Monthly Archives: May 2012

Manhattan Skyline


Here’s another deconstructed / reconstructed needlepoint canvas gallery.

This time, it’s S. Gilmore’s Manhattan Skyline.

It’s not difficult to imagine a canvas, like this one, forming the basis of an interactive jigsaw puzzle game, where a child or young adult moves randomly mixed pieces around, on a tablet computer or smartphone, to create a unified needlepoint image.  Mazes made of gorgeous mandala canvases also seem like a cool idea.

Zynga, eat your heart out!, 2012 – 2016.

Stairstep Stitch Tutorial


Also just added a new needlepoint stitch tutorial in the How To menu option, and linking to it in my famous “No Frills” Stitch Guide for Mr. Owl.   The guide, btw, is almost ready, just proofing it one last time, at this point.  The canvas image in the tutorial came out a little gigantic, but I think it’s part of the DIY charm of it all!

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.

Parisian “2-1-2″ Stitch Tutorial


I’ve added a new stitch tutorial in the How To menu option.  I’m linking to this in my now extremely famous “No Frills” Stitch Guide for Mr. Owl (which is actually a .pdf doc).  I’m sure this stitch has a standard name, but I couldn’t think of it off the top of my head, so it was simpler just to make up my own, and show exactly how I do this particular stitch.  It’s not fancy-schmancy, or anything, as tutorials go, but gets the job done!


Panther on a Tree


Sometime one’s passion for needlepoint stitching can spill into other areas of one’s life.  I know it has in mine.  For example, as readers of my blog know, I absolutely love Florida panthers, specifically, and big cats in general.

The biggest concentration of panthers can be found in Collier County, about 170 m. due southwest from where I live.  I also think there’s one that hangs out in the preserve area that’s right next to our house, but my husband is somewhat skeptical of what he terms a “theory.”  I know I saw one running across the road, one rainy night, like a rocket.

At any rate, there’s a National Florida Panther Refuge Park, by Collier County, near Big Cypress, at the top of the Everglades.   You can walk along a trail that is open to the public, and if you are lucky, you might spot one.  Unfortunately, there are only 160, or so, panthers left in the entire state.

Sadly, three panthers have been killed from being hit by cars, so far, this year.  Go here, and here, to read all about it, and learn more about these beautiful cats.

Recently, I asked my brother, Max, to draw one for me, so that I could stitch a custom needlepoint canvas of a Florida Panther.

Nothing fancy, just a pseudo-naïve art experiment, to show my readers how to  go about creating as simply and cheaply as possibleunique needlepoint canvas on a favorite subject or theme, using simple DIY technology that is available for free, on any Windows computer, coupled with maybe a little visit to the nearest office services store, and a few other, inexpensive little shortcuts.  After all, there’s nothing wrong with taking your creativity in needlepointing in a new direction, and being thrifty about it in the bargain.

Max was nice enough to draw me an illustration right away.

Stay tuned, as I intend to keep everyone posted about how this project comes along. I’m sure it will be lots of fun, and who knows, I might end up marketing it (or future iterations of this concept) as a benefit to Florida Panthers, or whatever, and maybe even write up a guide or two, should the resulting canvas turn out halfway decent.  Stranger things have happened.  We’ll see how it goes, easy-peasy, Florida-style, in upcoming posts.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ve enjoyed the little gallery of closeups, taken from the original of Max’s quick-and-dirty sketch.  By the way, I haven’t given this panther a nickname yet, and there’s still plenty of time for suggestions!

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.

A Designer Speaks


As a follow-up to the previous Sands of Time post, I thought readers of this blog might be interested in what Eileen Best had to say about her canvas.  I should mention that her mandala canvas is stitch-painted on 18-mesh, and approximately 18″ x 18″.

Here’s Eileen, in her own words, eloquently discussing her work:

Kalachakra sand mandala

Kalachakra sand mandala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“This is indeed a Kalachakra Mandala. The Kalachakra  system was one of the last and most complex ‘Tantric’ systems to be brought to Tibet from India. Buddhist monks also “painted” Mandalas. I have designed/painted a few canvases of those, also.

While I designed/painted the master of the canvas you are now stitching, I would meditate before each painting session.

It took me 3 months to complete, painting 8 hours per day. When I finished I was transformed. It was incredible.

The same thing will happen to you (during and after), stitching your Mandala. It is a life-changing experience.  Enjoy.

I was fortunate to be able to see (in person) a completed sand Mandala in an LA Art museum a few years ago. I just stood there and cried.

Buddhist Monks are very, very purposeful when creating their sand Mandalas. The making of them is a source of meditation and done for specific purposes towards enlightenment. The sand Mandala, when completed, is always swept up, put in a container, then poured into a large body of water, where it creates another type of Mandala (figuratively speaking) for a few brief moments. It’s a way of practicing impermanence.

It’s VERY difficult for us Westerners to accept, this destroying (as we perceive it) of a beautiful piece of art. But to the Monks, it’s simply a way of teaching and remembering Abandonment of self, Emptiness, and Bodhicitta: liberating other beings in appropriate ways.

I’m now in the process of stitching my master of the Double Dorji Mandala and I look forward to what will happen in my life… .”

Thank you, Eileen, for your wonderful insights concerning the creation of your beautiful mandala canvases.

Sands of Time


E. Best

This canvas and I go back a-ways, to the late 90s. I first saw it at a needlepoint store in New Canaan, CT. I was with my German Shepherd puppy, and went to check out this new needlepoint store. I saw the mandala canvas and immediately thought of the rather enjoyable period in my life when I worked at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York. I don’t know why I didn’t just buy the canvas, at the time.  Maybe it was because the little puppy was car sick that day, and I had to get him home. Whatever the reason, I didn’t end up purchasing this beautiful work of art. But I’ve thought about this canvas, often, over the years — and finally bought it while at the Dallas Needlepoint show in April of this year.

Front view of the American Museum of Natural H...

Front view of the American Museum of Natural History (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my projects at the AMNH was to publicize the six-week construction of a Tibetan Sand Mandala, during the summer of 1988, by a number of Buddhist monks from the Namgyal Monastery.  They painstakingly created it with colorful grains of sand. The ritual was a spectacle to behold.  It was a publicist’s dream: the news stories generated was the size of the Manhattan phone book. Over fifty thousand visitors came to see this very special exhibition.

It had an amazing effect on everyone who came to watch the monks silently assemble their masterpiece. I still remember clearly one example of this.  The AMNH, unlike its stodgy counterpart, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, across the Park, was known for being very tolerant of spirited young children. Once those rowdy youngsters stepped into the room where the mandala was being assembled, they were transfixed, absolutely mesmerized — you could hear a pin drop. Many print and TV reporters brought their own children, repeatedly, to see this elegant spiritual exercise unfold. Mandalas were historically done in secret, but the Dalai Lama gave his blessing to make their cultural traditions available to the world, before those traditions became extinct from the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

If you think of needlepoint, as I often do, as a sort of  Zen-like pursuit, then this canvas is the closest representation that I can equate to the devotion and care the monks took working on the mandala during that summer. Every painted stitch on this canvas has been skillfully applied, much as each individual grain of sand was meticulously placed by the monks. Don’t get me wrong, every canvas that is stitch-painted is done with care, time, and accuracy — but this one, to me, because of its subject matter, captures this spirit particularly well.

Alas, I don’t know which mandala this canvas represents*, but the one at the Museum was the “Wheel of Time” or Kalachakra mandala. In fact, one of my favorite headlines about it was entitled, “Sifting the Sands of Time”. Shockingly, to our western culture, upon completion of the mandala, the monks led a ceremonial procession to the Hudson River and threw it into its swirling waters. In their spiritual beliefs, that act represented the temporal nature of life.

This is one place where the monks and I part ways:  you can rest assured that, when I finish stitching this canvas, that I shall have it framed, and hanging on a wall.

There is spirituality, too, in wanting to share with others the results of one’s handiwork.

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.

* NB. After talking with Eileen Best, it became clear that this canvas is part of the Kalachakra (or Wheel of Time) mandala.