In this year of celebrating 45 years needlepoint it got me to thinking just how much had changed little since the time in the 70s when I started the first classes in a rented location in Victoria!
Right from the start there were certain aims to try and adhere to;
First people enjoy the class situation, having friendly help with their stitching, meeting like-minded people and seeing and trying out accessories. Here in Spain (one of our earliest trips) we enjoyed delicious meals too!Students attending class or ordering by post (now from our web sites) appreciate being able to have a design in different colourways or even order it without threads so they can create their very own scheme.
WE have never designed an item without knowing a reliable professional to finish the piece. The student has put their precious time into stitching it so it is only right that the finishing completes the investment for them
The source of many of the designs has similar origins, my travel and my interest in techniques from by gone eras. Many of the designs on the Web sites are named after the country or area where I first gained inspiration. Moroccan Tiles is still our most popular design and I first went to that country more than 30 years ago. Aleppo (soon to be available), Cathedral Tiles are the latest both from recent travels.
Basket weave tent can be beautiful and the best choice for hard-wear however researching techniques that were enjoyed by embroiderers as early as the 16th century right up to the 19th century has always intrigued me. ‘Tudor’ another recent design is based on the Strap work patterns popular on Elizabethan costume and textiles and Victorian Pattern Darning stitches make wonderful background (and faster to work too)
So, all these principles have remained constant but of course there have been some changes, hopefully improvements as time has gone by.
Early on Needlepoint Network was established. A number of professionally trained women began to teach my designs in their area enabling those who wished to see designs, get help with the stitching, meet new people and not travel too far. Each location with its programme of classes and open days is on the web www.needle-point.co.u and we have just welcomed our first American.Next to prove popular was residential visits – originally I called them ‘retreats’ until someone told me they hadn’t come as they were convinced that the rule of silence was applied! Our first trips were to York, I was lucky enough to meet an excellent cook who had escaped from London and found a comfortable house on the edge of this beautiful city . Then for many happy years we went to Miller Howe in the Lake District – the owner John Tovey became a good friend and enthusiastic stitcher when possible. Over the years encouraged by response we have been to Spain, to a converted olive mill owed by a sculptor; Italy close to Pisa and now to Calabria in the very south of Italy. This June shall be our 9th visit there, surely the proof that stitching in company, in the sun and home grown food prepared for us, is perfect. The next excitement is a holiday in Tuscany this September – this will be our first there but already Robert and I have spent several days with the owners with visits to the interesting villages and museums around them. If you are tempted let me know, there is one place left and I should be happy to send full details.
And of course the residential courses I ran from my Mill in Norfolk. Here is where the girls had there pre diner drink after a hard days stitching.
The other big change – I call it an exciting improvement are the threads, materials and accessories that are available now. Our early designs still popular were almost entirely with crewel wools and on 14 mesh canvas (even weave of course, NEVER interlock!) Now the range of threads is endless, mouth-watering and one itches to use them; finer canvas (my favourite is 18 mesh) comes in wonderful colours that, with many of the lacey stitches used adds greatly to the overall design. Accessories such as good light and practical floor frames make the activity far more pleasant however expensive gadgets for people starting out are not necessary – a design they love with good instructions and a simple stretcher bar frame are all that is necessary
So these are the gradual changes I have seen over the 45 years but the truly big change is what needlepoint has done to me, it has given me the opportunity to meet really lovely people from many parts of the world; look at buildings, artwork and crafts in a fresh way and realise just how interesting detail is if one chooses to see it!
A final word, unfortunately I have lost touch with some people though my moves or lack of record keeping. If we have met or you know of others who have taken class, worked some of my designs please do drop me a line – I should love to hear your news. And
IF YOU ARE IN LONDON THIS SUMMER PLEASE LET ME KNOW – IN PARTICULAR 1ST JUNE, FULL DETAILS, TIME AND LOCATION –PLEASE EMAIL ME.