Over 40 years….

….have passed since my grandmother—-Harriet—handed me a fistful of floss, a dishtowel with an ironed on transfer easily seen, and a metal hoop. But my introduction to embroidery didn’t end there, Grandma sat with me—guiding me through my first stitches—outline, lazy daisy, satin and french knots. When I made a mistake, she taught me to take it out, because I would always know it was there, even if someone else didn’t see it. The gift of love she gave through those lessons has stood through the years. My stitching has been a comfort in difficult times, a source of wonderful friendships and a hobby which  has warmed my home and the homes of friends with handwork—and the gift of time.

As the years have gone by, my knowlege has grown—a dear sister-in-law who taught me that cross stitch didn’t need to be stamped, another friend who insisted I try my hand at counted needlepoint and then a painted canvas. Then there was the invitation to the Hardanger class many years ago and, more recently, another invitation—this time to learn the art of Japanese embroidery. I now have a library of needlework books on technique and history that numbers almost a 1000 volumes. I have experimented with quilting, I love knitting and I believe I once knew how to crochet—and it’s just like riding a bike, right? I could pick it up again?

I have gone on wonderful retreats and road trips to explore new techniques and new sources of retail therapy. I will never forget the time that same sister-in-law and I drove about 300 miles one way just to visit Shepherd’s Bush Needleworks in Ogden, UT—to shop, and then drove back to the family reunion in Idaho that same day. It was an adventure, it drew us closer as sisters by choice and friends….and the miles flew by (helped along by a generous speed limit). A number of precious friendships grew out of retreats where we shared our love of silk floss and linen ground, not realizing that our needles were not only stitching designs on fabic but were also stiching our hearts together.

I own more kits and charts and suppies than I will ever stitch or use—a bit (or more than a bit) of excess on my part. But I do find joy in the beautiful materials that lay waiting for their turn in my hoop or frame.

I have spent some time pondering what’s next? I could go on shopping and adding to my stash, but I love what I have and if I keep adding to it, I will never touch most of what is there. And…my tastes do change over the years—I finally donated that country goose dresser scarf in mauve and blue that matched our bedroom about six iterations ago. So shopping for the sake of stash enhancement is losing its luster—although no one has suggested a road trip recently—which might test my resolve.

But I still long to test the frontiers of unexplored needlework territory. I want to try tambour work—the lunaville hook techniques that adorn couture clothing. I  have at least 7 more phases of Japanese embroidery left before going to Atlanta to stitch Phase X for the Master. Stumpwork and other 17th century techniques are areas where I am still woefully incompetant. And finally the color and the passionate excess of crazy quilting draws me like a moth to a flame. So where from here? Classes—Japanese Embroidery with Kay Stanis this June and next fall. Tambour work with Robert Haven in Louisville, KY this fall and another of Tricia Wilson Nguyen’s on-line classes on raised embroidery this summer. Not yet sceduled but waiting is a class in crazy quilting with Judith Baker Montano—a bright star in the art of crazy quilting design.

Yes, I still plan to practice law—or some iteration of a career which uses my education, but in order to be whole, needlework also needs to be a part of  whatever life holds for me beyond today. I lose a part of myself as months go by without a needle in my hand and I realize that it because my creativity is as much a gift of God in my life as my education.

So onward. Hopefully this will be a place to share my love of this artform and my adventures in stitching.

Thank you Grandma Buch—for the wonderful gift of your time and patience.



Wow….over a year.

…And that year just happened to be my last year of law school. I graduated last week, but still have things to finish up and then, God willing, I will take and pass the bar exam in July. However, my stitching has been neglected for far too long, so I intend to to take a few hours out of each week to center myself with the beauty and peace that needlework brings to me. Where will I start? I believe it will be with a return to Japanese Embroidery. My teacher will be here next month and, while I won’t start anything new, I hope to (finally) finish Phase I  and work on Phase II/III. If I can accomplish this, I am set to begin Phase IV in the fall.

I am attaching a photo of my Phase I piece so you can see how close I am. 🙂

Looking forward!

JulieDay 3 JE Fall 2013 004

A thought to end my day…

Methinks it is a token of healthy and gentle characteristics, when women of high thoughts and accomplishments love to sew; especially as they are never more at home with their own hearts than while so occupied. 

~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun, 1859

Not much progress…

…on the stitching front, or at least not enough to photograph yet. However, I wanted to share with you two of my very favorite needlepoint finishes ever.  These are line drawn kimono canvases by Jinice. I started by picking the Watercolours thread and then chose all the other threads from those colors. The Blue Kimono was started first, but finished last.

Blue Kimono

Blue Kimono

CIMG1743 DSCF0047 DSCF0444

I have also included a detail from the blue kimono and my work-in-progress kimono on black canvas. (Which has the potential for displacing the red one as my favorite!)  I have one more Kimono canvas which has not been started. This one is similar to the blue, but faces the other way. It is on sandstone canvas and is done in autumn shades.

I changed the background on both the red and the blue canvases—as charted it was busier, done with metallic threads and accented with beads. However, I wanted the kimono to be the star of the canvas, so I did the background in a tone-on-tone repeat for a very subtle effect. I’m not sure what I’m going to do on the black canvas. It’s not in my current rotation, but now I that I’ve looked at the photos again, I may have to work on it again. I do love these pieces!

Hope your day is lovely!




I have come to the conclusion that needleworkers are, by nature, optimists. They look at a pile of thread and a blank piece of linen or canvas and they see a finished product far more glorious than the sum of its parts. Maybe it’s a sampler of the kind that once taught young girls their letters or marked household linens—or a garden fashioned with silk and linen rather than with soil and seed—or a landscape of a favorite place. Sometimes there’s a photo on paper or a painting on canvas to help their imagining but often it’s simply an idea waiting to find expression.

A Favorite place...

A Favorite place…

Linen and Thread....

Linen and Thread….

...to make a garden

…to make a garden

...or learn my letters

…or learn my letters

Optimism. Something else this world needs that handcrafting nurtures.



Be still…

Sadly, I have not followed this advice the last few days. I’ve done no stitching but have been busy finishing a brief. It’s important work. It’s good work. It’s challenging work. I like it.

I have heard so many people…people I respect…say do what you love and the rest will follow. Most recently, I heard Kaffe Fassett say it and it certainly worked for him.

What I love is color and beading and knitting and needlework. I love learning about it, I love doing it, I love talking about it and I fear it (handwork) will disappear with my generation. I think that would be very sad, because it is in slowing down—in doing something that requires patience and peaceful moments—that our lives and the lives of those we love, truly come into focus. I believe that is why God tells us “be still”—because until we are still, it is too easy to be distracted by all the background noise and miss the great things of life.

I can’t count the hours I’ve spent thinking of and praying for those I love as I stitch or knit something special for them. So yes, I love handwork in many of its incarnations.(needle, knitting, beading ). In fact, it is one of the great passions of my life.

But—I still need to buy groceries and be a help mate to DH. And no, I still haven’t figured out how to turn handwork into a vocation rather than an avocation. So I pursue something I like—and dream of winning the lottery. On that day (or at least in the ensuing year) we will move somewhere peaceful, buy a home and I will open a  retreat center, dedicated to providing a quiet place where the soul can find rest and where handwork techniques are taught, talked about and passed on to a new generation.

Hope your day is filled with blessings….Breathe deeply…Be still (if only for a few minutes).


For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength–Isaiah 30:15


…and lazy daisies are the bane of my stitching existence. Oh, they are easy enough to make—if what you mean by make is to go through the motions. But you want four of them…or four sets of them to turn out looking the same? Forget it. If you want perfect eyelets, with all legs the same length, I’ve got one for you (that’s at least close) and three that suffer from some tragic deformity. Then we have the lazy daisies. They are  simple enough, just a loop tied down by a stitch. But what if you want those loops all to be the same size AND to bear some passing resemblance to their namesake flower petals? Ah…there’s the rub. So guess what stitches fill the center of the squares I outlined yesterday with double cross stitch in Band Six of the Hapsburg Lace Sampler? You got it…eyelets and daisies. First the entire sampler:

Hapsburg Band 6

Hapsburg Band 6

And now the close up of the eyelet and daisy fill:

Hapsburg 6-fill

Hapsburg 6-fill

Cheer up, my daisies might get more uniform, since twelve groups of three remain to be stitched.

Am I grumpy? No—because first, I need the practice on these stitches and second, I think this is a beautiful piece and I can’t wait to see it done. Tanja Berlin is an extraordinary designer!

Goodnight, happy stitching and God Bless,




It’s all Gloria’s fault….

Well, maybe I should rephrase that…after all, Gloria, one of my stitching sisters did nothing wrong. In fact, she did me a great favor. She reminded me…several times…of a stitching retreat that coincided with the first weekend of my spring break. And, in one of the few times that I have come up for air this semester, I saw her um…second or maybe third email to me and I signed up.  Law school and its demands make me a very one-dimensional person. I HATE that part of this endeavor. But it is often  all I can do to get barely enough sleep, get my work done and make time for a spiritual life (of sorts, sometimes I short God too…I need to re-think that).

So…off I went a week ago Friday to ‘the ranch’—a wonderful ranch and retreat center in Amery, Wisconsin. It was 3 days of heaven. In addition to stitching, it was glorious to spend time with women I really—I mean REALLY—enjoy. I stitched, slept, chatted, slept, ate (wonderful food), slept, and stitched and chatted some more. I roomed with another s.s. (stitching sister) Theresa. It was so fun. Indeed, it was so fun I wanted to stay. Like forever. However, my world wouldn’t be complete without DH and Mom and my pocketbook would have run dry before my relaxing was done (I am by no means calling the Ranch expensive. It is the best deal around and a perfect, peaceful place—-however, that law school thing means my ‘means’ are very limited). So home I came on Sunday. But I’ve stitched and re-acquainted myself with my stash this week—which was the perfect thing as I ended up a bit under the weather. I didn’t get all the work done I’d planned to do, but I am caught up on my rest, I am feeling better and I re-discovered a couple of my other dimensions along the way.

I don’t have pictures (yet) of the work I did at the Ranch. It’s not very impressive in terms of amount done, but I was stitching motifs over one on 32 count linen.

However, I do have a photo of what I was working on tonight while DH and I watched a couple of ‘Castle‘ episodes.

Hapsburg Lace Sampler by Tanja Berlin

Hapsburg Lace Sampler by Tanja Berlin

This glorious piece, The Hapsburg Lace Sampler by Tanja Berlin, is done primarily in #8 white perle cotton on a dusky blue canvas-I believe 18 ct.  I really love the ornate stitches and how they pop against the blue. It’s a great piece to work on while watching TV because it is all one color. I am on Band 6 of 25. So—there’s still a ways to go. I didn’t progress well with my goals from last fall, but spring break did find me with a needle in hand. And…

It’s all Gloria’s fault! (Thank you, Ms. Gloria, for your persistence. You are a wonderful friend!)






Thought for a Sunday Evening…

“Being both a needleworker and a woman of faith, I’m beginning to see life as a tapestry. When a loom is threaded, the shimmering colors of the weft are incomplete without a contrast. It’s the ebony silk of the warp which makes them glow with brilliance. In the same way, God uses all the fibers of our lives, dark and bright alike, to weave a masterpiece reflecting His great heart.”

From “Yesterday Redeemed” by Julie Cayemberg (All rights reserved)