On the Subject of "Peace" : An Interview with Rebecca Fertitta of A Stitcher's Hand
How did you get started as a designer?
I first saw counted cross stitch in 1976. As I stitched, back then I thought I that I would like to try to design my own charts. But with two children and a husband whose job kept us moving, I put that idea on the backburner. As my last child went off to college and my husband was working overseas, I needed something to fill my time.
Aidaworks, a local needlework shop in the Dallas area hired me. I still love being around people that enjoy the art as much as I do. The owner wanted to have an exclusive series of designs. “Let me do this design for you,“ I said. So I designed the first one and rest is history.
Now I do two different types of design. One is my sampler line and the other is called: Becky Boo’s. My love however, is samplers.
How did you pick the name “A Stitcher’s Hand” for your company?
When I was a child I remember sitting by my mother’s side as she stitched. I watched her hands as she pulled the thread from the front to the back of her canvas. When I was thinking of a name for my company I though that “A Stitcher’s Hands” reminded me of that special time in my life.
You have told me it took 5 years to complete stitching the “Peace” sampler design---did you work on this always or did you do other things?
I did 3 other samplers in-between starting and finishing this. I would always come back to it, and I spent all of 2007 working to finish it. I also did my “Becky Boos” designs.
How many pages are in the chart?
There are a total of 30 pages.
What is your “stitching philosophy” in terms of stitching over one thread? I guess I am asking what do you like so much about it?
The reason I stitch over one thread is I like the look of the stitches appearing like painting on the linen. The solid finished look of the individual stitches is appealing to me.
Would you consider working over two threads or three?
I love the look of cross stitches over one thread. I’m not sure. I know some of the people doing my design are planning to stitch it over two threads on 34 count, but it would be a massive piece, and they will need twice the amount of thread.
What comes first---the size of the piece of fabric or the chart?
I select my colors first. Next I select a verse that means something to me and work around it. As I design, the piece takes on a life of its own and I just go with it. I may not use every color I selected. For example, I had selected some purples for the new design that will be coming out after “Peace” and decided not to use them
Where did you find the verse for the sampler?
I am constantly looking for verses. Sometimes I find them on the internet. I look for words that mean something to me. In general, I feel if we could do what is referred to in the verse in our lives, how much better the world would be.
Do you think the embroiderers of early samplers felt the same as you about their work?
I think when they designed their pieces, there was something they wanted to say. It was a verse that meant something to them. They also did designs so that they would have a reference for stitching other pieces. We are lucky that we now have graphs to refer to.
Did you worry if you would run out of space on the linen?
No, I allow 4 inches all the way around. Sometimes, I allow more at the top because I use a scroll frame to stitch on.
This design uses 67 skeins of Soie d’Alger. Why do you use Soie d’Alger? Is it the color, the look, the texture or…?
It is all three. I started stitching Scarlet Letter kits and she always uses Soie d’Alger, which I like to use.
I am pleased with the quality and the colors of Soie d’Alger. I get asked to change to other brands, but when it works---why fix it?
One of my favorite bands is the one that looks like Assisi work---was that what you intended?
What is your favorite part of the design?
The verse means so much to me. I also like the dark gray area that looks like Assisi, the one you like. Some people find one color stitching boring, but I don’t. I stitched “Honest, Kind and Good” and “Beloved” using all one color and love doing them because of the look but also because it stitches a lot faster.
May I also say it is my intention for stitchers using my charts to put different elements, such as letters or dates on their work that is important to them. For example, on the design "Honest, Kind and Good", I put the letters "D" and "O" which were my mother's initials. Under the letter "D" is the year she was born, and under the letter "O" the year that she passed away. I have had people call and ask me why those letters were on the chart like that.
Where would you suggest the person using your chart start on the design?
I always start at the top left corner of the design and work my way down. This way, as I stitch my hands touch the finished part as little as possible.
I noticed the delicate shading in the design. Do you work with more than one needle at a time or do you leave spaces and come back to them?
When I start on an area in most of my designs, there are usually multiple shades in the motifs and bands. I thread a needle for each color. So, yes I use multiple needles. I find that when there is a lot of space between the symbol that I am stitching, I anchor my silk in the back and finish stitching the other colors in the area. I find working this way I make fewer mistakes. Also, stitching over one thread is a “booger” to pull out.
One of the things I do is when I get a chart is make a “working” copy. I use a highlighter as I go. I know this takes more time, but if I get up from my chair I will always know exactly where I am.
Not too many designers focus on original samplers anymore---why is that?
You’re right they do not. I think the old samplers are beautiful and it amazes me that most of them were stitched by children. As a designer, I think today there needs to be something new as well as something old.
And, I want my pieces handed down in my family.
When stitching a reproduction sampler, I always put the original embroiderer’s name and date, but then I add, “Reproduced by…” and put my name and the year that I made it.
What are your future plans?
I just got finished designing a new piece with a more masculine focus. I have been thinking about this for a long time. The design stitch count is 752 x 120. I plan on stitching in on 30 count Parchment Legacy Linen.
I stitch all my pieces myself. I find that sometimes something looks good on the chart but when I start to stitch I may need to change parts of it.
What have you wanted to design and haven’t?
I’ve also wanted to design a family tree with a record of births and deaths. When the time is right I will design it. I have tried to design when I felt like I needed to put out a new design. But, I find that when I design this way I am not as pleased with the piece. Getting back to the family tree piece, I would also like to find a box that I could store it in. This way in the coming years someone could add names as needed.
How many samplers have you completed?
I have completed eight of my own designs.
Have you ever given any as a present?
I used to give all my needlework away---and then I had nothing for my own walls. So, I began only giving pieces to people that meant a lot to me. I hope my family will hand them down from generation to generation.
By the way, I lost 3 of my designs at the Nashville market. One of them was called “Dorothy’s Garden”, which was made in memory of my mother who has since passed away.
I have heard of a website that helps people find lost quilts. (lostquilt.com) I cannot imagine how that must feel. Are there any particular marks on the piece?
I could not talk about this for six months without tearing up. My sister believes it will come back to me. To answer your question, my name Rebecca Odom Fertitta is stitched on the piece.
Do any of your family members stitch?
No, my mother used to stitch. When I was little I would sit as close to her as I could on the sofa while she embroidered.
Do you teach?
Who inspired you to start embroidering?
My mother ironed transfers on fabric for me when I was eight years old. Her first project was doing needlepoint for the chair seats of eight dining room chairs. These chairs are still in the family.
What would you say is the most enjoyable part of working on a piece this size?
I enjoy all phases of designing and stitching. But, if I had to pick one thing it would be seeing the piece come to life on the linen.
Looking back on the pieces of paper that I stitched from, I find a history of what was going on in my life while I was working on the piece. When I am stitching, I will use the back and side margins of the chart to write down phone messages or anything I need to remember. My mother passed away during the time I was working on “Peace”. As I prepared the final version of the chart, I noticed on one of the pages I had written a hospital name and the room number that she stayed in. It brings back memories.
Do you think any foreign embroiderers are interested in this kind of design?
Some people have bought them from my distributor. It amazes me someone would want to buy what I do
What size needle do you use and why?
Size 28 tapestry. I like the fact that it doesn’t open the holes in the linen too much.
What would you say to encourage others to design?
Don’t be scared to try it.
Even if you have graph paper and a pencil you can try.
For years and years, I wanted to design. I regret not doing it before.
I feel it has completed me, and I’m doing what I am supposed to do. For me, samplers are timeless.
Here’s your opportunity, if you been saying you’re going to do it---as the commercial says, “Just do it!”
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