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  • Writer's picturenorrieathomas

The Needlepointer

My life seems like an unlikely combination; science and art; needlepoint, business , mysteries, politics, bridge and me.

Needlepoint is my hobby. It started around 1990 when I was recently divorced. I have two daughters-both different yet, the same- wonderful, caring, amazing people.

At the time of my divorce the children (6 and 9) spent every other weekend with their father. It was an amicable separation, both parents totally committed to their children. I sat by the phone for hours when the children were gone; just in case, just to be at service if anyone called. If the children forgot something, or didn’t have their favorite cereal- whatever during a weekend, I sat. I sat by the phone all weekend. 48 hours is a long time to sit by a phone (no cell phones) and do nothing. I tried doing puzzles- but very unproductive, only got one piece fitted all weekend. I did not like counted cross stitching- mostly not sure what to do with the final product, and then I found needlepoint- I loved the colors. I took a class. And since 1990 I have finished many projects a year- this book is my collection in pictures. My pillows and work fill my house and they say something about me- they say “the woman of this house likes color, whimsical things, patterns, flowers and more flowers, cats, dogs and little sweet bunnies, and flowers.”

Looking around the house also says; I am a scientist, and business woman; my PhD Thesis is on the bureau next to my bed, the awards I received are on the fireplace mantel and the color in every direction says I am also an artist. Yes, someone else drew the patterns; in many cases someone else picked the threads, someone else sewed the pillow, but I finished the work and designed the final product, and I picked the patterns that now fill my home and are part of me. I produce such wonderful pillows and the hours of work spent seem be still alive, a part of me; in each stitch. I usually design the borders- which I find so much fun and difficult. I think the needlework is drama- I can’t see how the artists drew the patterns or why they picked such colors or what stich I should choose, but as I work the mystery is revealed and I am in awe. I have not progressed to actually designing the pattern, but I design how the pattern fits into my life.

Many of the patterns are made by artists- some quite famous; I have the three peony series from Kaffe Fasset in my house- they are my originals- with my stitching, but his originals with his stitching are in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He is an amazing artist. When I first looked at his patterns I wanted to change all of the colors. But, with patterns bought from England, the artist selects the threads- usually wool- and the colors. Patterns from the USA are different. The canvas artist selects the colors on the canvas, but the needlepointer can change the colors, pick the threads- wool-silk-or combinations. As I have studied the English artists I admit that their selection of colors is essential to the final work. The variation of colors is much greater and lends to the success with shading, and I love working with wools that have a silken in feel. My needlepoint mixes with me and my house and has become the art of my house.

Why work?

There is a wonderful essay written by Dorothy Sayers called “Why Work”. In the essay she says that work should be an expression of your soul a way for your inner being to sing and to create. We call needlepoint work; it is, each stich, over and over again, but work that creates a longing, an expression of “I can’t wait to get home to needlepoint, to feel a thread, to see how much of the canvas I can cover and how whatever I am needlepointing will change” doesn’t sound like work. It isn’t work as we usually describe; “got to get to work, wish I wasn’t working this fine day”, etc. Needlepointing for me is entering a creative force that pulls me, that creates a longing. I have been blessed in my life, because my needlework has that creative force and so did my profession pharmacy and business; I weaved both into life, family, friends, lovers and stiches; stiches I made, over and over again, the same but different each time. When I am gone, I hope people pass one of my pillows, and hold it; they will hold me, and I will hold them.

I think needlepoint is art-many would disagree. Needlepoint is the repeated stitching- work- of covering a canvas. The stitches are over and over, one by one, life is like that one by one each day until at the end you have a canvas- your life. I had to be taught how to needlepoint- it was not intuitive. I needed a teacher and many mentors. The canvas can be a picture, a pillow, a rug, a table covering- figuring out the final product is creative. So where is the art? The weaving of 25 years and the picture of my life- the needle pointer; each stitch was a moment in my life. I wanted the final product to reflect the beauty of that one moment and so the book.

One day, as I reflect, I was talking to my daughters about something important- school, relationships, and the future. I sat in a chair needlepointing as I spoke. The girls seemed mesmerized as they watched and listened. I was pleased that they were connected and listening- and then one daughter said “Mom, you are sitting on a sofa, needlepointing a pillow with a sofa and a pillow and when you are done, it will be a pillow on a sofa”. I hadn’t noticed. We laughed. One summer while living in London the girls went home to be with family. We wrote letters. And everyday I waited for another letter- a needlepointed a lady reading a letter. Another summer a daughter went to horseback riding camp- I found a canvas with a girl riding a horse

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