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Storied Stitching Podcasts & Seminars

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#5: Straight talk about straight pins…

Hello there! Get cozy…

Stitchers – whether you’re sitting in your comfy chair with your coffee, in your car, or looking for ENGAGING content teaching in your home or in a school—
we’ve got your stitched stories covered!

Get ready for another fascinating look at an oh so taken for granted tool: the straight pin!

Here’s my straight pin story–What’s yours?

How many pins have I used in my life!? Let me count the thousands! Silk, plastic heads, glass heads, quilting, T-pins, safety pins…..
but today we’re straight-talking about only straight pins!

But if I had a dollar for every pin I’ve used, lost, I’d likely be a millionaire! I find them EVERYWHERE! In beds, on shelves, in shoes(!), I mean, really?
But what would we do without them?
Sure, you can use clips to keep fabrics together.
And some use weights instead of pins to keep their patterns down while the mark and cut them out.

But I love my glass headed pins. Sorry.

And I REALLY came to appreciate them after learning about their history. So difficult to hand-make! To package! And yet so essential and useful…

What is YOUR straight pin story?

Share on our Facebook page or in our private FB group, Storied Sewing Circle ( >>join here!)



What’s this episode really about?

The straight pin has been around for centuries, and guess what? Its function has remained pretty much the same!
Yes, it was used for putting fabric together, but it was also used as an early paper clip.

When I’m without a clip, I’ve been known to reach for one of my lovely glass headed straight pins to bind my papers!!!

What you’ll learn in this episode is that it has a LOT in common with the evolution of
the hand sewing needle (all the details found in Episode 2)…INCLUDING the scary nickel used to produce it.

But you’ll also find out the ORIGINAL use for ….the pincushion! Stop the presses! REALLY!

Join us for this podcast on the fascinating story of straight pins, and you’ll never take yours for granted again!!


Ready for inspo? Workspace love…

This quote and others that I’ll use for this year at least are from this really cool book – 

In the company of women: inspiration and advice from over 100 makers, artists, and entrepreneurs. Get it >>>here

It’s by Grace Bonney –  who once ran the design sponge blog site.
Unfortunately, I discovered this blog site too late and it had already closed and she had moved on.
However, this book draws upon the women she met in the process of running that blog!

So get inspired and get your “stitch” groove on!

This episode’s quote is from Danielle Colding, an interior designer based in Brooklyn.

In answer to the question,
What is your favorite thing about your workspace? she answered:

“The art. There is an incredible Sol LeWitt mural on one wall and a gallery of some of my favorite fashion and inspiration pictures on the other.

It definitely is a “ more is more” space, and it feels good to be in it.
And now I share it with my husband, so it has become the real center of our home. It’s his favorite room in the house too.”

Many of the women featured in this book have home studios and I can certainly relate
as I have transformed my own living space into a live workplace without focusing all the time on the work!

I finally got to the point where I can merge the two without constantly being pulled into one of the other!

So, What is your favorite thing about your workspace?

Whether you’re at home or in a hybrid office situation. share on your social media page and link to us!


Episode #5: Straight pins have been around since…

Ok, so pins have existed since the Paleolithic era! Yes, THAT old! Materials used to make them were bone and thorn. The Celts and Ancient Romans used them, too! Neolithic sites are rich in Wooden pins, dated to the Neolithic era (10,000 BC), were still in use during Elizabeth I reign 1558-1603)!

That’s a long run for wooden pins, which must have been awful, catching on everything…Seriously…

The Bronze Age brought metal pins, found in Asia, North Africa, and Europe…But where were these metal pins for thousands of years? Well, they were difficult to make and hence super expensive…

The process had roughly 18 separate steps to produce a small pin. Pins were handmade one at a time. “pin maker’s peg” or the “Pinner’s bone” helped sharpen the pin. Made from a grooved, small thin animal bone to keep the pin straight during sharpening.

But the biggest headache for pin makers was creating the head: Another piece of wire, coiled around the body of the pin, would create the pinhead (ha!), but naturally, it caught on whatever one was pinning together!! It was impossible to create standard pin/head sizes.

And, as in the hand needle, a pinners guild, formed in London in 1356 attempted to have a monopoly over the job and manufacture…. but, in good old competitive parlance, allegedly it was the French who excelled at pin-making.

You’ll be surprised at how LONG it took to perfect the straight pin’s design and mass manufacture!

And, yes, it was Howe- not related to Elias Howe, sewing machine inventor, who got it all “straight.”

Middle school student drawing

Hey hey! References for educators and….. nerds!

Beaudry, Mary Carolyn. Findings: The Material Culture of Needlework and Sewing. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.


Leslie, Catherine Amoroso. Needlework Through History: An Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2007.


Snodgrass, M. E. (2014). Needle and Thread. In World Clothing and FashionAn Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence (pp. 468-470). Sharpe Reference.


Wild, John Peter. Textiles in Archaeology. Risborough, UK: Shire, 2003.


Image and other content sources here

[This post may contain referral-affiliate links. If a purchase is made, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.]



So, why the School of Storied Stitching?

For me, needlework is a deeply meaningful form of personal expression that I want to share.

The sewing circle is a way to connect with fellow stitchers – and to remember those who are gone…

#4: Thimbles, marriages, and other stories…

What’s this episode about?

Researching thimbles in scholarly literature proved as disappointing as sewing needles: I found a two-sentence entry in an encyclopedia!

Turning to the web I discovered it’s rich if gapped history and beauty. Apologies for the amount of “stunnings” and “beautifuls” in this podcast but I couldn’t contain myself. As I looked at thimbles with Moorish inlay, embossed and drawn images, encrusted with jewels made of bronze and other metals, well, you’ll understand!

Tune in to discover that the evolution of thimble art was truly a mix of east and west.


Betrothals, gold, and the amazing worlds of the thimble!


Hey there! Want to stitch with a seriously fun community? Yes?
Sign up for an invitation to join our free-spirited sewing circle!

BONUS: Receive a free course introducing my special technique, free-form stitching!

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#3: Sewing Machine Duels

What’s this episode about?

The history of the sewing machine is not so much about the tool itself: it’s about bad luck, resistance, fear, patent law, and some big egos!

Learn about the early wooden sewing machine built by a Frenchman to the battles between Americans Howe and Singer….Singer is not only are credited with our contemporary versions but also its mass production and installment payment plans.

Oh yes, there’s even a story about polygamy!


Fear, joblessness, and money-grubbing!


Hey there! Want to stitch with a seriously fun community? Yes?
Sign up for an invitation to join our free-spirited sewing circle!

BONUS: Receive a free course introducing my special technique, free-form stitching!

Sign me up!

#2: The hand sewing needle

What’s this episode about?

The needle is perhaps one of the most loaded yet ignored tools in human history. When I looked for scholarly articles on its history using a research one university library I came up short — gravely short— with references!

Unsurprisingly, the needle remains under-researched and under-analyzed as both a help and hindrance to women’s access to education and professions outside of the home. This episode discusses the needle’s 40,000-year evolution with major archaeological gaps. Learn about materials from which it was made as well as the dangerous processes used for their mass-produced manufacture during the industrial revolution.

The overlooked stories of the needle…


Hey there! Want to stitch with a seriously fun community? Yes?
Sign up for an invitation to join our free-spirited sewing circle!

BONUS: Receive a free course introducing my special technique, free-form stitching!

Sign me up!

#1: Introducing the Storied Stitching Podcast!

What’s this episode about?


Why did I start the story stitching podcast? Because needlework embodies a rich if checkered history of women’s work.
Join me as I share my stories of stitching and how they marked my personal and scholarly life.

Grab your needles, sticks, hoops, or shuttles, and make something beautiful as you listen to each episode.
Share your stories with me on social—reflect upon how the stitch has influenced your life.
Get ready to learn about all things textile in future episodes!

Let’s talk about stories, stitching, and….podcasting!



Hey there! Want to stitch with a seriously fun community? Yes?
Sign up for an invitation to join our free-spirited sewing circle!

BONUS: Receive a free course introducing my special technique, free-form stitching!

Sign me up!

The storied stitching seminar

Grab your needles, hooks, frames-whatever you use in your textile practice, and let’s get some work done!

Oh, and I demo all about free-form stitching! Enjoy!

If you are interested in joining my sewing circle and hanging out with some AWESOME women!!! Click here!

Welcome to the Storied Stitching Hour (live on FB)

From October 9, 2020

Hi everybody, streaming live from Chicago. And on that day: Oh my god, it’s a spectacular day today. It’s like the perfect late summer day. It’s almost 80 degrees, it’s dry….

So began my first FACEBOOK LIVE!

If you missed my Facebook LIVE, no worries!
Watch it, and I’ll show what “free-form” stitching is…

I offer some tips –  and some companionship.
Because stitching alone gets lonely!

Interested in learning more?
Join the free-spirited circle….
Subscribe to my email list!



A painter’s advice

Vanessa Bell, painter
While we continue to cope with COVID, this week, I quote a couple of letters from Vanessa Bell just before and during the Second World War (From Selected Letters of Vanessa Bell, ed. Regina Marler).
Bell the painter was the older sister of writer Virginia Woolf.
To a young woman in China, 13th June 1939 (p. 456): “Now I think people are less nervous than they were. I cannot let myself be hopeful but I try to think of other things than possible war. All one can do is to concentrate on work, and be thankful that one has work of such a nature to concentrate on. I really pity people who are not artists most of all, for they have no refuge from the world…”
To a friend living in France, 6th June 1940 (p.470): “Are you and your father able to work? I hope so. Sometimes it seems to me very difficult but then again one gets so miserable if one doesn’t that one has to make an effort and at least keep oneself sane.”
Bell lost her older brother Thoby to typhus after a trip to Greece; her eldest son, Julian, was killed as a medic working in the Spanish Civil War.
Featured in this post, Abstract painting (1914 ) is one of the few abstractions Bell did. Although attracted to the avant-garde, she explored painterly aspects of representations rather than pursue simplified forms on canvas.


What I love about this painting is that it looks like a quilt – a pieced quilt from scraps of fabric one had hanging around.
Improvised yet arranged in a way that creates visual excitement, the painting makes my eyes wander all over its surface without being bored or stuck anywhere.
But remember, quilters “discovered” abstraction early in the 19th century, WAY before painters did! Another blog post. 🙂
After my days of online teaching are done, I’ve been mending and hand quilting as well as taking inventory of thread colors. It’s keeping me sane and centered as writing and painting did for Colette and Bell throughout not only the wars but their lives.

Writing, painting, staying sane

Yellow scribble quilt

In mid-April, snow fell on Chicago. In spring, snow would upset me, along with the cold, the gray, The shut-in order changed much for me. 

I now welcome the snow. 

Conjuring that comforting safe place, I hark back to a sweet if hectic December: Driving like mad with my sister, up and down Route 1 between Walpole and Norwood, MA, helping her finish endless tasks: buying chocolates for the dry cleaner, the police, the letter carrier. Stocking up on wine, snacks, and sweets for the Christmas dessert party for her in-laws. 

Late nights watching silly childhood Christmas specials (Mr. Magoo, A Year Without a Santa Claus), hearing the bells of Blessed Sacrament church all fill my mind as I observe the scene outside. The emptiness, my coffee, and oatmeal reinforce my coziness. 

I’ve turned to two women who lived through both the first and second world wars for guidance. The French writer Collette (b. 1873) and the English painter Vanessa Bell (b.1879) lost loved ones to Spanish flu and typhoid. Throughout, they wrote, they painted. 

As women born at the turn of the 20th century, they operated within the shut-in/work from home mentality as I wrote about earlier. Colette and Bell made the most of their situations by immersing themselves in their respective media. 

Colette’s advice to a young writer whining about his life: “…if we said to her, ‘Colette, I’m unhappy,’ we would hear her voice of a grumbling laborer reply, ‘Nobody asked you to be happy. Work. Do you hear me complaining?'” (Earthly Paradise, Chronology, by Robert Phelps, p. xvii) Advice from a woman who lived through two wars in Paris, whose husband was imprisoned in a French internment camp for the crime of being a Jew…

After my days of online teaching are done, I’ve been mending and hand quilting as well as taking inventory of thread colors. It’s keeping me sane and centered. In my next post, I’ll share quotes from Vanessa Bell…

Peace and Friendship!

Laura signature with peace sign

PS: How are you staying sane? Share on my Facebook or Instagram page.
Have a blog?  Write your answer and link to this post. Thanks for sharing!

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