HARRISBURG – Does the word needlework make you think of the floral seat covers your great-grandmother made for her dining room chairs?
Needlework 2018 style, whether on canvas or using counted threads on linen, includes flat and dimension pieces, jewelry and clothing. More than 100 pieces of needlework made throughout the Midstate will be featured at the Needle Arts Exhibit at Fort Hunter Mansion at 5300 N. Front St., Harrisburg.
The exhibit, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 4:30 p.m. Sundays, runs from Sunday, May 6 through June 17. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and $4 for children. The exhibit opens the same day as the Fort Hunter Garden Faire.
Creations stitched by Helen Reily, who lived in the Fort Hunter Mansion for half a century and served as president of the Harrisburg Needlework Guild in the early 1900s, also will be displayed.
Creations of the Molly Pitcher Stitchers of Carlisle, a chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America Inc., will be included in the exhibit.
“Needlework is experiencing a tremendous resurgence of interest,” said Janet Bex of Mechanicsburg, exhibit spokeswoman. “People today are looking for a creative outlet. You lose yourself in needlework as you count threads, follow a chart or do crewel embroidery, which is like painting with thread. You leave your stress behind.”
Bex, president of the Susquehanna Chapter of Embroiders Guild of America Inc., knows this first hand.
She discovered needlework when “a friend pulled out a gorgeous glasses case and I asked her where she bought it. She said she didn’t buy it, she made it.” Bex was fascinated and determined to make something equally beautiful.
She bought an embroidery kit of an Irish blessing, a stamped piece of linen, thread and directions. She followed the directions then moved on to cross stitch then canvas work. Eventually, she joined the Embroiderers’ Guild of America.
“If you’re patient, you can do anything,” she said. “It’s contemplative work. I listen to jazz and lose myself in an old canvas. It’s about being good friends with my needle.”
Modern needlepoint, which is done on canvas, can include up-to-date touches such as hand-dyed yarn, hand-painted canvases and needlepointed iPad cases or items for modern home designs. Modern embroidery may involve use of traditional embroidery hoops and crewel needles but use a variety of techniques, fabric and thread.
Bex, who is focusing on canvas work this year, said she has done several forms of needle art. She said she likes the movement of silk thread through the fabric in silk embroidery and the beauty of gold work.
The Needle Arts Exhibit at Fort Hunter Mansion will feature everything from counted thread pieces to canvas pieces to stump work, padded work that rises off the fabric. Pieces will include chair covers, pictures, embellished clothing and more.
The pieces on display will come from the American Needlepoint Guild, the Apple Needlepointers, and several Embroiders’ Guild of America chapters including Susquehanna, Molly Pitcher Stitchers, York White Rose, Lancaster Red Rose and Nittany Valley.
“Probably the most unusual pieces will be the Japanese embroidery, a special and painstaking technique with very small embroidery stitches in silk or metal thread,” Bex said. “We will have a lot of counted thread pieces, the stars of the show.”
Although most people who do needle arts are women, some men do embroider, Bex said. “Men seem more drawn to needlepoint,” she said. “Others are drawn to knitting or crocheting. The difference is we use a needle with an eye, while knitting and crocheting doesn’t.”
Bex said the work will be displayed throughout the Fort Hunter Mansion. She said Riley, whose work “is very beautiful and a product of its time,” sent several of her embroidered pieces to San Francisco after the earthquake there in 1906.
A Needle Arts Tea will be held from 1 to 3:30 p.m. May 20 in the Fort Hunter Mansion. Guests can view the exhibit, meet with creators of the works and enjoy scones, tea sandwiches, cakes, sweets and “unending tea.”
Tickets for the tea, at $30 a person or $25 for members of the Friends of Fort Hunter, may be reserved through www.forthunter.org