Tag Archives: needlepoint stitching

Primitive Country Scene

Needlepoint Design by Shay Pendray

Design by Shay Pendray

Primitive Country Scene is a canvas my mother and I stitched together in the late 70s.  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

The design is early Shay Pendray, before the famous needlepoint author, designer, and TV host moved on to much more elaborate metal and Japanese embroidery.

This was pretty straightforward to stitch.

It came kitted, and Betty and I worked off Shay’s stitch guide, the first page of which you see below.

Country Scene Stitch Guide

Country Scene Stitch Guide

Note all the open work on this canvas — fairly novel at the time.

I enjoyed stitching this canvas — it had tweeding, couching, and made use of various fibers, such as Anchor Marlitt, French silk, and flower threads — many of which were new, at least to me…  a time when all sorts of different textured threads were introduced.

The framed picture you see up top is the one I stitched.    Too bad I don’t also have Betty’s to show you!

Erin McGrath and Needlepointland.com, 2012 – 2016

My own private Idaho

Green Pillow -front

Stitched by Betty

Well, it’s already more than a week into 2014.  Time for a post!

When I was young, Betty, my mother, taught me how to needlepoint.

Sometimes, she’d skip work to attend needlepoint classes in Bronxville, where I grew up.  Betty always made copies of the instructional material:  one page for her, the other for me.  And she’d buy two kits, one for her, and one for me.  I would have gone with her, but the classes were always in the morning, and I had to be at school!

Here’s an example of a booklet my mother assembled from one such class in 1973.  This particular one was given by Mrs. Montgomery, who lived nearby.  I guess she had a little company called Design Patch, long defunct.

Anyway, the cover page looks like this.  (You can click on most of the images to make them much bigger!)


Cover with Protector

Cover with Protector

Below is my copy of the cover page, with my name written in the top by Betty.  (She assembled the booklets in a polypropylene sheet protector, with the pages kept in place with that plastic spine thingie people used  instead of stapling — see the pic to the right.)


Here are the rest of the pages.




Betty wrote down on the back of this page the name of the book they were using.


It’s currently available at Abe Books  (see image below).  I still have my personal copy of the book in my needlepoint library. It has a piece of 10 mesh mono practice canvas stuck in the back!


Betty was such a meticulous student!






Pillow Design Trace

The green pillow you see up top was stitched by my mother. Green was her favorite color.  We used Medici wool for these pillows and I thought it had a nice texture, and was a departure from the usual Paternayan. Betty’s pillow has held up a lot better than mine!

The stitch that I had the most difficulty with, back then, was that basketweave background.

At the time, basketweave was done by “scooping” or “sewing”  rather than the stab and jab method used today. I found it a hard stitch to learn.  Funny thing is I never knew I scooped until the subject came up years later at a needlepoint store where I worked  in CT.

I named this post after the Gus Van Sant movie, which is about a young person’s search for his mother.   I’ve never actually seen this movie, but I hear it’s good.

Unfortunately,  I didn’t get to go to Italy to find Betty.  So I guess this post is just a sentimental way of expressing my appreciation for her teaching me needlepoint.

Happy New Year, Betty!

Needlepoint Pillow

Stitched by Erin

Erin McGrath and Needlepointland.com, 2012 – 2016

Ripples in the Tide

Florida Sunset

Florida Sunset

Yesterday, as the day was coming to a close, I happened to look up from what I was doing (finishing up that plaid belt, if you really want to know) and noticed the sunset. It was an eerie light, mauve and pink, and when I took a pic of it outside, it looked eerier still, as if my house and the sunset all around it had suddenly been transformed into a painting by a French Impressionist.

Lately I’ve been listening to the music of Kamal. He caught my ear a few days ago on the Comcast Soundscapes channel, which I have on a lot, as I stitch. The song I heard was a piece called Ripples from his 2000 Mystery Road album. I didn’t know who this Kamal was, but I liked the music: it was a cut above the usual plug-and-play, that is to say, largely undifferentiated New Age Chill Out vibe music they play on the Soundscapes channel.

Now Ripples as a musical piece is somewhat derivative, if truth be told, sounding much like the score that was written by Vangelis for the film The Year of Living Dangerously. But I liked it enough to search on Youtube to hear it again, and found it here.

I find I’m reaching a stage in life where I’m deciding what is important. I didn’t always do this as a young woman living in my own apartment in Manhattan in the 80s.  I wonder if I am alone in this. So much of what used to mean so much to me no longer does.

So many things I heard in New York, once upon a time, things that seemed, then, so urgent and so important and so exciting, have now faded, their relevance and urgency occluded by the passage of time. I look around me here and I see so many who have not yet come to terms with what their lives have meant. I see older guys who do things with a sense a mania, as if they cannot face the proverbial Man in the Mirror. I see older women desperately doing their exercises in the nearby communal pool, bouncing their aging bodies to the tune of 70s music blaring.

I am a boomer, and I hear that boomers are desperate not to go quietly to God’s waiting room, Florida, or Arizona, or some such place, and keep busy doing inconsequential things — the manic, perpetual bicycle riders are among the saddest: unable to sit at home, they ride and ride and ride some more, going nowhere but back and forth from one lonely place to the other — while the clock goes tick tock.

I’m lucky to be a needlepointer.

It is something I have done all my life. And until my hands or my eyesight fails me, I’ll continue to do it till I die.

When I consider the world around me, whether far away, where during my lifetime there has always seemed to be a war that we have been involved in, in some remote country, or nearby, where I read or hear shocking stories about guns and racial intolerance, economic Darwinism, and religious fundamentalism, right here in this seemingly pleasant bastion of privileged conservatism, I often feel I should be doing more.  Not opt for safer shoals in middle age.  Not settle for predictability, and all that goes with it.

Perhaps I’m an ostrich with my head in the sand. Perhaps I should do more to help change the world around me. Save the turtles, save the Florida panther, save something.  Save myself.

Another day will go by today.

And I probably won’t know what a good answer to that question might be.  Yet.

But I will stitch, today, and perhaps even the next.

That much I do know.

Erin McGrath and Needlepointland.com, 2012 – 2016.

Placidly Seeking Emerson


After seeing the Monet garden exhibit, it was time to enjoy the rest of the place.

There is nothing like being in the presence of mature specimen trees, particularly if they are well-tended, and have had plenty of room to spread out their branches, amidst acres of beautiful lawns and lovely gardens.  Not to mention the opportunity to actually walk through the last remaining patch of old growth forest that remains in New York City.

That, in particular, is probably a trigger for the inner pantheist lurking within most visitors to the botanical gardens, a sense of connection to “unimproved” Nature that comes out when away from machinery, steel and glass, suffocating concrete, teeming hordes, and the pervasive noise of what passes for urban civilization.

It’s why such places continue to exist.

But first, it was time to buy a hat, as the sun was climbing higher in the sky, and it was getting hot.  So I ambled down to the NYBG shop.  You can locate the shop, as well other places I visited, here.

I bought an embroidered cap, which was a little more expensive than the others on display.  Alas, made in China.   Despite this, isn’t my cap semi fabulous?

Since the NYBG is such a big place, I had to have a plan, as I had no intention of taking the packed tram on a sterile, motorized tour, that would rush by everything, with some tour guide’s disembodied, canned voice droning on, pointing out the sights.  I just hate that sort of thing.  It’s important to be able to stop, when you feel like it, to smell the roses.

(Coincidentally, a week after my visiting Peggy Rockefeller’s Rose Garden, the following article appeared in the NY Times.  It concerns the research performed at the NYBG for roses that can thrive without chemicals.)

Anyway, I decided to take one of the trails (which follow paths once used by the Wiechquaesgeck, a Lenape tribal group wiped out by the early Dutch colonists) that runs through the 50-acre, uncut old growth forest, known as the Native Forest, then finish things up with a leisurely stroll through the decorative conifers section.

Here’s the start of my walkabout.  Notice the split-rail fencing that borders the trail.  Eight thousand feet of fence have been installed during the restoration that is now underway.

Some of the sights I came across while inside the old growth forest included a lovely waterfall, courtesy of the Bronx River, a cute fire hydrant, and a bridge that was once featured on Sesame Street!

Much of the Native Forest is being replanted with native species, as part of the ongoing restoration - such as red, white, and black oaks, tulip trees, sweet gums, and spice bush.

One can also find American Elm trees along the Spicebush Trail in the forest. These beautiful elm trees have been spared Dutch Elm Disease, and are considered sacred relics of what used to be here. Few trees compare to the beauty of an American elm—its overall form, bark, and buttress roots.

During my hike through the Native Forest, I sat for a while on a log that had been converted into a sort of roughly hewn bench.  Though I didn’t manage to take pictures of any of them, the music of the forest birds was absolutely divine.  (Later, while taking a break at one of the pagodas elsewhere in the park, I even caught a glimpse of a red-tailed hawk zipping by.)

What a contrast to the thumping  sounds blasting out from the car radios, earlier, when I was entering this place!  It’s human nature to make a lot of noise, but maybe part of getting a little older is realizing that stillness and quiet and appreciating the beauty of one’s surroundings is more enriching that carrying on loudly, like some frantically clueless chatterbox.

I suppose this is why I’m so temperamentally suited to needlepoint stitching, which I can sit (or stand) and do, in focused and contented silence, for hours at a time.

Next, I’ll show you pictures of the conclusion of my walking tour:  the majestic ornamental conifer garden and evergreens, including a stunning black oak tree that was a sapling at the time of the American Revolution, a gorgeously restored stone mill, a rock formation that dates back hundreds of millions of years, and other goodies!

© Erin McGrath and Needlepointland.com, 2012 – 2016.

Images may be republished under

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.