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I'm furious and I'm gonna say it!

Every now and again, when I have 15-20 minutes of time to pass, I will pull out an old needlepoint magazine and read some of the articles I passed over when the magazine first arrived in my mailbox.  I like reading the humorous articles or ones that have some interesting stitching information. This morning I had a few such moments.

I read an article by a very well known, well respected designer/teacher, who will remain nameless. The point of the article was to explain that needlepoint "rules" are important, they have reasons and that they should be followed.  In attempting to explain this, the designer slammed a few people along the way, generalizing segments of the stitching population and on the whole being quite smug.  For instance, there was a generalization about stitchers under the age of thirty, how most of them did not learn needlepoint at their mother's knee, and being that they learned as adults, they had a tendency to skip certain lessons as well as be impatient when working on a piece.  They also, as the article explains, look down on advice from those that came before them.  I am not exaggerating, I am almost quoting word for word.  
Next came the example of a stitcher, a customer, no less, who brought in an "atrocious" piece of needlepoint with patches of Continental going every which way.  Great detail went into describing just how bad this piece was.  The customer apparently was silly enough not to know the name of the stitches she used and stubborn enough to be proud of her work.  

I found this article to be infuriating.  What is it about needlepoint that brings this type of attitude about?  My immediate reaction to any negative generalization about the young is to disregard. I think to myself, "Really? What are you attempting to accomplish by these remarks?  What good are you trying to bring about?"  You know, that attitude of lamenting how the younger generation is not up to our standards, it's the oldest trick in the book.  It's been going on since forever.  We heard it from our parents, they heard it from theirs, etc, etc.  Again, it's a generalization and it really doesn't do anybody any good.  
When I started to needlepoint and design I was in my early 40s.  I was one of the youngest stitchers in any setting that I stepped into.  I had never felt so young, a spring chicken, as I did in any needlepoint gathering.  Can you imagine the same situation had I decided to start learning how to paint, or how to sew, or how to make pottery?  In all of these situations people would have asked, "what made you decide to start doing this at your (late) age?"  I would have been among the older crowd.  But not in needlepoint!  No, no!  So what do we do to encourage a younger stitcher to join in? We generalize, we put them down for being less serious, less knowledgable, less patient, just less!  When I began my journey in needlepoint, I was definitely looked down upon by the old guard!  I had not "paid my dues", ( I swear I heard this comment), I was, (OMG), self taught, and I was designing? Who did I think I was? (I heard that one as well).  

Let's go a step further.  Embroidery is having a golden era of popularity in the past few years.  A young crowd, teens to people in their 30's and 40's, are into embroidery.  The new designers of embroidery have become rock stars, (Sublime Stitching is a good example).  I challenge you to find one article about how things "must" be done when doing "good" embroidery.  I challenge you to find the "holier than thou" attitude in that world.  What is going on?  Embroidery is as much an art form, as intricate and detailed a fine craft as needlepoint.  So why?  WHY?  

SO listen to me, you needlepoint geniuses, you dogmatic elders, you "putters downers", you need to lay off.  We need young people, we won't be here forever, not you, not me.  We need to appeal to a younger crowd, and I don't care if they know which path to take when doing basketweave!  I don't care if they lick the ends of their threads when they thread their needles!  I don't care what they call the stitches they are stitching!  I want them to try this wonderful art and I want them to get hooked.  I want them to love it and to keep it alive.  You guys are keeping them away, and I won't take it! Lay off!!  

And as for that customer who came into the shop with "the most atrocious conglomeration of stitches you have ever seen",  she came in feeling pride, you wanted to have her leave feeling ashamed.  To that I say, shame on you.

Whew.  I feel better now.  


PS - the designer I mention in the above rant is not to be singled out.  I've never met her and she may be a wonderful person. But her article the part of our needlepoint world that is unhealthy and unappealing. 

Sara Leigh  – (March 19, 2014 at 9:54 AM)  

Hear, hear! I agree with you whole-heartedly, Orna. I just don't understand the attitude of the "needlepoint police" that it's their way or no way. I'm pretty much self-taught, although I've taken several classes to improve my technique. We don't want to turn away the younger people who are doing this! We need new blood, and perhaps some new ideas about needlepoint. Your post, while a rant, makes me happy because it proves that I'm not alone in my approach to needlepoint and the community of stitchers.

MNStitcher  – (March 19, 2014 at 10:04 AM)  

I so agree. I have been needlepointing since college and have teenage daughters. I tried to hook both of them into the hobby years ago. The oldest was a terrific needlepointer and took a correspondence course - she submitted her piece for critique and was so proud. Personally her stitching was excellent and I was proud. Her critique....it ripped her up and down for failing to sew on the buttons in the exact precise way the designer wanted and instead choosing placement she felt was pleasing. Needless to say, my daughter switched to beading and found a community that supported her more there. She likely will never come back to needlepoint. We can't keep needlepoint alive if we don't accept things done ways other than our own. There are no hard fast rules....only suggestions or ideas.

Orna Willis  – (March 19, 2014 at 11:11 AM)  

I'm so sorry to hear about your daughter! It's so wrong! What a shame. Please tell her that if she ever decides to come back, we will be there with open arms!

Pat W-S –   – (March 19, 2014 at 4:12 PM)  

I was at a guild meeting last night discussing needlework snobbery with another member. My comment last night was "Some needle workers seem to forget that we ALL started out as beginners. No one came into this hobby as a high priestess of priest of it." To belittle someone's work is unacceptable and ignorant. To put down younger or older people shows the same. To share our work, our knowledge, and to keep on learning are some of the reasons why I love the needle arts. Thanks for ranting on this, Orna. Your points are excellent ones. On a lighter note - now I have to find some time to go through some magazines!

lewmew  – (March 19, 2014 at 5:44 PM)  

Yeah for this!!! I so agree. I am sure my work would not be up to this person's standards, but I enjoy it, my friends and family enjoy it and I've brought in a few converts. Remember, for most of us - it's a hobby not my career! And I lick floss too!

Elizabeth Bozievich  – (March 19, 2014 at 6:30 PM)  

Orna, I'm furious that you chose to bash the magazine publicly. I thought we were better friends. I have no idea what article in the magazine upset you. I work very hard to always have a positive message and to offer exciting designs that will appeal to all ages. You know how I feel about keeping needlepoint alive. If something I published hit you wrong, I want to hear about it from you. Not from a friend who tells me you are angry at the magazine. Will you please contact me privately to talk about this? My email is editor@needlepointnow.com

Elisabeth Osland  – (March 19, 2014 at 7:04 PM)  

I remember many (many!) years ago starting a needlepoint piece for school and being sooo excited about it...and then shattered when the teacher at school turned it over and told me that the back needed to be just as neat a the front and I had to undo every stitch!! I lost my stitching desire very quickly for MANY years.
I'm not interested in rules of needlepoint or any form of stitching, I just love being creative. The important thing is that I love what I am doing and am expressing a part of me and the world around me.
Elizabeth..I don't feel Orna was putting down your magazine....she was expressing a viewpoint about an article and the attitudes expressed in it.

hbksloss  – (March 19, 2014 at 10:04 PM)  

I remember reading a wonderful article (can't recall which needlework magazine, could have been Needlepoint Now, talking about how different American and British stitchers are when it comes to the back of our projects. American's sweat over how the back looks and apparently the British don't. Reading that article helped me to relax about any needlepoint rules that I do and do not follow. It is exciting to see more and more young people getting into embroidery, looking forward to seeing them show up in the needlepoint crowds someday too.

YooLa  – (March 20, 2014 at 3:58 AM)  

Daaaaa ???? in my point of view in arts and crafts , no matter which ,there is no place for rules.
she in particular sounds very old school and I doubt how innovative can her work be.
stepping out the lines is the key of coming up with interesting designs , even in backing .....

In my experience arrogant behavior usually comes to cover insecurity.
she in particular sounds very old school and we can just feel sorry for her and her students....

Anonymous –   – (March 20, 2014 at 6:57 AM)  

Well said. This is why I no longer belong to the local ANG chapter.

Genevieve  – (March 20, 2014 at 8:52 AM)  

I couldn't agree more. I did some needlepoint when I was a teenager (in the 1970s), and I have recently re-discovered embroidery and even write a book on bead embroidery. The resurgence in interest in needlework of all kinds is wonderful precisely because of people who are creating innovating techniques.

I belong to the Canadian Embroiderer's Guild in London, Ontario. We are a teaching guild, and we embrace innovation of all kinds.

Let's hear it for breaking the rules! :D

Sheila  – (March 25, 2014 at 5:01 AM)  

Well said! I'm not a designer, just a person that loves needlewofk of all forms. I do mostly cross stitch and embroidery as well as beadwork. Have tried a little needlepoint, but I'm not very good at it. A shop in my area won't offer classes . What I do is on my own or through reading different stitch books.

Elizabeth Bozievich  – (March 26, 2014 at 10:50 AM)  

For those of you who are worried that Orna and I aren't getting along because of this post, we talked about the original post where said she was furious about an article she had read in Needlepoint Now. It turned out to be a very old issue, before my time as editor, that had angered her and she did not intend to to make a negative comment about the magazine. For the record, I am not a rules person either. I believe that needlepoint should be fun and relaxing for all levels of stitchers.

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