Challenge of the Month – Sampler

By Crispina ffrench

Each month, Crisipna’s Stitcherhood Recycling Society host’s a Challenge of the Month and a ‘winner’ is chosen from all the amazing recycled, upcycled textile member entries. 

During the month of September the Stitcherhood Challenge was ‘Samplers’.  The theme was derived from our focus on a really wonderful teaching book called Mythical Stitches by Christi Johnson. 

While Mythical Stitches delves into recycling clothing with the embellishment of gorgeous hand-stitched embroidery the idea for September’s Challenge was simply to practice and learn stitches you haven’t mastered. 

Normally Stitcherhood invites a professional guest whose work is somehow connected to the Challenge of the Month, to choose the entry that stands out as our winner… .

Every once in a while I like to jump into roles that are usually delegated to others and just see how it is from a different perspective. 

Judging the ‘Sampler Challenge’ from September offered me an opportunity to do just that; and it was no easy task!  Let me begin by saying that member work in Stitcherhood is exemplary and the choice was very difficult.

Stitchderhood’s growing membership of creative and inspiring people from all over the world connected by their commitment to recycling textiles is life affirming.  Witnessing budding friendships and collaborations develop, connected by environmental creativity, is truly a beautiful thing.  Conscious Crafters, Textile Alchemists, and Corporate Gamechangers gather to nurture, inspire, support, encourage and help each other.  Oh.  This is really what the world needs more of, for SO many reasons.


The sublime Challenge of the Month Sampler entries, spanned the spectrum yet all embroidered.  The one I chose – though, was made by Cheralynn Ewing of West Goshen, PA. 

Cheralynn recreated a work done by her great grandmother by embroidering one of her doilies with a super lovely poem about sewing.  She had found a piece with poem embroidered by her great grandmother in terrible disrepair…

Cheralynn’s deeply meaningful connection to her ancestors really spoke to me.  The detailed and carefully handmade doily from years past might have been difficult to preserve, appreciate and share as a doily.   Cheralynn has created a family heirloom that is now framed and wall-hung.  Not only did she experience connection-making with her stitches on this special doily, she now can appreciate the collaboration with her great grandma’s work in her daily life at home.  Cheralynn blessed all our Stitcherhood membership with inspiration in her ability to thread her elders into our shared experience.


This is what Cheralynn shared about her history and experience creating her sampler:

I couldn’t help but think of the amazing women who came before me. It was as if I could feel their hands guiding me thru the project.


Sarah May Keckley was my great grandmother. She learned her sewing and needle arts skills from Elizabeth Keckley the famed dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln and Robert E Lee’s wife.

The sampler is signed “Sarah”. When she married her husband had a sister Sarah thus making two Sarah Keckley. She began using her middle name, May. Since the original sampler was to pay homage to her mother she signed it Sarah.


The original piece, from which my entry was recreated, was badly deteriorated having been stored in a trunk in a stable for decades. It literally fell apart in our hands. I loved the sentiment conveyed and the fact I could use one of May Keckley’s doilies to recreate it made it all the more special. I was fortunate to learn sewing and needle arts at an early age. When I was about 2 years old my mother gave me “sewing cards” and that was all it took for a life long interest. Thank you soo much for this honor. I’m excited to receive the embroidery scissors. Thank you again.


Hats-off to Cheralynn Ewing – and her great grandma, Sarah May Keckley, it is a lovely legacy to share. 

Do you have a history of stitchery in your family?  Share about it a comment below.

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