Posted by Mary at 12:24 PM CST

Friday, December 19, 2003

This picture of my children is a real favorite of mine. It was taken back in 1991 when they were four, six, and eight! While it is supposed to look like they are bringing the tree INTO the house, we had actually just taken the tree down. It had started to snow in the morning, and I thought it would be so neat to see the kids look as though they had just found the perfect Christmas tree to bring home and decorate! They thought putting on all their snow gear and having their picture taken sounded fun! ( My, how things change!!) By the time we got outside, it was absolutely freezing and the sun was rapidly disappearing. Greg, my photographer, took several pictures of them before they were half frozen and decided it was not fun any more! I never used this as a Christmas card even though that had been my original plan. I must have taken a really cute picture of them at a later point that actually showed their faces!! This picture was the inspiration for the sampler I did of "Wheatland Hill" in Pocketbook Needlework 2000.

I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas!

Posted by Mary at 04:27 PM CST

Friday, December 5, 2003

In a day or two my shop will be offering gift certificates to purchase. I am excited about this because I always love to shop when it's free (to me anyway!). I also prefer gift cards because I can choose what I want from the store and I don't have to return something first! When you purchase a gift certificate in the shop, you will then be able to download a card similar to the one pictured here announcing your gift. To make the gift card fancier, why not download it on card stock or reduce it and put it inside a Christmas card? This would be a great gift for that last minute man - he wouldn't even need to leave the house!



Posted by Mary at 04:06 PM CST

Saturday, November 15, 2003

This is a wonderful picture of all the purses and pocketbooks of Mary Wright Alsop. The amazing thing is that she proves the point - you can
never have too many pocketbooks! All of these examples are HERS! I think what I love the most about these pocketbooks is the fact that she put a band across most of them with a name and the date they were completed. If the name and date were left out on most of them, I am not sure I would think these pocketbooks were quite as special. We know from the various initials and dates that she made these as gifts for her children and their spouses. I believe that even on pocketbooks and purses you should definitely add your name (or possibly that of the recipient, as Mary Alsop did) and the date. It provides more history to go with your work! I am sending out six pages of new designs along with two pages of pocketbook and purse ideas (as well as other ideas for the designs). If you made all the purses I suggest, you might even have a few more than Mary Wright Alsop! While Mrs. Alsop's work has been featured in The Magazine Antiques, I discovered her in the book, Plain and Fancy by Susan Burrows Swan. This is a "must have" for the serious needlewoman. It was initially printed in 1977. It is worth the search to find this fabulous book!

Posted by Mary at 09:34 AM CST

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Family Christmas Bib

I love old English caricatures. My husband and I have collected them over the years, but this one is my favorite! It hangs amidst our family pictures. I decided to share this particular caricature to introduce one of the new designs I will be sending you soon. After I finished the two Sampler Stockings, I could not let go of the bib idea I had suggested in my drawings,"other uses for the stocking designs." I decided that a family Christmas bib was worthy of more than a mention in my idea section - it deserved a design all of it's own! The bib is basically a sampler, very similar to the sampler stockings. The verse on the Christmas bib is, "Unto us a child is born". The idea is that every Christmas the newest member of the family wears the bib at Christmas dinner. The baby's initials are added to the bib after he/she wears it. It is passed on from child to child then to the grandchildren. In my case, it will be just for my future grandchildren, since I don't think my teenager or twenty something kids will cooperate! I hope you will enjoy it!

Posted by Mary at 02:46 PM CST

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

I am leaving next week to go and visit my mother for just a few days. She has asked me to come speak to her garden club. While some of the women are avid stitchers, others don't stitch at all! I have been trying to figure out what to say so that all the women will enjoy my talk. I am taking alot of my needlework to show them and I have decided to share the stories that go with many of the pieces. In packing up my work, I came across this piece and thought I would share this picture with you. Not many of you would have seen this piece because I designed it exclusively for the Needlework Symposium at the Peabody Essex Museum in June of 2001. While I don't usually hit the speaking circuit (except for my mother!), my friend, Paula, had invited me. It was a wonderful excuse to go home and visit all my friends in Massachusetts! Kits of this design might still be available from the museum shop at the Peabody Essex. The kit included canvas (18 count) and the Appleton crewel wools. This other picture stitched by one of the symposium participants, Sue Bird, is the needlepoint necessaire made into a purse. I finished mine as a needlecase and a scissor holder. I don't think you can ever have too many needlework accessories!

Posted by Mary at 06:07 PM CST

Saturday, September 20, 2003

These are some photographs I wanted to share with you. Back in the early 1990's, I decided that I really needed some pictures of my finished designs to show potential customers what was actually in Pocketbook Needlework. I kept hearing,"do you have any photographs?" There is no doubt that a picture needs no other explanation! You either like what you see or you don't!

After I finish Pocketbook 2003 this year, one of the new projects I am planning for next year is to "revisit" my original Pocketbook Needlework. Once I finish revisiting all of it, you will be able to purchase all the original designs of Pocketbook Needlework 1989-1992 with all the original color codes plus updated color codes (Appleton wools and Needlepoint Inc. silk), I will also add more finishing ideas, more designs, and finally some amazing stories that go with some of the designs.

I have been making my husband nervous by talking about all I want to do and add to "Pocketbook Needlework 1989-1992 Revisited," but it will be so much fun! I think there will be at least six sections (such as samplers, accessories,etc.) to purchase. As I finish each section, I will put it in the shop.

Posted by Mary at 07:00 PM CST

Saturday, September 6, 2003

I wanted to share this picture with you. Now that we have moved into the Autumn season, as stitchers, it is time to think about Christmas! I realize that I am worse than the department stores. They, at least, let you get through the middle of October before they bombard you with all the Christmas stuff. Since I have just sent two more Sampler Stocking designs to subscribers of Pocketbook Needlework 2003, I thought that a picture of a cosy fire with the stockings hung and the tree all decorated might inspire you to carry on with the new designs!!! By the way, this picture was taken in July. It was boiling hot and I had a huge fire extinguisher at my side. I was intensely worried that the tree with all my new needlework ornaments was going to go up in flames. While it never seemed to bother the folks in Germany to put candles on their tree and actually LIGHT them, I just can't imagine ever doing it .....except for a photo shoot!

Christmas Scene

Posted by Mary at 11:23 AM CST

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

I am beginning to feel like a woman possessed! I have schedules posted everywhere. I look like one of the squirrels outside, furiously scurrying around for every walnut in sight because he knows autumn is approaching. In another week all of my kids will return home before the older two leave for college. As they have gotten older, things are different when they're home. I never seem to have the car, my house turns into a hotel, and I'm always in the kitchen cooking! Since I too can read the signs of what is to come in the following weeks for me, I am trying to finish the last part of Sampler Stocking Fourteen. Those of you who have subscribed to Pocketbook Needlework 2003 will be getting a rather hefty mailing of the two Sampler Stockings and lots of ideas at the end of this month.

Posted by Mary at 07:16 PM CST

Wednesday, August 6, 2003


Well, there I was--all set to travel--though not on a bicycle! On June 19, after all of our children had left for their various summer jobs, Greg, my husband, and I set off for Ethiopia. It took a lot of preparation. We each needed nine shots plus malaria pills. Our flight itself was no easy task, lasting a grueling 26 hours. For the next three weeks we stayed at a missionary compound in Addis Ababa while Greg taught a course at a college in the city.

The longer we remained in Ethiopia, the more fascinating the country became to me. Did you know that some of the oldest human remains have been found in Ethiopia? While it is an ancient civilization, I did not realize that it had never been colonized by another country. I believe that because of this fact, it remains a place with unique cultural traditions. The coffee ceremony was one of the most interesting customs I witnessed. I am not sure how the coffee ceremony evolved, but Ethiopia discovered coffee! Apparently, herdsmen in the eleventh century realized that their goats stayed awake all night after feeding on coffee leaves and berries . . . and the rest is history!

In the middle of our trip, Greg and I flew to the northern part of Ethiopia with another couple for the weekend. We visited eleven churches that had been carved out of solid rock in a place called Lalibala. The church pictured below was my favorite.

Before we left on Sunday, we took a four hour mule ride up a ten thousand foot mountain. While the point of the mule ride was to visit another rock-hewn church, we really went for the scenery. It got pretty adventuresome when three quarteres of the way up, the trail was reduced to an eighteen inch narrow path with a steep drop off down the mountain. I couldn't look! There were several times we had to get off the mules and climb the mountain because the trail was too steep and narrow for the mules to carry us. When our kids heard this story, they thought we had lost our minds. Since I didn't die on the mountain, I thought it was a pretty exciting adventure! The picture below is typical of the villages you see dotting the countryside in Lalibala.

I could go on and on about the trip, but I'll reserve the rest of the stories for a series of designs I will do on Ethiopia.


Only July 10 we returned home to Chicago. It was another grueling flight back, but thankfully we did not have any delays or other problems. Finally, at the end of this journey, I could sleep in my own bed again! Well, the picture below depicts our adjustment back to the time change. (My husband resents this representation of him. I told him I would make sure that everyone knows that he does not wear a sleeping cap to bed.) For the first few days back, I was wide awake every morning at three! It took most of July just to catch up on everything, but when I think about our trip, I am grateful that we were able to go to such an amazing place.

Posted by Mary at 08:49 AM CST

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

patternscreation (164k image)I wanted you to see a picture of the sampler since I just finished it! For those of you who have ordered the online version of Pocketbook Needlework 2003, I will be sending out the final part of "Patterns of Creation" in about a week to ten days. All that is left to do is the final graph. I am so thrilled to be finished with this sampler, that I just had to share the picture!! Whenever I finish a big project like this, I usually put it up on my refrigerator (since I spend most of my time in the kitchen) and just look at it. There is something satisifying about a finished project. If you think about it, needlework is just about the only thing you can finish. You can't "finish" your kids. They remain a work in progress! I don't think I will ever finish the things I want to do to my house. I guess if I had bought a NEW house I wouldn't have things to finish, but I like old houses. Oh, well! I have some ideas for several of the latest patterns in this sampler. I will try to put some of the ideas in the journal soon.

Posted by Mary at 04:21 PM CST

Saturday, April 19, 2003

German Sampler
Sampler -Germany, (late 17th–18th century)
©Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Here are two more examples of what I call reference samplers. The sampler to the left clearly has more order, but the one below has a delightful randomness to it. I believe that these two examples and the two previous ones that are pictured in my journal, were never meant for anything more than a reference piece for other work. All of the samplers seem to be testing various stitches, color combinations, and pattern variations. The second section of Patterns of Creation that I have just sent out, is more like these examples. My intention is to experiment with color, patterns, and various combinations. I hope these samplers will inspire you as you work on the new section of the sampler.

Mexican Sampler
Sampler -Mexico, (19th century)
©Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Posted by Mary at 10:01 AM CST

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

matilda3 (247k image)I just received this darling picture from Pat Hunt over the weekend. Do you recognize her? This is the "test" chart under Fruitful Labor. It is the little piece styled after the Matilda Filbert sampler. I thought I would share it with you all. I'm still looking forward to receiving more pictures for the gallery.


Posted by Mary at 08:00 PM CST

Monday, March 24, 2003

journal3-24 (225k image)

This is the first section of the sampler gragh I sent out last week. As you can see, I am doing my sampler in needlepoint. If you decide to stitch this in cross stitch on linen, I really think the black hand dyed linen would be very interesting. I am going to try to show you each section of the sampler as I finish it.

Posted by Mary at 10:51 AM CST

Saturday, March 8, 2003

studio (46k image)
Studio Interior (1872)
©Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

I identify with the woman in this painting. I am not as Bohemian as she appears to be, but I can imagine what she is thinking. As she contemplates her painting, with one hand holding her paints and her other hand idly by her cheek, she ponders the question,"Should I chuck this painting and start over, or should I keep working with what I've started?" This is exactly the way I have felt this past week. This is not a new feeling for me, but one I go through almost every time I design something. For example, my Glad Tidings door hang(featured in Victoria magazine) I started over seven times!! With one of the reject patterns, my husband told me it looked like an octopus! Hopefully, I will not have to begin the sampler design over for a third time. I actually love the new design I have started. I even gave it a name, Patterns of Creation.

Posted by Mary at 04:25 PM CST

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

maninoval (41k image)
Portrait of a Young Man (1588)
©Metropolitan Museum Art, New York

As I continue to work on this first large project, I am drawn to the same thing over and over again. It is lace! It makes the simplest dress elegant and adds a richer texture to pattern. I have looked through numerous books with paintings that have fabulous examples of old lace. These two paintings are wonderful samples of what I am talking about. I then moved from lace to white work and started reading a book about white work in America in the 1700's. This book is a wealth of information! It is entitled, American Needlework by Georgiana Brown Harbeson. The problem is that it was published in 1938! I have seen it in used book stores though, so I don't think it is a rare find. You might wonder why I am looking at lace and white work.To me, both are inspiring and a tremendous design resource.

Don't you agree?

Portrait of a Lady in a Blue Dress
Portrait of a Lady in a Blue Dress
©Bowes Museum, Barnhard Castle, Durham, England

Posted by Mary at 06:32 PM CST

Monday, February 3, 2003

To begin the new year, I wanted to start out with a project that we could refer to and possibly use small bits and pieces of in a few of the other things we will be doing over the course of the year. Blending various patterns together, to me, is visually very pleasing. I experimented with some of my old tea cups.

Although the colors and patterns are altogether different, when put together they look beautiful!

Sampler, Germany (ca. 1800)
©Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Similarly, these two early (late 18th century) German samplers have that same rich look with multiple patterns and colors.

Sampler, Germany (late 18th century)
©Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Our first piece will be a true "sampler" styled after these wonderful examples. With the first installment, I will send along drawings of ways that you can "finish" your sampler while it is still in progress. I will also include how I plan to add each new addition to the sampler. With each new chart, I will include other uses for the pattern (such as, a small accessory piece).

Posted by Mary at 11:42 AM CST

Monday, January 20, 2003

ornament1-sm (19k image)ornament1-sm (19k image)ornament1-sm (19k image)

This past Spring I was asked to design an ornament for a guild in the Chicago suburbs. The women wanted me to not only design the ornament, but once they had finished stitching it, they asked if I'd design the finishing for each ornament and send them off to my finishers to be completed. I thought it sounded like fun so I said, "sure!". This past December the group got together for their Christmas luncheon at a country house inn and I gave them their ornaments. I showed them how a vintage fabric, a piece of old lace, special buttons, etc. could totally change the design! Beautiful finishing really makes all the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary.

[click on an ornament to view the larger version]

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I have often been asked where I get my ideas for finishing. The main inspiration comes from paintings depicting 15th to 17th century attire. Their apparel and jewelry were so elaborate!

This is a wonderful painting which can be viewed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or you can do what I did and buy the book Metropolitan Jewelry published by Little, Brown and Co. This book is a must if you love antique jewelry!

Portrait of a Noblewoman
©Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Posted by Mary at 01:52 PM CST

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