Designs of the Other Needle

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Needlework has been a part of my life since around the age of 8 when my mother thought me a few simple embroidery stitches.  My love of handwork has grown, continued and has always been more enjoyable than working on a sewing machine.  In the mid-1990s I fell hard for counted thread embroidery.  The variety of designs and stitches, the history (young grrls and women have been taught  the techniques of counted thread for centuries) and lovely fabrics and threads, drew me in. The items I love to stitch most were neccessairés and needlebooks.

The picture above is a small collection of needlebooks I've stitched (one was a gift from a friend) and the picture belows shows the inside of two. Needlebooks are a place to keep needles together and safely stowed. The first holds paper packets of needles and the second, more elaborate, case has linen pages to hold the needles, scissors (beneath the needle pages) and pincushion, that also acts as a pinkeep (the white dots around the edge are pins). It is also a keepsake of the occasion in which I took the class with my name and date included.

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Groupofcountedthreadnecassaires_2 Neccessairés are collections of decorative items, usually in a case of some sort, that have a purpose.  Elegant antique apothecaries, travel sets and sewing cases are very collectible in todays market.  Many a young woman through the ages were presented with a neccessairé of sewing tools when she came of age. Woman of all walks of life could make up a sewing roll (sailors also made neccessairé to take to sea) either of elegant fabrics, or of scraps, and safely keep the needles and other sewing tools together, always at the ready. Todays designers create with the past in mind, but use ideas of their own.  For several years I (almost) obsessively stitched one piece after another and have quite a collection of needlebooks and neccessairés. Several of my handstitched neccessairés are in the picture on the side.  The pictures below are of the contents housed inside: scissors with fobs, needlebooks, pinkeeps, beeswax, thread winders (to hold the precious silk threads) and rulers of ivory.

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One of my favorite neccessairés is the Swan Lake Sewing Case.  Five of us, friends and/or acquaintances, headed to Phoenix, I believe it was late 2001, to take the class. We were all in the same guild and knew we were around the same age.  As we traveled we shared stories, chatted the hours away and found we were all born in the same year.  Many other similarities were found and we all became closer friends on the trip.  Before we sewed our stitching into the finished shape we made sure all our names were included on each and every one of our neccessairés.

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There are many mementos tucked inside this little bag and each one brings back the nostalgia of the trip, the class and each and every friend who shared the event. They are dated 2002 as it took a long time to stitch all the pieces. 

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Needlework
and knitting have enhanced and changed my life in so many beautiful ways.  For them both I am eternal grateful.

N is for Neccessairés, Needlebooks and Needlework.  


T is for...

Teaching.

Consider, today, that there is likely no greater gift you can give another person than that of your copious wisdom. It is only when we use our resources and talents to help others achieve their goals that we can feel truly gifted and excited by our successes. In offering the benefit of our experience to people whose dreams run parallel with our own, we channel our abundance into our efforts to improve the lives of people in need of our wisdom and tutelage. As mentors, we utilize our achievements in a benevolent fashion. As a result, we grow alongside our charges, remembering what it is like to be struggling at the start of the goal-realization process. Our own struggles for success are put into perspective, and we can take pride in all we have accomplished. When you use your resources to help others fulfill their dreams today, you’ll feel highly accomplished.

Since 1995 I have been a teacher of needlework. I learned to embroidery at the age of 8 and throughout my life have pursued many forms of fiber art and crafting.  In the mid-1970s I worked in a needlework store and and enjoyed learning different types of embroidery (and knitting).  In the mid-1980s I became more involved with organizations that promoted needlework and of all styles.  Teachers  were brought in to teach new techniques and I loved learning so much I began to travel for lessons. After 20 years of striving to learn all that I could, I am considered proficient in needlepoint, counted thread, Japanese embroidery, Brazilian embroidery, crewel, and silk and metal embroidery.  The local shop knew of my ability and, in 1995, asked if I would teach classes.  It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

In July the shop was sold and closed for over a month while the new owner redecorated and restocked. When she reopened, we (the students and I) were thrilled! 
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All the threads were hung by color and there were many more choices and the variety of painted canvas designs were  much more to our liking.  It's a good change, a much needed change and we couldn't be happier.

The classroom now holds a large table and the walls are covered with possibility.

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The beg table is very nice as the classroom can now hold up to 10 students.

JaneisalsoveryindutriouslyworkingIvadeneworkslongandhardonherdesign_1All the students are very good at needlepoint and I have been able to teach them a few techniques to improve their skills.  Together we take a painted canvas and pick threads, textures, colors and stitches to bring the canvas to life.  We strive to create needleart, not just to color and cover the canvas. 

JoanhasaverylargepiecethatisalmostfinishMargaretstitchesbeautifulllyWhile my knowledge is important in the creation of a piece, it is a collaborative effort. We discuss each choice and even try stitches and colors. Some students are very involved in the process of choice and others just want me to decide. They don't know that they really could do well without my guidance, but with my background I can teach techniques they don't know.  It challenges me each time they ask "What should I do here?" or "Is this color a good choice?"  Experience, trial and error and curiosity help in many of the choices.  We have a good time together and that makes class day very enjoyable. 

Margaret brought the last piece we worked together to class last week.  She is an excellent stitcher and, as with many of the other students, has surpassed my stitching skills. She considers this her best piece of work to date. It is truly museum quality stitching and I am very humbled to have a part in the creation of such beautiful art work.

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Rarely does anyone in class complain (any more) that a project is taking them too long.  Over the years we have worked together the students have heard me say "It's the process." so many times they could scream.  But, they believe it, they live it, and they love it.


E is for Embroidery

ZmyfirstsamplerAt the age of 8 my mother taught me to embroider. The first project was a green baby bib shaped like the head of a Cocker Spaniel.  It was mostly outline stitch, in shades of brown, with a satin stitch pink nose.  My memory is that it was never finished into a bib and I'm not sure I finished all the embroidery.  In the early years I also stitched pre-stamped samplers (the oldest one on the right) and pillow cases.  Embroidery wasn't a passion until my college years…you know the embroidered denim shirts and jeans of the 'hippie days'.  It was then it became a bigger part of my life. I worked in a needlework shop for a few years in the 70s, because I was a very accomplished hooker, and it was there I learned to knit. I also learned several types of embroidery. Like knitting, you can never know it all because of the many and varied types of embroidery.

12patchquiltstitchedin1987Japaneseembroideryphaseii In 1987 I joined the local Needlepoint Guild and fell in love with 'art needlework'.  My first class was a very extensive needlepoint piece of 12 Amish Quilt designs.  I loved it so much that it took me only 5 months to complete. From then on I took every class I could and traveled to do so when possible.  In 1991 I was introduced to Japanese Embroidery and studied it for 10 years. The teacher who taught this technique had a big impact on my life, as did the this form of embroidery.  It taught me so much about the process, and the discipline needed, to enjoy the journey of life.

Mywhitehousestocking1995_1One of the thrills during my needlework years was being asked to design and stitch a stocking for the White House Christmas Tree (as were 4 embroiderers from every State).  It was an honor and I was invited to the White House, with 10,000 others, to view the many beautifully decorated trees.  I found my stocking on the Blue Room tree and a friend was able to snap a picture.  I also did a large piece of embroidery for our Governor's Mansion (a dining room valance).

Basketmanneedlework Much of the needlework I've done has been given away to family members.  My album, SkatesantaNeedles With Eyes, has many of the 'smalls' I enjoyed stitching during the years that I studied counted thread. Several of my walls are covered with needlework but, only this piece, The Basketman, is in my living room. It is the one I love most of all.

For the last few years I have stitched only Santa's as Christmas decorations or teaching pieces. I have stayed  involved in the stitching community by teaching and also as founder of a local Sampler Guild.  Teaching has been a very enjoyable experience. My student's work is very diverse and they are all such lovely ladies.  All the years of study are put to use in guiding the students through the embellishment of painted canvases. The students challenge and delight me. I teach classes regularly and love to watch as each person grows and becomes a better stitcher.  They say a teacher is successful when a students abilities surpass their own.  My students certainly have accomplished that. You can see two examples below.

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Margaret's Geisha

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Iva Dene's Tea Ceremony

Late in 2000 I began to suffer with an upper back problem  which made it very uncomfortable to bend over an embroidery frame.  It was then I turned to knitting (which had been a part of my life since 1974) with a vengeance.  In 2004, when I started this blog, the desire to embroider evaporated almost entirely. I enjoy being a part of the needlework community and will continue to be involved.  I may knit at the meetings instead of stitch but, it is the people I go to see.

Enjoy your weekend. While March is a very unsettled month, the weather man did say that meteorological winter is over!


Once Upon A Time...

...in the far off land of Utah, there was a place that addicted knitters loved to visit. It was affectionately known as "The Haunted House". 

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Norohiddeninthisroom It must have first opened in the 1950's and Mickey Burdett was the owner of the Knit Craft Cottage. After she pass on, her daughter took over and has touched nothing...only adding new items from time to time.  If you find an afghan that your grandmother started to knit, and never finished, or a piano bench your mother needlepointed and left with only 2" until completion....this is the place for you!  You might even find the same dye lot in stock and then you can finish the project.  Each and every room is stacked to the (very tall) ceilings with yarn, yarn and more yarn. Each room has a large center island of yarn that you have to navigate around, too. 

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Pilespileseverywhere Saturday, Susan, Laurie, Emily and I left Salt Lake, took a quick side trip off the freeway for Larisa, and headed to Ogden, 40 miles to the north.  The Needlepoint Joint, which carries knitting and needlepoint, was our first stop.  After shopping for some time there, we took a little nourishment, and then headed to the wonderland or wonders.  Hidden treasures, such as Noro tucked into a cubby hole near the ceiling, were in every room. It was impossible to not hit overload, but we persevered.  Laurie and Emily came home with amazing stories that you better not miss and someone still has yarn in my trunk! It was a fabulous day with grrlfriends and we had a super good time.


Of Menorah's and Santa's

Menorah_3 We make a multi-celebration around our house during the Holiday Season.  Smith has his Chanukah menorah collection which we do enjoy lighting during that time and I have needlepoint Santa's that I have created over the years.  When we were first married we tried to decide the best way to meld our beliefs. His tradition is Jewish and mine has become a little eclectic over the years.  We do light candles for some nights of Chanukah (how many ways can you spell Chanukah, Hanukkah, Channukah?) and have enjoyed collecting a wide variety of menorahs over the years. If not careful we could burn the house with all his menorahs and they do make quiet a sight when all are lit.

Fruitsanta As a needleworker it has been fun to create ornaments as gifts and decorations. Santa has no religious meaning for us so we welcomed him into our home as part of my tradition. Over the years I have needlepoint many Santa's and Moresantachoir collected a few, too. We decided on Santa's that would sit on shelves or be made into pillows as decorations around the house. Each stitched Santa started as a handpainted canvas and I chose the stitches and threads that brought them to life.  Some were classes for my needlepoint students, but all were fun to do.  My favorite is one call the Fruit Santa and he pictured here. He stands about 5" tall. The others I will put in a photo album for you to enjoy.  And here is the 'choir' of Santa's in different sizes and shapes that we enjoy, too.

A note on the Desert Socks.  The yarn was from an Ebay seller and she hasn't had anything new for some time.  I DID frog it and will start again. The pattern called for size 2 needles and that's what I used (I'm a tight knitter). As Susan pointed out it would be too loose to wear well if I went up a size so, she came up with a fix.  The solution will be to add a stitch to the 2 purl rib between the design stitches. BUT, I just might pick a quicker easier pattern and make myself some socks NOW!

And another note on the wonderful 100 lists.  I want to be Katy if I grown up!


Needlepoint As Art

Needlepoint has been a big part of my life for several years. I learned to knit first but when needlepoint with wonderful threads came along I fell in love with it, too. There are many excellent artists who paint exquisite pieces of art on needlepoint canvas. The goal for a needlepointer is to take the design and add texture in the form of stitches, with a wide variety of threads, to make it their own...a unique and beautiful piece of artwork.

It was 1987 when I traveled to my first Needlepoint Seminar which was hosted by ANG in New Orleans. It was a great city and when not in class we had fun eating our way around the town. Classes were incredible, fascinating and really taught much more than I could ever have learned locally. For several years I was able to travel once or twice a year to further my needlework education. With that travel, correspondence classes and visiting teachers of national caliber I became very adept at this art form.

The LNS owner asked me to teach in 1997. It was intimidating at first. Could I really take a beautifully painted canvas and make it ‘better’, make it come to life and create something the student would love? It really was easier than I first thought because of the needlework education behind me. The students were (are) marvelous stitchers who needed a little guidance in choosing stitches and threads that would enhance their purchased canvas. We had fun right off the bat!

If only the pictures would really do justice to these beautiful works of art so that you could see the stitches and threads used on the canvas. These women are true artists. Please allow me to introduce some of my students. (Click the pictures.)

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This is Jane. She is working on a wonderful Santa which will hang above her fireplace mantel each Christmas season.

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Jean loves little Petei Santa’s.

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Ive Dene is a master at the large and elegant canvas.

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And Kathryn is a star student. She loves a challenge and always does the most perfect work. If only you could really see the wings of this moth. It is all hand painted metallic thread and it takes your breath away.

They are all wonderful artists and I’m so pleased to be their guide, teacher, sensei.

Check the Kersti Blog, too. Lots of good things happening over there!


The Passion of Needlework

Teresa and Nathania are two of the knitters that I’ve found on the blogs who also do needlework.  I was taught at the age of 8 by my mother to embroider and shortly after I tried to knit and failed.  Crochet was easier and became a main diversion. During the 70’s learning to knit was a big attraction as the patterns were wonderful and the yarns were becoming better all the time (I gave up crochet after learning to knit).  As years pasted and there was time to give to pursuits of leisure, needlepoint became a big part of my life. That led to Japanese Embroidery. This is a piece I did after 4 years of study.

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Then a freind taught me to stitch on fine linen with silk threads (Counted Thread) and that became a passion. So, in the last 30 years I have been knitting and stitching needlework as much as possible.  Membership in every guild in the area (and many around the country) can keep a girl busy.  But that didn’t stop me from starting another.

On April 8th the entry on this blog was about an historic embroiderer named Martha Edlin.  It is fortunate that her work was cared for over the centuries and now is in the Victoria and Albert Museum where thousands can see it daily. That is not the fate of many samplers.  Many museums do not have the funds to care for, house or show the schoolgirl samplers in their collections.  Many are trying to do so but with limited funds.

The fate of these little pieces of history, the schoolgirl sampler,  was the main drive in the creation of the Swan Sampler Stitchers.  The guild started small with a few local members but, when Carolyn Webb (the person responsible for introducing me to linen and Counted Thread) designed a wonderful Quaker Swan Box our membership grew quickly. We had over 100 members the first year.  Membership is now almost 300, in our third year, because of the wonderful designers we have and exclusive projects we do.  Many friends have stepped up to help with the large task of running this organization and it couldn’t be done without their help. Thousands of dollars have been given to museums to aid in the endeavor to protect and preserve the samplers in their care.   This is one of the most important accomplishments of my life. 

If you would like to see an online exhibition of historic antique samplers you can go here. They are truly fine pieces of women’s history.


Everyday Almost Done!

The knitting is done! Knitting Pure and Simple Neck Down Jacket is ready for it’s zipper. That is as soon as it arrives from the Zipper Stop. Then I will check the zipper for size, wash the jacket and sew the zipper in. Can’t wait to wear it!  This jacket will be well worn over the years.

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It felt like a friend had left when the jacket was done.  So, the only thing to do was keep knitting and the Willow cardi is now up about 12”. Pictures will be here later in the week. It’s another fast and fun piece to knit.

In June the Swan Sampler Stitchers,  is having Lauren Sauer come to teach her interesting and unique Etui.  It’s called the Mermaid’s Sea Chest and it actually makes up into a chest full of sewing tools that you can open and lay flat to use when you stitch.  There happens to be quiet a bit of stitching to do before the class…so-oo-oo some knitting time will have change into stitching time for awhile.  I’ll show you progress on that as it grows. 

Here is a piece for the local Needlepoint Guild that I finished over the weekend. It will be a hanging ornament of about 5x51/2.  It is stitched with stranded silk and a braided metallic thread and counted out on 18 mono canvas.  It is was neat to pick my own color family and fun to stitch.

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Now for your decadant drink of the week.

Brady-Rum Mochaccino

This drink’s chocolate-brandy-rum combination makes it a special one for chocolate lovers!

Single shot espresso
1 ½ tsp brandy
1 ½ tsp rum
1 ½ tsp crème de cacao
1 Tbs chocolate syrup
3 ounces milk, steamed
¼ cup heavy cream, whipped
Ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg

Thin wafer, for garnish

Mix espresso, brandy, rum, crème de cacao, and chocolate syrup in a glass. Add 1 ½ ounces steamed milk and 1 ½ ounces milk foam. Top with shipped cream, sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg and garnish with a wafer.  Serves 1.

That ought to keep you relaxed and knitting!


Martha Edlin - Embroiderer Extraordinaire

The answer to the mystery embroiderer is Martha Edlin, as many of you knew.  She was born in 1660 and at the young age of eight years, made a beautiful sampler which you can see here. There is some historical information on Martha’s life on that page, too. 

She may be considered precocious by some today but in the 17th Century many young girls were beautiful embroiders at early ages. They didn’t have the distractions and responsibilities that girl’s of today encounter. Life was slower and there was little for a woman (girl) of leisure to do.
The sampler is a polychrome band sampler (multi-colored rows of different stitches) stitched on linen, usually around 50 threads per inch, with silk thread. It is dated and signed. Most 17th C. band samplers are reversible!  That is quite a time intensive and embroidering feat!  The next year, 1669, she embroidered a whitework sampler. That is a sampler stitched with white silk and/or linen threads to create a lace look.  This is a modern example.

At the age of 11 she made an embroidered casket. The caskets were made as a ‘final’ project of a girl’s education at the time.  They are small at about 12”w x 10”h x 8”d.  Here is one for sale that you can own!  Click on the picture for a closer view.  The information on that page tells you more about the work on these exquisite treasures.  This is a link to see Martha Edlin’s Casket using MS Media player (best with broadband). It’s a 2:38 minute video.  Sometimes the link is busy but, it’s worth checking it until you get through as it shows her work up close.

Several other items of needlework were found inside the case, as well as a few needlework tools.  Both her samplers were housed inside, too.  This is the reason they are in such good condition today. All the items were passed down through the female line of her family and lately given to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. 

The needlework that women have done throughout history is an important part of our heritage and history as women.  It proves we were here and well educated (if money was available).  Antique samplers can be sold at auction or by dealers at very high prices and are highly collectable. 

Now you know a little more (more than you wanted?) about my other passion, embroidery.

And now to the business at hand!

The winner’s aaaarrrreee (drum roll):

Laura Gallagher (she asked for the Denim if she won) and
Cameo Voltz (what a great name!)

I don’t think either has a blog so if you do please let us know. Let us also see the finished Broadripple’s when they are done. 

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest!  Your embroidery education will continue each time a contest happens here at Zeneedle.


Just Knitting

There has been some ennui cropping up with some Rogue knitters.  At the moment the Fair Isle (in First Steps Album) is keeping my attention so, it’s easy to not start the sleeves for Rogue. Smaller needles and yarn are more to my liking so that’s part of the problem.  Several have said that they will stop for now or not continue at all. Annie stopped by to say the view here is inspiring. She’s one who has changed her mind on Rogue. She had a fabulous post about compassion on her blog yesterday so check it out.  Speaking of that view Annie commented on…this morning at dawn there were coral colored, wispy clouds above the peek. It WAS awe-inspiring. That's a view you never take for granted.

Here, at least, are some pictures of Rogue.  This is the side view of the hood and cables.

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They were very fun to do.

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This is the top of the hood. It turned out “ok”.

Socks are a favorite thing to knit while on the go and while chatting with friends. However this sock by Marta might be a bit too much for quick knitting. It will also be my first 'toe-up' sock.  Doesn’t it look like fun knitting?  Here is the yarn.

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It’s Black Opal by Lorna’s Laces.   
Here is another pair knit from a pattern by a local designer, Anne Carroll Gilmore.  This is also Lorna’s Laces. Can’t remember the name but I call it Orange Sherbet.

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And here is the latest piece of needlework.

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This is Goldwork like that worked at the Royal School of Needlework in London. They create the coronation robes for the Royal Family.  The teacher, Michele Roberts, has studied there for several years and is now teaching through ANG in the US.  This will become a wedding present for my nephew.  The wedding was last May and they will be adding to their family in July. Therefore,  included with the gift will be one of Oat Couture’s little Cuddle Toys. Maybe the rabbit.

Stay inspired!