Canvas of Waking Dreams – Part II


Helen Winthorpe Kendrick

There is an intimacy to needlepointing, to holding a canvas, threading a needle, stitching a design, that is completely unlike the disconnected experience of Simple Touch-ing your way through a Nook.

Call me a digital Neanderthal.

Anyway, the other day, I was at B&N to graze at the needlepoint section, and delay the torture of concluding my Canvas of Waking Dreams think piece, the one that will cause no one to ever read my blog again after I publish it, and came across a wonderful book, Helen Winthorpe Kendrick’s Stitch-opedia.

More on this book in a jiffy.

Soon, I was eagerly standing in line, book in hand.  I noticed a salesperson who was working a Nook booth that was practically in the checkout line.  She was trying to convince a customer to buy a designer Nook cover to make the device sorta look like a book.  Talk about ironic.

Call me out of touch, but I don’t want to pretend that something that looks like a nerd’s clipboard is almost a book.  I actually want the real book.

Maybe these Nook and Kindle gizmos are just not a needlepoint thing.  And yet, there are in fact needlepoint covers for these e-readers, so what do I know?

At any rate, I bought Stitch-opedia, and started reading it.  It is really filled with tons of great material, but what immediately stood out for me was right there in the second paragraph of the Introduction:

“The first needles were found in Europe and dated back to the Paleolithic period, roughly 15,000 years ago.”

That is so cool.  I was instantly mesmerized.  I wasn’t crazy to mention this whole business in the first place.  I suddenly realized that when I held a needle in hand to stitch, that I was actually using a technology that dated back to the Stone Age.  To me, that’s pretty incredible.

Talk about feeling connected to the past.

Official Poster

This is why in my mind Werner Herzog’s The Cave of Forgotten Dreams has a great deal to say about the craft we love.

I won’t get all heavy and academic here.

But I will say that after seeing this film that it didn’t feel like it was such a reach to suggest that ancient figurative art has a very special connection to the designs I work with on canvas today.  And that looking at the 32,000 year old figures on the caves of Chauvet Pont d’Arc is like seeing a distant echo of, as Herzog tells us, the invention of visual communication, almost the trace rumblings of a sacred world of Imagination, one that, in effect, signaled the advent of Homo Spiritualis.

So, maybe I wasn’t one of those digital Neanderthals after all.

Maybe needlepoint stitching is just one of those things that makes me a human being.

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.


About Erin

Owner of Needlepoint Land, LLC. Professional in the field for more than 15 years, during which I have managed and/or worked with various high-end needlepoint shops. I enjoy teaching both beginners and advanced stitchers, and have created numerous stitch guides, with speciality thread selections, for in-store customers and private clients. I maintain contact with an extensive network of needlepoint vendors, custom artists, and, most importantly, reliable, high-quality finishers. I look forward to hearing your comments on my blog!

2 responses »

  1. Closest I’ve been to Derbyshire is Stafford, some time ago. I have read about Bess of Hardwick, but you know far more about her than I. Speaking of historical canvas work, I’d like to go to West Wales one day to explore what they got going at Millenia designs, including Karen Dixon’s work.

  2. One of the things that I love, is to look closely at old pieces of canvaswork. Because you know how a piece was worked, it gives you a deep connection to the person who made it. In Derbyshire, there is an historic house called Hardwick Hall, built by a remarkable lady, Bess of Hardwick, who, when she wasn’t building fabulous houses, waiting on Queen Elizabeth I, or marrying one of her four husbands, was a very accomplished needlewoman. Many pieces that she created still exist and you can stand and look at them (although not touch them, I guess for obvious reasons). I have absolutely nothing else in common with her, but simply seeing her needlework, brings us together.

    I have a Kindle – it’s fantastic for fiction, but useless for anything that needs pictures, or that you want to write all over. The book isn’t redundant yet.

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