About Me

Just a little forewarning... this is going to be a very long, very word-y post. In answer to a couple of similar, or at least related questions about me as a cross-stitch designer...

Do you have an art background?
No, I do not have an art background. I have never taken an art class; no opportunities for even a basic drawing course were ever presented to me in my small-town upbringing. An oversight that I plan to take care of in a few years, when my babies are both in school full time.

I didn't know that there was an artist in my heart when I was a kid, teenager, college student.

I was always told that I was creative, but I had no frame of reference or opportunity to develop what that meant. I grew up surrounded by people who knew how to do/make the necessary things in life, but had virtually no exposure to anyone making art, just to make art. Therefore, my ability to make useful things from a very limited amount of materials was well-honed, and I naturally gravitated toward figuring out how to do/make all by myself rather than following a pattern or formula.

Fast-forward to when I was a single girl, fresh out of college, and I met my future husband.

His sister introduced me to early American samplers. As I fell madly in love with my Farmboy, I also fell in love with samplers, which then led to a general fascination with many of the old arts, such as Scherenschnitte, rug hooking, wool applique, and Fraktur painting.

How did you get into designing cross stitch?
In this West-Coast world, there is very little exposure to the old arts. I very often have to preface the question "What do you do?" with a complete history on schoolgirl samplers, as I've found that most of the people I know have never seen or even heard of them. Therefore, in those early days of learning about samplers, and before I had a computer that could link me to the trove of information now available, I wasn't aware of the world of cross-stitch sampler patterns, and relied on books and a few first-person sightings at antique shows. I didn't have the money to buy my own original samplers, so I set to work with needle and thrift store linen, and began designing my own samplers. 
Several years later, after some encouragement from friends and family, I began selling the finished pieces, first at local antique shows, then on ebay. I enjoyed making the samplers, but rarely made as much money as I felt they were worth, for I always poured my heart and soul into them!
And then one day, someone contacted me and asked if I sold my designs in pattern form. The next day another someone asked. Three days later yet another person was asking. The idea had literally never occurred to me! I began to do some research, then ventured out with a few charts, which were received very well. And Heartstring Samplery was born.

What were your first needlework projects, and how has your style changed since then? 
Some of those early designs, which were sold at shows and online, have been converted to patterns (Grapevines at the Old Homestead, American Eagle, Come Buy My Sweet Flowers, Hannah Stewart, to name a few). They are my more primitive-style designs, because I was catering to a particular market that was highly visible on ebay. I drew my inspiration from what I could find trolling auctions, then added my own spin.

Many of those early designs were never again reproduced, and I have yet to chart them for sale. Not for any particular reason, other than that I keep coming up with new designs, and a girl can only stitch so fast! A few examples...

You are perhaps a better judge than me, but I would say that what has changed is that my designs are more... refined... for lack of a better word... bigger, more detailed, better balance of colors and space. But some things haven't changed at all... I still love to use houses, flowers, trees, birds, deer, and old sampler quotes that mainly gravitate toward statements of faith and belief in God.

And now, in case you could possibly want to read even more, I give you my interview, as it was printed in the March/April 2012 edition of The Gift of Stitching magazine (the article also includes an exclusive pattern, so head on over to their website and get yourself a copy!

Where are you from and what is it like?
      I have called the foothills of Mt. Hood in Oregon my home for nearly 13 years now. An hour's drive from downtown Portland, we are close enough to the city that we can go to the symphony or do serious shopping if we want. But in reality, we much prefer the quiet of our country home. Technically speaking, our address is in Sandy, Oregon, but we are several miles outside the urban growth boundary and therefore are most certainly not town residents. We live at a higher elevation, and are surrounded by forest, which means we are often snowed in or without electricity in the Winter and early Spring. We have a creek that runs year-round, and is currently the residence of a family of beavers, which are developing a system of ponds.
      If the forested trails, quiet air, wildlife, and starry skies aren't enough incentive to stay here and develop deep roots, we also have a fruit orchard and berry patches and tend a really big vegetable garden in the Summer.

When and where did you learn to stitch/embroider?
      I have been making things for as long as I can remember, even when my resources were very limited. I was given a cross-stitch kit for Christmas when I was ten or eleven years old. I took to it easily, and enjoyed working with my hands, but once the kit was finished, and no money to purchase more, I set my creativity to making moss gardens and building intricate creations out of Legos. There was another cross-stitch kit a few years later, and a few larger project during my teenage and college years, mostly for others, and mostly because I had a hard time finding patterns that suited my own taste.

Was there a certain person who taught you or influenced your stitching?
      Quite honestly, no. My Grandmothers both crocheted, and my Mama sewed clothing and quilts by machine. Surrounded by women who knew how to get by and make the things that they needed, but that were making things that really didn't interest me that much, it wasn't until I was well into my 20's that I began to dive in and teach myself. I taught myself to crochet and embroider by reading old craft books that I picked up at used book stores, but then interpreted the techniques into things that were much more appealing to my taste.

When did you start designing cross stitch charts?
      It wasn't until I met my future husband and was introduced to antique schoolgirl samplers by his sister that I returned to the craft of cross-stitch learned in my childhood. It was the late 1990's, and I had yet to dive into internet culture, and lived in a part of the US that has little exposure to the older hand-crafts and arts. So I had no knowledge of the large quantity of patterns for reproduction samplers that were already available. Its probably a good thing, because my desire for a few samplers of my own, and my history of making do with whatever materials I could find on hand led me to create my own version of what I had seen only in books and magazines. I found linen clothing at thrift stores, which I then deconstructed and used as a base fabric. I bought DMC threads at a local pharmacy and used graph paper to help me re-create the look of those old samplers. I then learned to tea stain the finished pieces to lend an aged air to my samplers.

When did you start your design business?
      I had been designing and stitching small samplers for a few years, hanging them on my walls and selling them at local shows, when my Sister-in-Law encouraged me to venture onto an internet auction site to see if I could sell them there. They did sell, quite well, but not for the price that I thought they were worth. So I scaled back for awhile and started to make other finished goods instead, such as pincushions and other primitive style items. In the meantime, two children were born to my husband and I, which greatly cut into my creating time. So one day, when a customer asked if I sold my patterns anywhere, still clueless about the world of cross stitch design, I was a bit confused. This led me to start searching online, and lo and behold, there was a huge market already in place for selling cross-stitch patterns! If I had realized the full extent of that market, I would have stopped in my tracks, but my searching had only uncovered the tip of the iceberg, and I felt no reason to be intimidated. That first pattern sale was for just a few dollars, and was for a scanned image of my pencil marks on graph paper.

Why did you choose that name/what does the business name translate to?
      It may sound completely cheesy and sentimental, but I find such delight in creating designs and getting them stitched up that I thought the old word “heartstring” was a fitting description for my business. Consistently putting out one or more new designs each month, I am a bit like a one-woman sampler factory, hence the made-up term “samplery”.

What types of patterns do you like to design?
      Most of my designs are inspired by antique samplers from the 18th and 19th centuries, but with a bit of a whimsical or folky feel. I also draw inspiration from old hooked rugs, paintings and fraktur art. In the past few years I have been privileged to purchase a few true antique samplers, and have enjoyed adding a line of charted reproductions to my list of titles.

How does the embroidery of your country/culture influence your designs?
      Since the United States is such a melting pot of cultural influences, I can’t say that there is really a direct influence on my work. I do find early American samplers to be some of my favorites, but am also drawn to those originating in Europe and South America.

What inspires your designs?
      Beyond the art forms already mentioned, the sky is the limit. I even have a pincushion design with a border that was inspired by the shape of the light hovering over my dentist’s chair.

What are your favourite threads and fabrics to work with?
      I am really not finicky when it comes to the materials I use. Having said that, I do find that overdyed flosses impart a depth of color that standard threads can’t compete with. I tend to choose slightly faded and mottled shades. I like higher count linens, the softer in hand the better, and most often use natural tones either overdyed by a manufacturer or by myself.
Do you attend needlework events, retreats or shows?
      Since my children are still quite young, ages 4 and 6, I have not yet travelled to any shows or retreats. I greatly look forward to the day when they are older and less dependent on my every-day help, but also cherish these early years and don’t want to wish them away. Finding a balance between my business and my babies is my constant and daily challenge.

What plans do you have for the future?
      I have great dreams of someday writing craft books that center around a theme, but include many of the early art forms practiced by people of earlier centuries. I also plan to travel to shows and retreats and would truly love to do some teaching both away and in my home.

What do you want stitchers to experience when they stitch your designs?
      I know that stitchers practice the craft because they enjoy working with their hands, so I can’t really hope to claim that my designs make them any happier than others’ work. What gives me the most joy is when I hear back from a stitcher who has read the story of what inspired that design, and have a story of their own that parallels mine. We are all connected in one way or another, through shared experiences and beliefs. I like to think that in sharing my designs, I am creating even more connections amongst those who share my interests.

Where can stitchers buy your charts?
      I currently keep a shop open at heartstringsamplery.etsy.com where all charts are kept listed and available for easy purchase. I may one day open my own web site, but for now, I like being part of such a creative community of artists. I also distribute my designs to needlework shops around the world through two American distributors, and often sell wholesale to shops, as well as directly to individuals who prefer to bypass my online shop. I am super flexible and pretty easy to get in contact with via email: beth@heartstringsamplery.com