The legacy of Marilyn Leavitt Imblum

I’ve just heard of the death of Marilyn Leavitt Imblum, one of the most influential cross stitch designers of the twentieth century, in my opinion. She died on 14th August, aged 66.

‘Angel of Hope’, stitched on 16 count Aida fabric

She was the person who designed the Told in a Garden range of Amish cross stitch pictures, as well as the Lavender and Lace angels. It was the angels which grabbed my attention, back in the early nineties. I remember when I still ‘went out to work’ (before I started my embroidery kit business), when those of us who used to do cross stitch would take our latest project into work and stitch in the lunch hours. And how many hours those designs took!

The first one I did was ‘Angel of Hope’, and I remember it taking all of my spare time, for about six months. But it was gorgeous when finished, and I still display it in my bedroom over the fireplace. The other one I loved was ‘Angel of Summer’, with its flowing ribbons and flowers. That one took even longer, but was, if anything, even more beautiful. Each one I altered slightly, stitching them in Anchor stranded cotton rather than the DMC threads listed on the colour keys, and the Angel of Summer one I decided to do on a powder blue Aida cloth, instead of the more usual cream fabric.

‘Angel of Summer’, stitched on 14 count powder blue Aida fabric

Marilyn had a fantastic way of depicting faces (having tried it myself, I am in awe of how she gave the impression of a beautiful face in quite a limited amount of stitches in her designs). I still have several of her charts in my ‘to do one day’ heap. One day I’ll get around to stitching her fabulous ‘Celtic Christmas’ design. Her website is , if you’d like to drool over all her wonderful charts.

She influenced very many people with her depictions of women in graceful poses,  gave pleasure to millions, and will be greatly missed.


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My trusty needlepoint floor frame, and the saga of the chartholder

I have had my needlepoint floor frame for about ten years now, I think. I used to stitch by just rolling the fabric up in my left hand, and stitching with my right, without using a frame at all. But my chiropractor warned me that if I kept on like that, with the amount of stitching that I do, I wouldn’t be able to stitch at all in a few years, as my left shoulder would seize up completely. I was already getting back pain and headaches  :0(

My tapestry frame. The rust-coloured bag holds the flex for the lamp when I’m not using it, and the green bag hanging on the left of the frame is to cover the magnifying lens when I’m not using it, so that I don’t set the house on fire!

So, I invested in this StitchMaster wooden floor frame – this is it, proudly standing in my conservatory. It cost about £35 at the time. I found it useful from the start. For one thing, I could stitch quicker, as I could use both hands at once!

I bought the Daylight bulb attachment with removable 2.25 magnifying lens almost immediately, as I love to do miniature needlepoint. That’s what I sell in my doll’s house embroidery kit business, so I do a lot of stitching on 32 and 40 count silk gauze fabric, and it’s a lot more comfortable to do with a suitable magnifier. The one for this frame is good, as it is right there attached to the lamp, so I always have good light and magnification at the same time. The lens is rimless, which is more restful on the eyes.

A rectangular frame sits on the lugs of the arms
By moving the arms closer together, a hoop can be supported in the same way

The frame can take hoops, rotating frames (both of which just rest on the dowels at the end of the ‘arms’), and, with the help of my husband and his woodworking shed, my stand has a special attachment that slots over the dowels so that I can clip my silk gauze in its card mount onto the frame, too.

This custom-made wooden bar has holes at each end so that it sits on the dowels, and a notch in the centre so that a card mount for silk gauze can be held securely

Recently, I decided to get the other attachment that goes with this model – the chartholder clamp.  Before that, I’d used a bulldog clip to attach my charts to the arms of the floor frame, but I decided I’d like the ‘proper job’. However, once I started searching online, I realised that almost all websites were mysteriously ‘out of stock’ of the attachment. I found a couple of sites that said they had them – until I tried to order from them, and then I was told that, actually, they didn’t have them in stock at all. So, I looked on the manufacturer’s website, and, sure enough, the chartholder and lamp attachment had both been discontinued – because the frame seems to be on its way out, too.

What a shame! It’s a wonderful product, and does just what you need it to. The floor frame itself is very adjustable for all kinds of needlework frames, as they just rest on the ‘arms’. It doesn’t slowly collapse, like several other makes of floor frame tend to, as it has a nifty ‘wedge’ that supports the main upright piece. The wingnuts stay tight – there’s even a wooden block that comes with it, to help you tighten the wingnuts without hurting your hand.

So, why should it be on its way out? Well, because there’s a shiny new METAL floor frame that’s been introduced to replace it. It’s called the new StitchSmart metal stand – the blurb about it on the website starts with the words ‘Wooden stands are over’. Oh dear, I do hope not. Apart from anything else, this shiny new metal one costs £80, with the chartholder and lamp/magnifier accessory pack (only available as a set, now) costing an additional £90. It all seems to be getting a bit expensive, and ‘modern’ for the sake of it …..

Anyway, back to my search for the chartholder attachment for my nasty, old-fashioned, wooden StitchMaster frame –

I looked on Ebay (always a good place to look for discontinued things), and found someone selling one for £4.99. So I bought it, got it within 3 days, and have been using it ever since. Lovely.

My frame with all its attachments in place, ready for a nice long session of stitching!

So, if you fancy getting a very good floor frame to help with your stitching, I wouldn’t leave it too long, as even needlework accessories seem to be getting a bit trendy!


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Stolen embroidery

I posted recently about two needlecases that I’ve made during my life – one when I was 12, and one much more recently. In that post, I mentioned that the first needlecase (on the right in the image below) had been part of a set, but that the scissors case had been stolen out of my bag on the day I took both pieces into school to show my needlework teacher.

It made me think over the other times in my life when I’ve had stitching stolen. It’s a horrible feeling when something you have taken so much time and care over gets taken from you, because it can never be replaced. I’ve also found, over the years, that even if I still have the pattern for a particular project (which I obviously do if it’s one of my own designs!), for some reason I can’t face stitching it again. Most of my embroidery, then, is a ‘one-off experience’. I don’t want to have the same stitching experience twice, if you see what I mean. And knowing that I would be stitching something simply because the original had to be replaced would just make the whole experience unpleasant, somehow.

After having the scissors case stolen, my stitching collection was ‘safe’ for several decades. I must have got complacent! About ten years ago now, I had been visiting a friend of mine who is also an embroidery designer, so I had taken my latest finished project to show her. It was an Elizabethan sweet bag from Inspirations magazine, Issue 36. A really lovely piece to embroider. I did it very much like the one in the picture below – only changing the thread colours a little, as I stitched it in Anchor stranded cotton, rather than the shades suggested in the magazine. I really enjoyed making it – it took about two months of  ‘spare’ time.

On the way home from visiting my friend, my husband and I went to the wedding reception of other friends of ours. Obviously, you can’t walk into a wedding reception with your suitcases, so we left our stuff in the car. Bad idea. Halfway through the receoption, there was an announcement that the owner of a blue Ford Fiesta needed to go and speak to the Hotel Manager. You guessed it – our car had been broken into while the wedding reception was in full swing. All our luggage had been taken, including the embroidered bag. What almost made it worse was that, when I was explaining to the police what had gone, and I mentioned the bag, one of them said, ‘Oh, they wouldn’t be interested in that. That’ll be tossed in a hedge somewhere. I meant anything of value’.

And that’s part of the problem, really. It makes it worse if you know that what’s been stolen won’t even be valued. Who steals embroidery to order, anyway? It’s not as if it’s ‘art’, apparently.


The last needlework show I attended as a standholder was a two-day event at Bakewell, in Derbyshire, about five years ago. I had attended dozens of shows over the previous ten years, but I was starting to reconsider whether it was financially worthwhile to attend shows, with all the hassle of getting there, setting up, staying in hotels, etc. Online selling is so much easier! My husband and I set up the stand with our kits for doll’s house embroidery, as we always did. The first day was OK, but not that busy, but we were assured that the Sunday would be busier. As usual with these multi-day events, at the end of the first day, we just put dust sheets over the stand, and went to our hotel for the night. In the morning, we didn’t actually notice that someone had got to our stand before we had, and had taken some of our stitched models of the doll’s house carpets that we sell, and had moved the rest of the models up so that a gap wasn’t noticeable.

‘Elizabeth’ miniature carpet design – it measures 9 x 9 inches, and is stitched on 18 count canvas with one strand of Appleton’s crewel wool

The two carpets that they stole were large ones (by doll’s house standards, anyway!). And, as I don’t do commissions, I presume they weren’t stitchers, and felt that to buy a kit and stitch it themselves just wasn’t their thing. Anyway, the designs they stole were ‘Elizabeth’, the first design I ever stitched as a miniature carpet (it’s the design featured on the front cover of my book ‘Miniature Needlepoint Carpets’), and ‘Karen’, which was named for my friend Karen who lives in Wales, and who loves William Morris designs. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to face stitching them again, as stitched models are often used in publicity photos in my business, but I haven’t been able to get to that point yet.

This doll’s house room setting shows the ‘Karen’ carpet design, along with several other designs from my range of kits

I am very wary, now, of taking any of my stitching out of the house. Of course, it’s still possible that one day we could be burgled, and things could be stolen anyway, but the risks seem to increase out of the house. I don’t really know what the answer is. And I don’t feel that insurance is the way forward, either – for one thing, insurance companies simply don’t understand the value of stitching.

Reading back over this, it sounds like quite a depressing post – sorry! I didn’t set out to write a depressing post! What I think I’m saying is, appreciate the stitching you’ve done, but be aware that it might not always be around. Value what you’ve done, and the time you’ve put into it.

And if you ever see a little Elizabethan sweet bag on beige damask with forget-me-nots made out of blue seed beads, with gold tassels along the bottom, and the initals JLG on the back, would you let me know ?  🙂


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Cross stitch thread winder pocket – 3

Assembling the thread winder pocket wasn’t as traumatic as I’d thought – the backstitching around the edge of each piece just needed to be laced together, so as long as each side was lined up carefully, the actual lacing together was simple. A cardboard stiffener is included in the kit, to put inside the larger  square end of the winder pocket, to give it substance.

It’s a beautiful little ’embroidered small’ to add to my collection. A very pretty item from Just Nan – the first I’d made from their range.

The butterfly winder fits neatly inside the pocket.

This is the reverse of the winder pocket, showing the tiny white beads.

The press studs are sewn on last, to hold the small flap in place against the larger piece.

My ‘quick project’ finished!


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