Sunday, March 16, 2014

- Show Your (needle)Work

Austin Kleon gave a great keynote at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin last week, much of it focused on his newly published book entitled Show Your Work. He said, among many other things, that it can be as important to share the creative process as the end product. Well, I've been taking up the challenge ever since by posting new/old material to the blog and pinning pictures onto Pinterest.

Since the post on my family sampler (A Closer Look) has been getting a fair number of hits, I thought it might be a good idea to look back on my needlework roots, which have been growing for 50 years. Sadly, much of my work has been lost, having been given as gifts or simply worn out. But there's enough to make a go of it.

My mother and grandmother used to make tablecloths and pillowcases from kits with large blue cross stitches printed on them. At age 7 or 8, I got my first kit: a whaling picture, which I completed and gave to my godmother. All I remember of the details is thinking it was incredibly cool to combine two colors of floss to make the crests of the waves in the picture.

At the same time, my more fortunate cousins were being introduced to counted stitch embroidery. Their father was Norwegian and so they learned much in their travels, eventually gifting my mother with this piece.


But needlework options were limited in the American market (at least at the stores I went to), so I continued on to crewel embroidery and began a long association with Elsa Williams kits.

Dated 1968, when I was 12

It wasn't until I went to college in the 1970s that counted cross stitch made a splash in the states. I duly made a replica of the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary ...

Dated 1976, when the Bicentennial helped renew interest in needlework

and began the "Chase Sampler" which was based on a piece in the holdings at Colonial Williamsburg (it also became my wedding gift to Don, albeit in somewhat incomplete form).


When I graduated from William and Mary, I got a job in a local needlework shop, then moved on to a library assistant position at Colonial Williamsburg. That's when my work life truly got interesting. I'll conclude with a Colonial Williamsburg News article published in 1981 and leave for another day my more recent adventures in needlework.

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