Friday, December 17, 2010

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

    I invite you to take a tour of some December needlework. If you have at this hour, a lack of mental energy, you might prefer to just look. That’s okay. Save the reading of my sentimental vignettes for another day. However you choose to scroll, may it be just the relaxation you need to unwind. Click the teacup at the end of the post to play a Christmas song that might be new to you.

    “I like this cross-stitch chart of a Christmas Goose,” I said some years back to my married daughter Yolanda. She liked it, too. In winter the Canadian geese fly back and forth over the countryside and honk handsomely. Feathered in bold markings they are picturesque when they land and assemble on the snow around the farm ponds – although the farmers hold a different opinion. We were thinking well ahead. It was summer. Together, at a local shop, we enjoyed purchasing the cloth and the floss indicated by the chart, and we divided the colors between us so we could start stitching months before December. Surely we’d be able to finish in time for Christmas.

    I didn’t hear of how she was getting on. She didn’t ask me how I was getting on. Some months later the excitement that comes with starting a new project, fizzled away. I assumed it did for Yolanda, too, being a young married woman who was planning a formal dinner party with all the trimmings, for a half dozen young adults at Christmastime. The week of her party she handed me an early present. When I unwrapped it I was pleasantly astonished. It was the Christmas Goose. I hadn't made one stitch yet in mine.

    Peace on Earth was a breeze to stitch on 22 count even-weave. It is all one color. Because I used three strands of over-dyed floss rather than two, I should have anticipated I might run out of thread at the bottom of the sampler. My later purchase must have been a different dye lot because you can see “toward men” is lighter. Look again and you’ll see the alphabet has two “Os.” The “Q” is missing a stitch. Perhaps that’s when the kettle was whistling. Anyway, I noticed the “Q” after it was framed. I’ve read that quilters will craft one inconspicuous mistake somewhere in their needlework for the prevention of vanity. I don’t have to deliberately craft one in mine.   

    Last month Dean entered the kitchen slyly and said, “I’ve done something that is sure to earn me Brownie points.”
    My back was to him as I stood at the kitchen sink. “What is it?”  I said with skepticism and without turning around. 
    “I found your grandmother’s embroidery.”
    With upraised voice I replied, “Oh, you did?” I turned and met his grin face on.
    I had given the embroidery up for lost. Having moved so often, much of our belongings would remain in boxes until we moved again. Since our move from Maine to Pennsylvania our searching for the embroidery had been in vain and I didn’t want to make a big mess looking for it since we anticipated moving yet again. When we finally settled into this house we still couldn’t find it. I didn’t believe Dean anymore when he told me, “It will turn up.” 

    How happy he was when he handed the embroidery to me. (I had dried my soapy hands on a tea towel by then.) Free of its flimsy frame, discarded for junk, I inspected the staples used to hold the linen onto a board. They were rusted and had stained the outer edge brown. Otherwise, I was relieved it was in good condition.
    Newly framed it hangs on the wall of our dining area. It is special to me. My grandmother stitched it for my grandfather in 1970. She excelled in crewel. This scene stitched in wool commemorates the American folk art of Grandma Moses. If you peruse paintings by Grandma Moses you will see how it resembles her style and subject. One painting heads this post.

    In the 1970s I was excited when school was closed due to snow and a whole neighborhood of children (baby-boomers of all ages) were bundled up and sent outside by their stay-at-home mothers, to play in it. Our chief thing to do was go sledding down our hilly street. We gained the most momentum just before we reached the stop sign. Is it possible that while we were sledding my grandmother, who lived just around the corner, could have been stitching her winter scene on the same piece of linen that hangs in my house today?   

    I was going to throw away a green mitten I had knitted. My children had outgrown it long ago, and if its match hadn’t turned up yet . . . well. Instead, some notion held my hand back – a memory perhaps. I threaded a needle with red floss and stitched the poinsettia on the mitten free hand. A loop at the cuff to hang it on the Christmas tree and it becomes a souvenir of an earlier winter – a winter when it was worn on a little hand to build a snowman. 
    The little sock was a way to use up tiny balls of yarn – the remains of larger knitting projects.

    Last year using a regular sock pattern I knit a long sock in worsted wool that, nailed to the fireplace, passes as a primitive Christmas stocking.

    Are you familiar with Victorian punched paper mottos? Emma stitched one at Blackberry Inn. This little Take Joy was designed and stitched on punched paper by a long-distance friend. I find it a cheerful reminder, partly for the joy our Savior gives us and partly as a token of friendship. When a fire is lit I move it to a knob on the pie-safe away from the heat. Satin stitches on punched paper probably give the fastest results of any needlework. I like how visible the stitches are. 

    Every Christmas Joy Be Thine is another gift on punched paper hanging in our hall between the electric sconces.

    With the design painted for me, I stitched the motto, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It ended up in a house that is geometrically modern on the outside but decidedly Victorian on the inside. Stitched leisurely after Christmas while I was still in the holiday spirit, it was saved aside for two years until I could spy out who would most appreciate it. I gave it as an early gift this year. It was received with tears of gratitude, exceeding my expectations. It had been ages since this tired homemaker had received anything homemade. She had eyed the mottos in my house and wished to make one, too, but was kept crazy-busy. For some, receiving a homemade item is a disappointment. For others, what is made by hand is prized.

    Her tears made me wonder. How touched am I . . . and how much gratitude do I show at Christmas, for the gift of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord? (Romans 6:23)

    I draped a tablecloth of roses on a chair so its stitches may be best observed.    

Every Christmas Joy be Thine
        Karen Andreola 


  1. Your handwork is beautiful - and one day it may bring such joy to a grandchild, now grown up, who will reframe and hang your work up and remember you and the wonderful memeories of your life and character ...
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Lovely needle work. Reminds me of the projects I've started, but never finished ; )

  3. Lovely, oh so lovely. This posting is just beautiful. I cannot wait til I can pick up needle and thread again.This is inspirational.Bless you Karen and your dear family at this very special time of year, the celebration of our Dear Lord's birth.Your blog is a place to draw away for a little cup of joy and comfort in the simple things in life.

  4. Beautiful and inspiring! Thank you for sharing.

    God bless you.

  5. Your comments are glad tidings.

    What a welcoming sentiment, Nadene.
    "When this you see remember me," is an old phrase not uncommonly stitched in linens. I've stitched it in one. (not shown).

    Amy, dear, please pick up your fine work again (it's okay to start something new) even if it is 10 minutes a sitting.

    Dawn, Such a darling sentiment (little cup of joy) to read about my writing. I work to create a post that resembles a sort of greeting card. Some ideas requires contemplation to aid in home teaching or enrich Mother Culture. Others are for relaxation.
    I wish you some moments to pick up your needle again.

    Rosie, It is satisfying to know I've inspired someone.

    Thank you,
    Karen A.

  6. Really enjoyed looking at all your works of art. Just yesterday I thought I should start a red work sampler that i had purchased a while back. Imagine my surprise when i found it and it was almost finished...:) Finished yesterday and looked for a frame today. Do you usually custom frame? It is sort of an usual size-but custom framing is pretty expensive I've heard. I also found a pattern to iron on fabric- and my 5yr old daughter and 7 yr old son have been practicing too. The pattern is very cute. You can do a chick or frog or a couple other things. The X are really large and they do pretty well. I just need to be on needle threading standby.
    Blessings to you,

  7. Bonnie,
    I like red-work, too, and have several iron-on patterns that my mother-in-law gave me. When I held Beautiful Girlhood gatherings in our home in Maine I would teach the girls different skills. Red-work was one craft I choose. Red-work on white pillows would be just-the-thing for bedroom I am dreaming about. I bought a remnant bolt of red and white fabric for the window curtains for a future project.
    It is fun to hear that your children have been stitching. Your "needle threading standby" is such a cute phrase.
    I take most of my embroidery to be professionally framed (five minutes up the street). I make efforts to be frugal in various aspects of homemaking. Custom framing, however, is a luxury I allow myself.
    Karen A.

  8. Christmas posts are so relaxing when we aren't in the midst of the hustle and bustle of December!