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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18 thoughts on “The legacy of Marilyn Leavitt Imblum”

  1. I have a Butternut Road sampler on a frame that I need to finish. I especially loved her Butternut Road line of patterns. Mine is the pattern with the boy and girl gardeners on either side of the alphabet. The piece seems to transport me to a different time and place. Her angels are beautiful, too. The Celtic Christmas angel is my favorite.

    1. I’ve always meant to do some of the Amish designs, but never got round to it.

      I love the Celtic Spring, Summer, Autumn….too. The basic design of the original Celtic Christmas, done in various colourways with slight variations to make them a whole set, is just such a lovely idea, and would look fantastic if they were displayed together. Time, time, time….

  2. When Marilyn first began designing, a group of us got together and formed a “Told In The Garden” group, where we met to stitch her designs. Very sad to hear she has passed. I am looking at one of her old designs, hanging on my wall, stitches in 1990, quilts and quilters. I love those Amish designs.

  3. I recognize several of her angels. I remember my aunts working on them decades ago. Her work is gorgeous. Very sad that she died so young.

  4. How sad for the stitching world, we have lost a consummate needlewoman. I always loved her work, she was a true artist. Besides the loss to our world of stitching, I feel it personally as a 66 yr old woman who has so little to show for my love of needlework compared to her….I am extremely humbled. My prayers go out to her family. God bless.

    1. Maybe not everyone has to have a huge display of ‘finished projects’ or get famous for their stitching – just loving doing it is enough, IMO, however much you actually stitch.
      I do think it’s sad, too, that in the obituary I read online, it just said about her work that ‘she was an artist who enjoyed cross stitch’. I can’t imagine a more understated way of saying it, really! I think that just shows that stitching isn’t valued properly in society.

  5. The world of embroidery loses one of its immense talents, I am very sad to learn the death of this artist who brought so much sweetness in its models.
    A lot of courage to her family and his friends…

  6. Dear Janet, I do so love your site & thankyou for it. I have a collection of unused “Victorian Doll’s House Furniture & assorted household pieces” which I have reluctantly decided to sell. These come with books giving information of the era. Do you know where I might sell these?

    Yours sincerely, Jennifer Wark

  7. i am a stitcher for almost 20 years and my stitches are mostly from the designs of marilyn. i am a filipina and i get to know a lot of stitchers from all over the world thru stitching. i just want to say i love l&l designs..

  8. Hi Janet, I cross stitched the Spirit of Christmas design as a gift for my mother back in the nineties. It is now going to be given to my grandchildren in Australia. I also have the Celtic Christmas design but don’t know if my eyesight is good enough to tackle it now.

    1. I’ve got the Celtic Christmas kitted up ready to stitch, and I’ll get round to it one day! I’ve seen it stitched on black, and it looks stunning, but I couldn’t do that – my eyes wouldn’t let me! Stitching should be enjoyable, so just do what you like to do 🙂

  9. Hi I am doing the Christmas Visit but there is some back stitches should I still do the full cross then go over the top with the back stitch.
    Thanks Hugo.

  10. I just finished the Santa of the Forest cross stitch after 2 years of working on it. What an amazing project – can almost feel Marilyn’s thoughts about world peace coming through the stitches and am so sorry to find that she has passed. What a marvelous creative spirit she had.

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