When an artist takes a traditional style of stitchery and adapts it to her or his own form of expression, the results can be quite fascinating. Below are two blackwork pieces from the collection that illustrate this point beautifully.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any information on the origins of this sampler beyond the initials and year stitched at the bottom. It is a straightforward presentation of 16 blackwork stitches in black on a cream-colored ground. The row of snails at the bottom add a touch of whimsy.

Taking  a different approach to the same technique, Jacqueline Winton created this piece based on the classical element, Earth.

Part of series that also includes the elements Fire, Wind, and Water, Winton has used traditional blackwork stitches of varying densities in shades of brown to create a landscape and convey the feeling of earth.

Inspired to try your hand at blackwork? Check out Carol Algie Higginbotham’s group correspondence course, Roses, or these titles and more available form EGA’s lending library:The Art of English Blackwork and Blackwork Embroidery Patterns by Jane Zimmerman,Reversible Blackwork and Blackwork & Holbein Embroidery by Ilse Altherr, and Why Call it Blackwork? by Marion Scoular. Ilse Altherr has also created a blackwork Technique Basics projects available on the Free Projects page.

Things are finally starting to settle down at EGA Headquarters. Just about all of the boxes have been unpacked and staff is getting into a new routine. The great thing about this is I finally have the time to go through the permanent collection piece by piece, making condition reports and notes of all sorts. Today one of the pieces I looked at was item #269.

I had seen this piece before but never really paid much attention, probably because the detail of the two cherubs form Raphael’s Sistine Madonna are reproduced so frequently. I just assumed this was made from a late 20th century kit using that popular image. Today I learned that it’s actually about a hundred years older than I suspected. While we don’t know who stitched the piece, it was donated by Mrs. L. K. Benedict in 1985, who bequeathed it to EGA in her will. She wrote that the donation was being made in memory of her late husband, Leo Kauffman Benedict. She described it as a “gros and petitpoint painting.” The original frame was in poor condition when it arrived; it was re-framed in 1987.

The cherubs’ faces were painted on after stitching. This detail shot also shows the interesting areas where the larger stitches meet the tiny ones.

One more thing I appreciate is the “painterliness” of the background. It’s a little more subtle in person, there is more color contrast in the photos. I’m sure there are more surprises just waiting to be discovered. I’ll be sharing them here.

On Day 2, we developed grids and worked with embellishers, keeping in mind what we might be able to use in developing a project.

To make the grids, we layered threads, yarns, and beads on top of a water soluble stabilizer and covered it with Giulietta, another stablizer. Then, we linked the threads by hand stitching or machine stitching them. We need to make sure that they are stitched, or linked securely, otherwise our creation will fall apart.




We used an embellisher machine to fuse scrim together. We get lovely effects on both sides. Bits of color from the scrim underneath bleed into the one on top.

Day 3 was a day off. But really, we were thinking about our assignment—to attend to strips and stripes in the environment. This wasn’t difficult for those of us who drove to Ghost Ranch. We took detours to view places that Georgia O’Keeffe rendered in her paintings. Strips and stripes abounded.




The last two days were spent creating a textile or textiles that exhibited strips and stripes. Beaney and Littlejohn demonstrated other techniques, including gilding. Attendees worked steadily to achieve their goals. Forty people delivered quite a body of work. It was a productive and energized week for Fiber Forum.




We met as a class today. I remembered several things that I had intended/would have liked to have brought. Stash enhancement events are sure to happen as Santa Fe has excellent shopportunities  and we will be eager to search out just the right materials to develop our ideas for a final project. As Jean Littlejohn put it, one of the class rules is that you can’t have everything you need because you couldn’t get all of it in the car. And one student quickly added another rule: Your neighbor brought  better stuff than you did.

There are forty of us, and the energy level is very high. We are learning techniques that will culminate in a resolved stitchscape. We had a go at three exercises today: creating a needle-felted stone that is mindful of Santa Fe, both geologically and culturally; recording design patterns that we find around us in Santa Fe; and creating stitch samples and variations with different threads and yarns that we have brought with us. These are to act as references for the work we are to create. We are working at seeing more clearly and developing an idea for a project.
Beaney and Littlejohn are master teachers who keep us motivated by guiding us through the exercises, demonstrating constantly, encouraging always, and being ever accessible. They well know learners and learning, structuring each exercise to lead to student success. They break down a task into manageable steps, all the while building toward the larger goal of a completed stitchscape.

What joy will the second day bring?




Don’t you love preparing for a workshop? Assembling all the supplies? It can be stressful, too, wondering whether you have the right stuff. So much you want to bring, but you’ve just the suitcase you can take on the plane. You’ve done the best you can. And after you arrive, you look up all the needlework, bead, quilt, and knitting stores in the area. Hire a car, too, to make sure you can search for just the right thread, just the right bead, just the right yarn in case you need to.

Fiber Forum begins in the morning in Santa Fe with Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn. Time to dive into stitchscapes. Let’s go on the journey just a little bit together.

One difficulty I face in editing Needle Arts is not being able to include everything I would like to have in an article. It’s the editor’s perennial dilemma. It’s often difficult to choose among images. The more images and text in one article, the fewer pages for another article. What goes in? What must be set aside? In all truth, it is a good problem for an editor to have.

The EGA blog can help resolve that problem. From time to time I hope I can share images and features that extend or complement what we have in the magazine.

Agecroft Hall in Richmond, Virginia, has granted us permission to post images that did not fit in the article, “Agecroft Hall,” in the December 2010 issue. I have the pleasure of posting them below. The photography is by Ben Moxley. His photo of the Agecroft Coif was credited in “Reproducing Historic Needlework,” but his work should have been credited in the article on Agecroft Hall as well. All of the photos in that article are his work.

The dining parlor in Agecroft Hall is most inviting. Food would definitely taste better in such a space.

The seventeenth-century bedstead in the Painted Chamber is absolutely stunning.  The Florentine-patterned bed rug complements the bed. Note the cradle as well.

This is the other side of the beaded purse that was featured on page 35 in the article. “Spend not to[o] fast.” It sounds like a message for all time. But who beaded this purse? For whom was the message? Why?

The work in the book cover is delicate. Imagine how the gold would have sparkled when it was first stitched.

An embroidered cushion

If you cannot visit Agecroft Hall itself, visit the website, www.agecrofthall.com. You may also wish to visit Jefferson Collins’ blog, ”Secrets from the Curator’s Closet,” at curatorscloset.blogspot.com.  Collins is Manager of Collections at Agecroft Hall, and his blog provides witty insight on artifacts at the historic house.

Margaret Henderson contributed the following directions for finishing the Mystery Flower box found in the December 2010 issue of Needle Arts. We supplied the photographs.

Any box can be covered with fabric. Take the box apart in order to fit and attach your embroidery. The model was mounted on a satin-covered lid, which was carefully removed from the base of the box top. The satin was discarded. The box in the photos is a linen covered box that is ready made for covering. The lid is lined with cotton, so you can place the stitched piece onto the padded area.


Place the box lid over the linen, centering the design. With a pen or pencil, mark a circle on the linen about two inches from the edge of the lid. Cut out the linen. Our version below is less than two inches, so you’ll probably want to allow for the two inches. You can see why.

If the box you use is not padded, cut some white or beige felt or thin quilt batting to give the lid some dimension. Cut one circle of padding the same size as the lid. Cut two more circles, each smaller than the one before it. If necessary, cut more and increasingly smaller circles to obtain the desired padding. Place the smaller circles in the center of the lid, then place increasing larger circles on top of them, centering them over the middle of the lid.

Center the embroidered linen over the padding and cardboard form and begin pinning in the linen to the edge of the cardboard form. After inserting the first pin, find the opposite side of the form and insert a second pin. Find the midpoint between these two pins and secure the linen with a third pin.

Secure the linen on the opposite side to the third pin. Continue securing the linen by pinning the mid-section between pins and then pinning the linen opposite to it.

Once the linen is securely fixed onto the box lid, spread fabric glue around the underside of the lid, about one half-inch from the edge. Press the fabric edges into the glue, working in the same manner as you did when pinning, securing opposite sides from each other, rotating, and securing those opposite sides. Check your work often, by turning over the lid to be sure that the edges on the embroidered linen are smooth and even.

Finally, glue the lid onto the base of the box top, by spreading glue evenly on the underside of the lid. Then, press the lid into the base. Clothes pegs can be used to clamp the lid to the box top until the glue dries.

We’ve gathered our materials and are ready to start stiching on Luan Callery’s Stumpwork Butterfly! Check out Luan’s Designers Across America profile in the September issue of Needle Arts and find out how you can get a copy of this project, too.

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