Saturday, January 29, 2011


Am slowly getting caught up around here. For the past 35+ years I have been editing a newsletter for my college sorority chapter, Delta Gamma at Michigan State. I include gals who were initiated in the years 1946–1970. Used to also include the younger ones from 1971–75 but they never wrote so I dropped them. I send out about 450 initial letters in addition to emailing those who have email addresses. Usually I hear from about 150-200 of them. They mostly still live in Michigan, but one is married to a Dutch man and lives in Dubai, 2 are in Canada, and one in Britain. There are 60 some who are "lost" and about the same number have died. I was born in 1946 so it is interesting to see what has become of all these women over the years. When I started out at MSU, you had to wear skirts to class; and the year I graduated you could wear anything and didn't even have to come home to your dorm or sorority house at night—crazy times those late 60's were! For the initial letter of the newsletter I used to stuff a small envelope pre-addressed to me with their questionnaire. The questionnaire was already filled out by my computer, and I had to stuff all those envelopes and lick all those stamps and envelopes. Yuk! This week I decided to try the new--to me--larger 6.5" x 11" postcards. Also bought a new data base and new desktop publishing program for my newer Mac. Everything takes a bit of a learning curve, but I have the post cards finally ready to go. Luckily, my old huge trusty HP printer did not make mincemeat of my card stock. I even decided to allow the gals to pay me via PayPal if they wish, and I can send the newsletter to them in an e-pub format so that they can read it on their e-readers. Received a note today from one gal kicking and screaming about how she didn't like new technology and didn't ever use her GPS—just her trusty old paper maps! It should be an interesting journey this year!!


ANN CARTER—We found this large English sampler at our local historical society, Naper Settlement, Naperville, IL. In years past historical societies accepted anything that was given as a gift no matter its origin or pertinence to their collection. I always joked about this sampler calling it the "uterus" sampler! Love it despite the weird basket. It is a typical English sampler stitched on a fine wool ground—note the moth holes—and filled with motifs. Ann Carter also stitched the name of her school—Withy Ditch School in Dunkerton. Withy refers to willow. The sampler is on a very fine count so we decided to stitch it over 1 thread on 20 count fabric. In those days stitchers did not tolerate over one stitching. We took only a small part of the sampler to reproduce. As you can see, the border on the original is not counted but stitched with embroidery stitches in a beautiful vine. 

This sampler is in a private collection. It is also a Withy Ditch School sampler! Hard to believe. The setup is the same as the original Ann Carter sampler. Note that it is stretched on a wooden frame. I would have thought that the fabric touching the wood would have darkened, but not so.

 I think that must be Margaret standing on the roof of her house or school!

Another ADAM & EVE Sampler—

Jane Salusbury—
My friend's daughter brought this sampler home from England. It was stitched on linen with a wool thread. Unfortunately it is not dated. I call this the short waisted Adam & Eve. Love their bright pink skin!

I reproduced this on linen with DMC thread. It is cross stitch only.

We reproduced the Mary Walker sampler. As you can see, It is deteriorating very badly. I had originally thought it was a Quaker sampler, but not so. Wrong kind of alphabets.

The reverse of the sampler is below. Very neat stitcher. Hard to tell the front from the back.

Remember there were very few linen color choices in the late 1980's and early 1990's when we reproduced this sampler. I imagine many stitchers "antiqued" it when it was finished.

I can't seem to get the pics of the Eliza Low Pumroy sampler to line up the way I want. Sorry

The photo on the left is the front of the antique sampler. 

On the right is the reverse of the bottom of the sampler. It was stitched with wool and is probably English in origin.  

On the left is the front of the top of the sampler. Note the small buttonholed hanger on the top right. I think a bunch of moths feasted on this piece—lots of missing wool in the letters. 

On the right is the reverse of the entire sampler. 

Below is the front of the bottom of the sampler. Note that the piece is hemmed on all sides. 

 This is the reproduction. It was stitched with DMC floss on 35 count cream linen. The colors are based on the original wool colors.

This is the top of the reproduction before it was hemmed.

 Note the inscription above: Eliza Low Pumroy is my name and with my needle I worked the same although my age is but small twice 4 and that is all. She was only 8 years old. Hard to imagine.

Below is the photo of the gal who collected the sampler. She had worked in a dry goods store in Marshall, Michigan. At one time she was named the prettiest girl in Marshall. The man who was later her husband used to stop by to sell things to the store. He fell in love with her and persuaded her to marry him. He was from New York. After they were married, she found out that he was very wealthy. They probably traveled alot and she collected her samplers then. Samplers were her favorite thing to collect.

This last sampler is a very tiny one stitched on 48 count gauze. I designed it in the Boston style and stitched it as a project for my friend Annelle Ferguson's book about miniature needlework. 

Friday, January 14, 2011


What I need is two weeks with nothing on my calendar. I finally sent out my Christmas cards yesterday. The kicker is that I couldn't get my old but good color laser printer to work with my "new" Mac computer. They may not be compatible though I downloaded the latest printer drivers at least once. So frustrating! This kind of thing gnaws at me, but I don't have time to troubleshoot now.

Have been taking care of baby Ryan, my grandson almost 6 months old, for the last two weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Finally got him to take somewhat longer naps this week though he must have caught a cold at day care last week and I know how hard it is to sleep with a stuffy nose. It seems the minute I get into something around here, he wakes up. He is so cute and smily and good, but my schedule is not the same any more with him around--though I won't give him up. Grandpa even helped quite a bit yesterday.

The Ann Rayner Sampler—
Am trying to get out several orders today so I can take them to the post office tomorrow morning. Wyndham Needleworks still carries my miniatures and reproduction samplers in charts, and I also have an order for In Stitches in Alexandria, VA. The Ann Rayner  1839 sampler continues to be popular. It must be the bright colors.

This is a terrible pic of the terrific original sampler. Remember there was no digital photography when I took these pictures! The original sampler was stitched with wool thread on a wool ground. We do not know any history on Ann as she stitched no town or school names on her sampler. Her border is quite unusual.

Ann Rayner closeup. The lambs are stitched over one thread. Notice the hemmed edges.

The sampler is in very good shape. 

This is the reproduction on 30 count tea linen with DMC floss. When we reproduced our samplers in the 1980s and 90s, there were very few choices of linen—cream, white, natural, tea. 

You'll never be bored with this sampler!

We reproduced some samplers from the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago. The collection had never been documented, and as I told you last fall, I made a notebook of all of their samplers. Look carefully at this sampler below...I would say that the shepherd/shepherdess/sheep motifs are the same as those in Ann Rayner. This sampler was stitched in 1824 vs. Ann Rayner in 1839. I was astounded when I saw the similarities. The border on the Ann Rayner sampler is the border below Eliza Himsworth's name. Eliza was 11 years old when she stitched her sampler. It is a large one at 22" x 21.5". She used 27 count linen with silk threads. I did not reproduce this sampler and it is now in a private collection somewhere as the Museum sold their entire collection of samplers at Sotheby's in London.

Love the raccoon-eyed cats sitting on their silk cushions—complete with tassels. 

In order to get the entire sampler in my pic, I had to fold over the top. Note the nail holes in the edge of the linen. When looking at the back of the sampler, you'll notice that Eliza was a neat and tidy stitcher.

Looks like there was some moisture problem at one time as the green dye of the grass seems to have bled upwards.

Speaking of Rayner samplers, my friend Genevieve owns the Mary Rayner sampler. As far as we know, she is no relation to Ann Rayner, and the samplers are very different in style. Mary stitched her sampler in 1850 at the time samplers were going out of fashion. This is a large sampler. The original measures 24.75" wide x 16.25" tall. It was nailed to wooden stretcher bars when framed. It was stitched with wool thread which has remained quite vivid.

I think the sampler was still under glass in its frame when I took this photo! But you can still see the stitches quite well. I love the bright reds in the prickly roses and the little rosebud border.

Don't know what the bright blue fruit/flower is. 
Any guesses? 
I always thought of it as egg plant though that is more purple than blue.

I stitched the reproduction on 32 count linen. 
It is about 21" x 14.5" finished. 
Mary used no other stitches than cross stitch. 
I like the pine trees and daffodils/tulips too.

Have to go and finish up my order. Am going to the library tomorrow morning as the DAR is coming to help members with genealogy questions. I am in the process of becoming a member--as I love history--and I do have 2 relatives who served in the Revolutionary War--a husband and wife in Virginia in the 1780s. I can trace myself back to them, but I really need help looking for my paternal great grandfather, John Bitzer, who lived at least his married life in Cincinnati, Ohio and who died there too. I have his death certificate but no birth certificate or any idea of where he came from. I'm also looking for my paternal grandmother, Frances Lena Seiler, who was born in Iowa. Iowa has not opened up its records to the public, and I can't seem to locate a birth certificate for her. I know the names of her parents but have come to a dead end with them too. Genealogy is a fascination for me. It really sucks you in to keep looking for those long lost ancestors. Just one more search, just one more search...and there you are hours later still sitting at the computer. Wish I had more time...Talk soon. Nancy 

Friday, January 7, 2011


I had hoped to keep on writing right up to Christmas, but all my projects got in the way! At least this way I'll have more ornaments/decorations to show you next December! This year has started out as crazy as ever. I told my younger daughter that I would babysit for 5 month old Ryan on Tuesdays and Thursdays while she teaches at a nearby junior high. Ryan had his first day at day care on Monday. Tuesday here went well because I had my stitching friends over in the morning, and they love to hold him. Tried to get him down for a nap in the afternoon, but he was having none of that! My neighborhood book group was due to arrive at 1, but still no napping baby. One of the gals walked around with him during most of the meeting. Of course, he loves to be held. We discussed the book Zeitoun which was about one man's story of his time during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I thought it was a very interesting book—very readable. I don't think most of us realized what went on there during and after Katrina. I'd recommend the book. It is a fast read.

Ryan finger painted in his explorers group at day care on Wednesday! They really do neat things there.  Yesterday he came over again, and though his mom had talked with him about being a good napper, he only took a morning nap and 1/2 hour in the afternoon. I think I am going to have to buy a "portable" crib either the smaller size or regular because trying to lift him at over 15 pounds from a pack and play is not easy even with all my yoga. Changing him on the coffee table is not ideal either. Hopefully, he will get used to his new schedule so he can relax and nap here more. I did make 16 burp cloths for Linda to give as gifts for some of her friends who are expecting. Just serged the flannel on my serger--much easier than sewing and turning right side out, etc.

I wanted to show you some of the gifts I made for Christmas for some of my family and my yoga teacher. I made 2 more of the pattern La La's Simple shawl. You can find this pattern for free online at  Ravelry.  It is an easy pattern and fun to knit. I found this boucle yarn at Joanne Fabrics and a shawl takes about $10 worth of yarn.

I had made this one for Linda, but Katie wanted to trade and gave Linda her purple one. I was just happy that my girls like them and want to wear them. Used my blocking wires that I bought at the welding supply store, and they worked great.

Made the same pattern for my yoga teacher Sharon. Thought it would knit in the same color pattern as the one above since it was the same yarn but in a different color way. It came out a bit stripy but I like it too. The black boucle is wonderful because it doesn't show when I have made a mistake. Sometimes I couldn't even tell the front from the back.

I had a bunch of holiday/snowmen fabric in my stash and wanted to use it so I made this lap quilt (about 60+ x 72") for my niece Corey. I made it just like a band sampler cutting apart the snowmen fabric and inserting bands of other fabrics. Used a plaid for the backing. Love the swirls template that I used for the quilting. It takes more time than freehand but I like the pattern.

This is the quilt hanging on my design wall. I have covered 3 different pieces of 1"foam insulation in 4 x 6 sheets with grey felt. The binding is red. Corey likes things somewhat plain.

This is my nephew Matt's quilt—more Xmas fabric. This time old-fashioned Santas.

Quilted it on my long-arm machine with freehand swirls using red thread. This is part of the back. I like using pieced backings as a way to use up my fabric.

This is the back of Matt's quilt hanging on my design wall.

I hoped he would not think this quilt too "girly."

 This is Corey's quilt on my long arm machine as I was quilting it.

My bolt of extra batting is hanging below the frame. On the wall is a sampler quilt I made in a class several years ago when I first started quilting seriously. The wonderful thing about quilting on a frame is that you don't have to pin the quilt sandwich together on your hands and knees on your floor.

 This is my neighbor Bev at my frame quilting her doggie quilt that she is going to give to her 2 year old grandson in California.

Over the New Year's weekend I worked on getting stuff ready for the tax man. Figured out that I had made about 700 bandannas for the Golden Retriever rescue group here in northern Illinois. Did not realize that it was so many. Now I am going to make table cloths for their meet and greet tables at the pet stores. They bring the adopted dogs and hand out information and adoption forms. They needed some bright table cloths. Am going to try to put "Golden Retriever Rescue" in large black letters on the gold-colored cloths. Can't decide whether I have to applique them or stencil them with fabric paint. The fabric is inexpensive polyester. Painting would be quicker I suppose once I got it set up. We'll see.

Better go now. Have lots to do this weekend. Am reading the latest in the Nora Roberts wedding series--lots of fluff but a nice light read for these gloomy days of January here in the midwest. --Nancy