My Personal Favorites
Here is a small collection of my favorite work:
there are just five.
I will tell the story of each as I post it. For several, I have told the stories many times, others this is the first time.
Hundred Flowers Sampler is a spot sampler of flowers designed around a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Hundred Flowers Sampler
Hundred Flower's Story, Part 1 My Incentive
Long before I stitched Hollyhock House, when I was at the height of my time teaching for the guilds, there was a job I wanted badly: it was for EGA's National Seminar out here in California.
I was way younger then and more industrious, and I set about designing three larte samplers that I could submit to the seminar committee.
One of them was called Garden Gate Sampler, one called English Cottage Sampler and one was this sampler, Hundred Flowers.
I designed and stitched all three and I submitted them. I got the job, but I don't remember which one the committee chose.
I kept a list of seminars at which I had taught, and the projects for each, but some years later my computer crashed and I lost the list. Now I can't remember which.
Never mind. eventually I taught all three at seminars. I just can't remember now in what order. I liked all three, but this one was and always has been my favorite, right from the last stitch I took on it.
Hundred Flowers Story, Part 2 The Sampler's Roots
One year for Christmas DH have me a biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I then revisited the poems and Hundred Flowers Sampler grew out of one of those visits. You will see Edna St. Vincent Millay's initials below the lettering on the sampler if you look carefully.
My idea was to stitch a spot sampler where every spot, be it a geometric border a cutwork square or a drawn thread rectangle, be flowers, abstract beds or more realistic pots of flowers, everything is floral. Below are closeups of four of the spots: from top, abstract tulips in drawn thread rectangle, a border of rosebuds, a cutwork square with a rose at the center and a tiny knot garden.
There was a second poem for which I always intended to design a geometric and maybe one day. If you have never read Edna St. Vincent Millay's Renascence, here is a link to it:
Hundred Flowers Story, Part 3 The Threads
I don't remember when I first started using Thread Gatherer overdyed silks but by the time I started work on Hundred Flowers, I was using them often. The pinks, purples and greens from Thread Gatherer form the basis of the sampler.
Along with the overdyed silks, I used Medici wool and several pearl cottons. Poor pearl cotton is such a maligned thread; whenever I hear such remarks, I always think of Hundred Flowers and its liberal use of pearl cotton. So many people think pearl cotton is a beginner thread only, so I would like to point out that the little cutwork squares all worked in pearl cotton contain the most difficult techniques on Hundred Flowers.
The Thread Gatherer threads are still in existence, but the blend of pearl cottons is no longer available: several of them were from Anchor and Anchor stopped making pearl cotton years ago, and of course Medici wool has been gone for almost as long.
I am sad they are gone because I would have used them again and again and again.
Hundred Flowers Story, Part 4 Why Do I Think This Possibly My Best
For years I thought Hundred Flowers was my best work, then I stitched some other pieces I thought came out well, and now I vacillate. Many days I still favor Hundred Flowers, but other days another. DH always rolls his eyes at choosing a favorite anything, he always says why do you have to choose? They're all different, they all bring something to your table. Of course, as he always is, DH is right. I'm actually proud of them all.
So what is it I like especially about Hundred Flowers? I like the graphic quality. It reminds me in so many ways of a botannical print; in spite of its density, it has a certain light airy quality that appeals to me.
More important: the designs seem to my eye to flow together and harmonize in a way that many other spot samplers don't. Yes, the elements are individual spots but it seems to me that they are all interconnected and don't read as individual elements stuck together. I have a hard time divorcing them one from another, and I think the individual elements are less interesting than the sum of their effect.
One of my pet peeves: design elements, threads and stitches stuck together without any thought to whether they work together, they're just stuck there because the stitcher liked the thread or wanted to use the stitch. Hundred Flowers seems my best attempt at making a design of many elements working together to make a single presentation.
Could I see it happening while I was stitching the sampler? I remember, the answer is no, I didn't see it until I took the final stitch.
So much of needlework design is moving forward on faith and hoping it will come together in the end. I remember taking the last stitch of Hundred Flowers, then standing back from it and having a look at it and saying to myself: thank you, Hundred Flowers, for coming into my life.