Paula Jane's Story

Stitch Artist


I began stitching when my daughters were toddlers…they liked my presence, but they often explored and learned independently. To keep my hands busy, I worked on cross-stitch samplers. There is such history with samplers and I got the idea that I would design my own sampler, for our young family, to tell our story.

I was pleased to discover there are many design and pattern books to choose motifs from. It was during this time that I found Heinz Edgar Kiewe’s book “Charted Peasant Designs from Saxon Transylvania.” Kiewe’s book is a fascinating collection of the original cross-stitch designs embroidered by the Saxon women of Transylvania in the 12th century. The patterns tell the stories of their homeland, their families and their faith, a visual living testimony to how they found and created beauty during very difficult times.

What struck me most in Kiewe’s book was a map showing the migration of cross stitch designs into Transylvania. Looking at this map, it became clear to me how decorative needlework was its own visual living language, translated from town to town and then passed on through the migration of nomadic families during that time. The designs are collective, influenced and representative of each family and place. They tell stories, captured and recorded by hand, for future generations in ways that I feel are amazingly beautiful.

If you ask me why I stitch, there are three reasons: first, it is a connection to each of my grandmothers, one I grew up with and one from Sweden that I never knew, both of whom were gifted at needlework. Second, I have a strong desire to create, by hand, and needlework is the easiest way for me to visually translate the stories of my heart. But it is also because of Kiewe’s map, a concise representation of how we are all connected and how we influence each other. I would have loved to have met even one of those strong, resourceful Saxon women and heard the realities of their lives. It is a gift a grace to me that their stories live on…