Wednesday, April 25, 2018

My Needlepoint Journey, Part 4

One of the most exciting events of the Boston period, was when I discovered the ELSA WILLIAMS SCHOOL OF NEEDLEART was located in West Townsend, MA, not too far from where we were living!  OMG, I was thrilled to learn this.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the school for a week, staying at the school.  Fortunately I wrote up a report of the week and found it in my files.  Here’s a summary (the original is 4 pages long!)

The school was housed in an old but restored 2-story house with a long history, called Homer House.  It was beautifully decorated with antiques and lots of needleart, both needlepoint and crewel.  Each guest room had a different coordinated color scheme, highlighted by needlework pieces.  The rooms were attractive and comfortable.  Meals were served buffet style and guests dressed for dinner.  Dinner was preceded by sherry and appetizers.  The menu was not exotic, but not plain, with lots of French sauces, fancy sea food dishes and elegant little desserts.  The overall feeling of Homer House is “elegance”

I arrived at the school about 5PM, Sunday, May 25, 1975 and was immediately shown to my room and introduced to my roommate.  Once we were unpacked and got a little acquainted, we went down to the living room and met the other students and teachers.  There were only 6 students this week, although they often had as many as 15, and we were a varied group but all with a love of needlework.  Several were needlework teachers, including Shay Pendray.  Our teachers were Maggie McLea and Elsa Williams.  There was also a teaching assistant, Elsa’s husband, and the manager of the school, who was a little like a housemother!

After our very first dinner (the food was awesome BTW) we were introduced to the workroom in the basement.  Huge room with perfect lighting.  One end of the room was all closets containing threads, canvas, linen and more.  That first night Maggie and Elsa both talked about the school and its aims and about our course of study, “Design and Techniques of Needlepainting”.  We were instructed about color value and strength. We spent the rest of the evening thinking about our first project, which was to be a “scene”, and began sketching.

Breakfast at 8:00 and by 9:00 we were in the workroom ready to go.  We worked everyday till noon, lunch, then till 5:00, dinner, and on into the night till we couldn’t keep our eyes open.  It was divine.

Maggie taught overdying with a most instructive demonstration.  Especially interesting was seeing how different fibers take the dye differently.  Today this is pretty well known to many stitchers, but it was all new to me then.  While I enjoyed the learning, I did not “take” to dying fibers.  Just not me.

Wednesday we toured the yarn factory, which was next door to the school.  We saw how they did blocking and finishing, the warehouse, and the kit assembly area.  Processes and design were no longer shown because they had had some instances of Industrial Spying!  What a shame.  In the afternoon we visited an Episcopal church in Keene, NH, to see the needlepoint kneelers they have made and were making, which were beautiful.

During the week, we had several sessions with Herself, Elsa Williams.  She talked about the elements of design, about seeing light and dark areas and how to simplify and cartoon a design.  She demonstrated stitches and ways to vary a stitch.  She also guided us to draw a still life from a real object.
Friday evening was the Silver Thimble Dinner where we all received certificates and sterling silver thimbles.  It was very fancy and elegant, complete with champagne and much speechifying!
It was a wonderful week and I feel so honored to have had the opportunity to attend.  I learned so much from the Master and the other teachers.  I kept in touch with several of the other students for a few years.  Subsequently I took a one-day workshop at the school in pulled work.  The school closed a few years after I was there.

(Sorry about the weird formatting.  Blog has a mind of its own!  Especially when you cut & paste!!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

2-4-6 Bargello projects

I added the instructions for "2-4-6 Bargello" to my website a couple of weeks ago, and decided I should show you some finished projects.  The instructions include a sampler to practice the technique.

The pic with red is a small round to become an ornament.  The blue one is a 4-way and the pink one is a rectangular 4-way.  Once the technique is learned, there are tons of ways to use it!

Friday, April 13, 2018

My Needlepoint Journey, Part 3

In 1974 we moved from Southern California to Boston, Mass.  Talk about culture shock!!  Anyway, the big benefit for me was that I didn’t have to work and could devote most of my time to needlepoint!  A lot happened during those two years to further my needlepoint education and “career”.  This period will take more than one installment!

I guess the first thing was that I discovered Maggie Lane.  Oh my!  I eventually acquired all of her books and still have them.  I started with a fairly simple design and moved right on.  Pictured are the 2nd & 3rd projects.  The rocking chair was stitched on a large mesh canvas with rug yarn.
I also discovered a real needlework store and learned about printed vs painted canvas and about Paternayan yarn, among other things.  I stuck with charts though!  Since I was charting everything I saw, my husband suggested I do a book.  Well, I didn’t get up the nerve for that right away, but I did discover Needlepoint News and submitted some designs.  I was published!  Eventually I began working for that magazine.  Many designs were received from readers that were not in publishable condition.  My job was to rechart them for publication.  By hand.  In ink.  Remember, this was pre-computer days!!  I loved it.  Many of my designs were used as well and I worked for NN until its demise in the 80s.

Thanks to Needlepoint News I also discovered (from ads) perforated paper and the American Needlepoint Guild (ANG).  I went kind of nuts with the perf. paper for a while!  Christmas cards & ornaments & framed pictures were gifts that year.  I painted the paper as at that time it was only available in tan. I think most of the stitching was with floss, in Continental stitch, with the occasional bit of metallic thread.  Some of the designs I created for the paper were later published and a few are on my website today.

I joined ANG in ’74 or ’75 as a Member-at-large.  I don’t remember if there was a chapter in the Boston area, but if there was I didn’t join.  I entered a piece in the 1975 exhibit, which was in Monaco!  It was an antelope stitched on perforated paper.  It won a blue ribbon!!!!  I was totally surprised and thrilled!

I also stitched a square for the UN Peace Rug.  The stitching was done in 1974 and the finished rug was presented to the United Nations by Mary Martin in New York, October 23, 1975. 138 squares were hand painted, on 16-mesh canvas, with the coats of arms of the member nations and stitched in Basketweave by members of ANG, I stitched Nepal.  There was also a larger center square with the UN emblem and a dedication in a rectangular piece, all stitched.  A limited edition book was published, which I have, with full page color prints of each square.  I have also saved a lot of the documentation, including an invitation to the presentation (I was unable to attend).  I am very proud to have been part of this project.

The photo of the stitched square is very washed out.  This is a scan of an old snapshot.  The background is actually a soft yellow and all of the colors are quite vivid.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Indian Pot, Finished

The Indian Pot is finished!  I love it!
I changed just about everything on this one.  Totally changed the color scheme.  Redesigned the brown stripe.  Changed the outermost border (stitch guide wanted straight stitches).  Somewhat rearranged the neck stitches.  
Eventually I'll do another Indian themed piece so they can hang together.