were and the materials used!  

Now all of this being said, I am talking about designing for your own use and gifts and not for those to be sold. Remember for those that are being sold, yes there are design elements that are open to the public domain for use, but do not go stepping on the toes of those in the field who are also working hard to create their own style and business from their designs.  Copyright issues abound in the needlework world, and if you want to  continue to have lots of choices in designs, remember to be kind to the artists who create those designs.


Just lately, Becky has been designing a new sampler to celebrate the life of her nephew, Adam.  She sent me an email awhile back wondering if I had any large charts of evergreen trees.  I sent her a couple of examples, and keep running into them.  Here's one, Becky, that I just found - from Making Samplers by Jutta Lammer.  

Charting Your Personal Signature 
I love to look at one particular signature I have on a piece of needlework I finished a few years ago - I recognize the name as being in my own hand, and it makes a very nice personal touch!  
Here's how to do it:

First of all, practice writing your signature in the approximate size you want it to appear on your work.  Use a fairly thick pen nib - such as a medium point Sharpie, and when you have a sample that is just to your liking, be sure that the writing is dark and bold.  Measure the signature, and count how many stitches will be on the linen you'll use in that space (I usually just measure the first letter).  This will tell you how many stitches to use in your chart.  

Find some chart paper.  If you don't have any, you can print some here

Or, print a blank page of grid from your cross-stitch designing program.

Lay the paper over your signature and trace it onto the grid (or, if you are sure you can do it the way you want, write it directly on the graph paper).  Now fill in the boxes that the lines in your signature touches, and then stand back a bit and see if this looks like your signature - make little adjustments, until it's exactly right.

Now, if you have a cross-stitch designing program, make a printable chart and save it on your computer to use again and again.  If not, then take your finished graph and put it someplace safe - where you'll be able to pull it out whenever you want to use it.   You can see on my signature above that I decided to use tent stitches or half-crosses to keep the line of type the right size.  Depending on size and space, you may decide to do full crosses or even back stitch or double-running stitch.  


Books or printed sources that are our favorites when it comes to creating special stitched pieces:
101 Alphabets by Dale Burdett Book One, Learn to Design series - Becky
Beautiful Old Alphabets Designs and Stitches by Jutta Lammer - Becky
Veronique Mallard books, so many! Sajou Passion des Alphabets Anciens is one favorite - Becky
The one book I go to repeatedly is Valerie Lejeune's Le Livre des Lettres.  I have lots of others, but this always seems to be my first choice. - Julie

Repertoire des Frises by Valerie Lejeune - Becky and Julie
Charted Folk Designs for cross stitch embroidery, 278 charts of Ancient Fold  -Becky
Embroideries from The Countries Along the Danube, a Dover Book - Becky
Charted Peasant Designs from Saxon Transylvania, a Dover Book - Becky
I'll often look through my stash to find a chart with a nice border to borrow  - Julie

Motifs and Animals:
The Sampler Company's Book of Alphabets Motifs & Borders by Brenda Keyes - Becky
Marquoir a DMC Mango Pratique booklet - Becky
Repertoire des Motifs by Valerie Le Jeune - Becky
Embroidery Motifs from Dutch Samplers by Albarta Meulenbelt Niewburg - Julie

Plant life and Bugs:
Prairie Schooler Charts, great plants and bugs on many of their charts. -Becky
Many of the DMC booklets, Jardin is one published by Mango Pratique -Becky
Marquoirs by Regine Deforges and Genevieve Dormann, this duo has several books that have many good motifs and designs in them - Becky
I'm a big fan of trees and besides the Dutch Motifs book, I'll look at my charts - one particularly good one is Rosewood Manor's And a Forest Grew - Julie
I charted this section for a design by looking at many different trees from different sources.  I love how it turned out - Julie

Mostly I use my collected charts! I am truly drawn to houses - Becky
My well-worn copy of Dutch Motifs comes in handy here again, as well as other charts in my stash - one excellent source lately has been the Hawk Run Hollow series by Kathy Barrick of Carriage House Samplings.

American Samplers by Ethel Stanwood Bolton and Eve Johston Coe - Becky and Julie 
Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework, 1650-1850 by Betty Ring - Julie  (I'll use this if I want a verse that's typical of a certain school or area)

For Small Gifts:
Pattern Book, From Ackworth School by Jaqueline Holdsworth - Becky and Julie
I am so drawn to the Halloween designs gaining popularity every year!  I collect them from so many designers, and will take a bit from here and a bit from there for exchange pieces...  The Primitive Needle is a favorite!

Don't forget the wonderful free charts given by your favorite needlework shop or found on the internet at your favorite designers' websites - Becky

Books by Chier Du Createur published by Mango Partique - Becky
Jo Verso books, good for personalizing careers, sports and things unique to a person- Becky

Besides using these sources, I refer to many of my books that have photos of historical samplers to use as a design source at times for a point of departure if I am trying to get a certain feel to the piece I am creating.  Another conversation later will be those printed sources we enjoy for historical information and even just the best photographs for studying historical pieces.

Another time, we will come back and have a conversation on sources we like to use to aid in creating various stitches and texture in our pieces. I fear if we add that here, we will overwhelm ourselves.

So please chime in and let us all know your favorites. I know we both have too many to even begin to list them all, but even so, you may have some we haven't found yet!


Freebie - Julie's Trees chart
Click on the picture to enlarge for printing

Saturday, July 3, 2010


When our country was just becoming an independent nation, women were much more relegated to the "womanly arts" than we are today.  But American women were just as patriotic as their male counterparts, and this showed in the subjects of their embroidery and other textile work. Many symbols of American Independence are found in our needlework and folk art.  The six main symbols that for over 200 years have acted as common emblems of American independence are the American Flag, the Bald Eagle, the White House, the President, the Goddess of Liberty and Uncle Sam. Many of these symbols have continued to dominate as emblems for our holidays such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day.  No symbol was more dear to our colonial ancestors than Liberty! 

Williamsburg Liberty Toile - reproduction of a textile popular in colonial America.

Lady Liberty, the symbol of freedom as embodied in the female form, had evolved from earlier images that were associated first with the North American continent and later with the English colonies. The figure originally was identified as the American Indian Queen. She is clearly shown as such here.

She is most often shown with an eagle, broken chains and pottery, a cornucopia, images of George Washington, a laurel wreath, a liberty pole and cap, a liberty tree, an olive branch, a rattlesnake, a shield and a stone tablet. The statue of Columbia that used to stand behind the speaker's chair in the House of Representatives is a fine example. In this one we see the Eagle, and on the other side a snake coiled around a Greek column. 

Liberty's likeness or a representation of her spirit appears on many pieces of needlework, appliqued quilts 

and other forms of folk art from revolutionary times - waving the flag of freedom, holding a cornucopia filled to the brim. 

It's easy to trace the sources of the images young ladies used in their needlework...

Depictions with Liberty and images of George Washington abound...

Also called Columbia, she changed over time...


World War I

And eventually, she went out to work...

Columbia Records label, around 1900

 And you probably remember this lady from a recent DVD rental...

She has changed, but she is definitely one of the enduring symbols of America!

What symbols would you use to show your independence? What might you create to express your Nationalism?  We may not always agree with those in charge of our country, but we are lucky to be in a country that allows us to continue to voice our views and allow us independence to choose what our lives will be.  

Happy Independence Day!

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