Repair of Grandfather’s Crewel Embroidery

Jed C. had inherited a large, beautiful crewel embroidery that his grandfather stitched in the early part of the century—a pre-stamped pattern of a house surrounded by flora and fauna. It had typical issues for its age and wool factor, including moth damage to the crewel yarn, and lovely, heavy linen fabric that had yellowed. Still, it was so large and wonderful and well worth saving. Here is a photo:


I own a lot of vintage yarns and threads that I’ve collected from various places—mostly from thrift stores and antique malls. They work great for blending in with others of their generation. The biggest problem I face with vintage wools is that very few of my repairs involve the vivid pinks, blues, greens and yellows of the 1970’s, and yet I seem to find a lot of those tones. However, I did have most of the colors I needed for repairs on Jed’s grandfather’s piece. I sourced the borders’ olive green and peach colors, locating them 8 hours away in Cincinnati, while visiting my sister. I used Appleton’s, whose strands are thinner, so I used double ply (double the strands) where the original was single.

Here are some photos of my border work. You can see a slight difference in the color, but it was close enough:

I faced a major issue with this repair, and the weird thing was, I didn’t notice it at first. Having never had bug issues before, and because this piece was “busy,” with lots of colors and areas, I couldn’t tell what was happening until active moth larvae started munching on my border wools I *knew* I’d already added. Soon as I realized what was creating more work for me, I researched and researched (hence the earlier blog on pest damage) and discovered Grandfather’s crewel needed to go into the deep freeze. So off we went, to wait a while until I could freeze and thaw it repeatedly. That is THE solution for all stages of bugs in needlework. I had bug bombed my craft room and put down powdered borax around its perimeter, but though some adult moths died afterwards and showed up under this piece—didn’t need that added evidence by then because I *knew* the buggers were in it—my battle would not end until crewel picture plus all wool or silk in my office went through a deep freeze. If they weren’t in Ziplocs (I store many in sealed baggies) then they went into the new, used box freezer in my garage in polyethylene, aka Space Bags. Space Bags tolerate the cold without cracking like regular plastic bags.

When all was out, we started over with the repairs. A lot of bites had been going on for a few months and I kept thinking, “Is it me, did I miss something, or is this worse off than when I took it in?” My work on the piece ended up being far more hours, but in the end, all involved knew we had conquered the beasts living within and that the embroidery was saved.

More Before and After photos of my work:

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And finally, here are some views (thank you, Jed, for the photos) of Grandfather’s crewel embroidery all framed and in the C’s home:

Coxon's embroidery in their home        more Coxon in home

Names/Dates Embroidered on Christening Gown

I’ve known Jan H a long time. We met through our boys from elementary school to post-college! They had a family friend who made Jan a beautiful cotton batiste christening gown. Cotton batiste is often used for christening gowns because it is soft and doesn’t irritate baby’s skin and it drapes well. Ribbons, lace and embroidery add memorable detail for special occasions.

Jan’s beautiful example is actually a gown and matching coat, the latter of which is embroidered with the names of each child who has been christened or baptized in it, along with their birth dates. It was made for Jan by a treasured family friend who has since passed away. She used to add the names and dates for the babies, and kept a tidy Ziploc Brand bag with vanishing ink pen and embroidery thread for that purpose.)

Jan’s request was a rush job, since twin grandbabies were being baptized on Easter Sunday and I had about a week to get the embroidery done. That wouldn’t have been bad, but I was, as always, backed up with work. Still, it was a pleasure to work on this beautiful coat while I thought of the babies named on it, and pictured the little twins who would share it (granddaughter in the gown and the grandson in the coat) that coming Sunday.

Below are photos of the coat. I’m sorry these shots are so dark:

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And here are some close-ups of Jan’s friend’s delicate sewing and hand-stitching:

So I begin adding my own work to hers:

I wish I had a photo of the babies, but I heard it went well, and I’m so glad I was able to help. 

Christmas Ornament Finished

Gayle K had an angel ornament that needed a few areas completed. The areas remaining were the face, hair, halo, and certain rows on the angel’s wings. I didn’t take a “before” photo, but here are some photos showing where I began work on the face and hair, and then wings:

There weren’t instructions, but there were outlined areas. I put the face on just to hold the spaces while I did the rest of the angel. Then I did more detailed eyes and outlined the mouth after everything else was done. These photos are off my iPhone, so they’re a little dark. The one below is taken with the camera:


Here is the finished ornament:


“Diaper Dazzler” Embroidery Completion for Client

Just completed a finishing job for repeat client Gayle K from CA. Gayle’s mom was a member/student of White Pines Michigan Embroiderer’s Guild, and she chose some really complicated patterns to attempt! I’m impressed. The needle artist and instructor for this project was Ann Strite-Kurz: who was certified by the National Academy of Needle Arts, Levels 1 and 11. Not sure what that means, but having completed two of her pieces, I can tell you that she knows how to stitch and design like few do! Here is a bio I found online:

Ann Strite-Kurz

Ann Strite-Kurz
Ann Strite-Kurz has been an active teacher and designer for seventeen years. She is certified in canvas embroidery by the National Academy of Needlearts (NAN) and teaches regularly at seminars sponsored by the Embroiderers’ Guild of America and the American Needlepoint Guild. She is available for workshops and programs for local chapters of these groups and taught three group correspondence courses for EGA for over a decade. She also holds a Master Craftsman certificate in canvas from the Connecticut River Valley Chapter of EGA. In 1992 she published her first book, The Heart of Blackwork. Her second book, Potpourri of Pattern, was published in June, 1995. Both of these books explore innovative styles of open patterning which have become the hallmark of Ann’s recent work. Ann continues to teach and to publish a line of commercial designs and pamphlets and is a regular vendor at both the TNNA and INRG tradeshows. She has recently published three additional books on pattern which include CDs to display the illustrations in full color.  These titles are Backgrounds: The Finishing Touch (2003), Creative Canvas Couching (2005) and Diaper Patterns (2007).  An expanded resumé on education background, teaching experience, and noteworthy needlework accomplishments follows.

Here is an example of her patterns and instructions:


Here’s the first area I did finishing work in Area 3, combining alternating diamond and cross units:

(Diamond Eyelet Variation with Double Straight Cross Tiedown + Four-way Tied Oblong Cross Cluster with Double Straight Cross Variation Tiedown)


Second area: Area 4 (turquoise) with Combo of Double Straight Cross and Diagonal Hungarian Units in a Cluster, followed by Double Straight Cross Units in Two Colors:


The next step was Blackwork (not always done in black thread on white, but always a colored thread in white background) which I’ve never done before, but enjoyed very much. That’s the red part above that looks lacy. It was used on cuffs and collars back in the 1600’s in Europe. Fancied things up a bit! Spain and England were fond of it.

Here are a few historical examples :


And here is how my blackwork took shape:

Here is the finished piece. Wish you could see it close-up. The colors are richer, like in the photos above.


Tools of The Trade

My one must-have tool is the lovely head contraption product, Mag Eyes, which provides enough magnification (along with my 1.75 magnifying drug store glasses) for me to see teensy tiny stitches:

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Another thing I have to have is on the table to my right—a good Ott Lite type of lamp with a daylight bulb in it. That gives me the ability to note correct colors in my threads and on the textiles I’m working on. I also have a floor lamp Ott Lite in my workroom, right beside my work table.

I look so serious, but I’m really not! When I’m working, though, that’s pretty deep concentration.

I try not to wear my Mag Eyes out in public, but there have been times (like at the drive-in before the movie started) when I couldn’t help it, I had to be doing something with my hands, so out came the funny-looking headgear and my personal cross-stitch project. It was tote-able, and people who know me well know I have to always have some sort of stitching in what I call my “fun bag” in order to keep from being bored. There is nothing worse than standing in a queue or sitting in a car and not being able to distract with something interesting.

There are many other tools I use on a regular basis, and I’ll take photos of them and mention them in another post.

On my work table right now is Bob from Colorado Springs’ crocheted bedspread. Here is my work so far, which I’ve really just begun. On the area below, I’m reworking the treble crochets in the openwork that had come unraveled:

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Here is what I have just completed for myself (mostly while watching TV at night.) It’s a Quaker sampler pattern (“Thinking Quaker”) and the chart was generously shared online for free. I made a few changes, mainly the little sewing machine on the left. It was an embroidery hoop with fabric in it on the original pattern, but I’d been seeing some cute sewing machine cross-stitch patterns, so I adapted one and it fit. Also added name and date at bottom. Not totally satisfied with date, so I may make it smaller by one hole in the cross-stitch fabric. That’s called being a perfectionist! I was considering installing this piece in the middle of a small, glass-topped Sudberry House tray (below—and you can see that one side is off, as well as the glass and screws are sitting at bottom left of tray) but decided to put another “to be done” project in it, a “Home of a Needleworker” sampler that would fill the entire space better:

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Punch Needle Art Piece Now Stabilized & Acid-Free

My client, Christina from MA, sent these photos of a piece she had recently purchased that needed help:

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It’s a beautiful piece, very well done by the needleworker, and I don’t think it was from a kit at all. The way the stitcher used a lot of different colors of silk thread for shading makes it special. The problem lies in the deterioration of the fabric she used to punch thousands of little loops through to create the picture. It’s dirty, has holes, and was attached by very rusty nails. The wood it was backed with is also acidic, and it needed to be off there as soon as possible.

removing tacks tacks removed

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Pictured above are the nail tacks, and here is the wood the piece was tacked to. The plan was to make the whole thing acid-free and to stabilize it. The photos below shoe where, once the stitching was taken out of the frame, little pills came off and some of the piece was in danger of being lost.

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Now we get to work. First I took matching thread and sewed into the loose side of the picture (the side showing above.) A lot of sewing up into the layers actually secured the pills in place and kept more from coming off. Once I was sure that side was firm enough to add some border fabric, I took washed, unbleached cotton muslin and machine-sewed it to all four sides.

Below, you can see the new border fabric. Then the gray is the original fabric, which was trimmed a bit. You can see my seams on both fabrics. My finger is holding back a new cotton backing that was hand-stitched (at sides) to the piece (actually to the border near its seam, because the gray original fabric is still too unstable to hold new stitching.


Next, a piece of foam core board (acid-free) is laid against the new backing, and the new border is laced fast to the back with cotton string. The edges are slip-stitched down:

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Here is the final result. Most was saved and now it’s in good shape for its future and ready to be framed!


There are still a few places that aren’t 100% stable but once in a frame, it should be fine. Two reasons why these spots: 1) I wanted to save as much of the picture as possible, and 2) the backing on those spots was just gone and therefore the stitches had nothing to adhere to. I am going to tack the one on the right down more, for the framing. The other is fine for framing.

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“Friendship is the Heart of Needlework” finished project

This project was a doozy, but I like the results:


As I’d said earlier, my customer (Gayle) had this project that remained unfinished at the time of her mother’s death. She hired me to complete it. I followed written and graphed directions for 4 hearts that needed to be done, plus the saying and the remainder of the hearts border in the middle. Here is an example of the instructions, and also a 4×6 photo of the completed “example” piece from a workshop that I believe Gayle’s mom took (thru White Pine chapter of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America):

When I first realized that my client’s mom had taken a workshop for this piece, I was a tad intimidated. There was cutwork on here that I haven’t done before. But luckily I didn’t have to do any other cutwork. I would have simply practiced on scrap canvas until I got it right. I don’t like not knowing how to do something, and that doesn’t ever stop me.

So, here are the hearts I added to this beautiful handiwork:


My favorite is the one on the top left, and it intimidated me the most! I had no instructions for this heart, so I had to “wing it” just by looking at the heart in the 4×6 photo, and that thing was small. I looked through my Mag Eyes magnifiers and was able to sketch out just about what was used in the original piece. I love it, and it took me quite a while to complete that heart. But they all did, because I didn’t know some of the stitches before I did them, and I wanted them to be just as symmetrical and tidy as the stitches Gayle’s mom did in her hearts. I hope she would be pleased with my results. I hope Gayle enjoys her mother’s piece for many, many years. It’s truly a wonderful needlework sampler.

Oh, and in case you’re interested, these are the stitches I did (in no particular order) and just for added interest, I’ll tell you beside them which ones I’d ever done before:

*Type of Stitch* *Had I done it before?*

French Knot                                                                     yes

Colonial Knot                                                                   no

Rosette                                                                             no

Cross-Stitch                                                                      yes

Satin Stitch                                                                       yes

Beads added                                                                     no

Backstitch                                                                         yes

Outline (Stem) Stitch                                                        yes

Long-arm Cross-Stitch                                                      no

Kalem Variation                                                               no

Rhodes Half-Drop Stitch                                                  no

Waffle Stitch                                                                    no

Woven Cross-Stitch                                                          no

Chain Stitch                                                                      yes

Herringbone Stitch                                                           no

Not having done these stitches before wasn’t a problem because 1) most stitches build on each other or are variations of the basic embroidery stitches, and 2) I enjoy learning new ways to stitch. So now I can add to my repertoire.

Oh! I forgot the most difficult stitch, and one that is, oddly, named after a town in Italy: The Casalguidi Stitch! Below is a much more intricate example, but the one I did forms the outline of the heart with the “P” initial inside. I had to resort to learning this off an online tutorial that another kind stitcher has provided. It wasn’t even in my reference library, not even in “The Complete Encyclopedia of Stitchery.”

Her Mother’s Unfinished Cross-stitch Embroidery

Gayle K contacted me. She had a partially-finished cross-stitch her mother had worked on before her death, and Gayle wanted to have it completed. We agreed on a price, and she sent the piece. It was in a stretcher frame, and came with directions and the materials I would need during my process. That included embroidery floss, Balger Braid (shiny twisted thread used for embellishment,) Watercolours (multi-colored cotton floss that’s braided,) a few large beads, seed beads, and an assortment of needles.

It appeared that my job was to fill in four remaining hearts and the middle heart border around the saying “Needlework is the Heart of Friendship.” Nice!

Here is the piece, and when I took this photo, I’d already begun the upper right heart:


As I flipped through the pages of instructions, I could tell I was in for a trip! It seemed that Gayle’s mom had been a member of White Pine Embroiderer’s Guild, a subsection of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America. Impressive! And apparently, she had taken a workshop by someone who created this heart sampler. The instructions are written out as if the “teacher” is speaking, and the graphing is definitely done by hand. It wasn’t easy to follow. Mostly, I had to fumble around until I figured out just how she was working her graph, which lines meant to cross-stitch in which area.

And so here is the first heart, showing me working on it (left) and then completed (yes, the upper part of the heart is supposed to have un-filled-in hearts):

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Next came a heart that had TWELVE rows of stitching! This one took a while to complete! LOVED doing that waffle stitch in the burgundy. Actually, I enjoyed this one a lot.


I’m still hard at work on the sampler, and I’ll post photos when I finish. One part of the instructions are missing, and all I have to go by is an actual photo of the designer’s demonstration piece, so I’ll have to make up my own heart on that one.

What I like about this is, it’s a very, very nice piece to work on. Gorgeous, really, in its stitch details and varied techniques yet simple enough design-wise to be quite tasteful. This is a sampler that should be around, in style and cherished for many decades, in my opinion.