Saintly Stitchers

     I am honored to be working with the Saintly Stitchers of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church here in Houston on a multi-year project creating designs for their sanctuary.
     Their mission statement:
To needlepoint works of art to beautify The Church to the Glory of God; to minister to one another as we encourage the religious education and spiritual development of the Stitchers and the congregation; and to incorporate and further develop our talents and skills in needlepoint.
Weekly stitch-in

Weekly stitch-in at St. Martin’s

     The 70 men and women of Saintly Stitchers are well underway in their goal of covering each of the 287 pew kneelers in the church nave. (photo above)
     The needlepoint on each tone-on-tone damask-like pew kneeler (14 count canvas) contains a different quotation from Scripture (stitched in gray with a black shadow to complement the slate floor in the nave). These are chosen from the scenes illustrated in the nearest stained glass window, beginning with the great Nativity and Crucifixion windows.
     So far, the elements that complement the stained glass (that change as we go through the nave) are the tudor rose, the passionflower, and the dogwood flower.
     These canvases are well traveled. The first photo is Barbara. Most stitchers take responsibility to complete one canvas, but she has begun the Herculean task of stitching many kneelers to perfection.
Paula in the Forbidden City

Paula in the Forbidden City

     Another project is a single kneeler (approx. 5 feet by 18 inches) for the Patron’s Chapel. This small side chapel has no direct sunlight and the kneeler will be placed on the prie-dieu, reflective in theme and in palette of the fifteenth century Tyrolean altarpiece which hangs above it.


In the same order as the saints in the altarpiece, St. Peter on the left, St. Martin in the center, and St. James on the right, the kneeler features three shields, one for each saint, in the same order.

Because pilgrims traveled first to Rome to venerate St. Peter, then to Tours for St. Martin, and finally to Santiago de Compostela for St. James, the theme of pilgrimage is strong, hence the shells in the four corners. (The medieval pilgrims would often take a shell home as a remembrance of their pilgrimage, and is also a metaphor—the grooves in the shell lead to a single point – the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela).

The shape of the shields was inspired by the quatrefoil shape visible in the wood carvings of the church. Each shield contain many symbols for each saint. The palette will match the altarpiece — predominantly golds, blues, charcoal gray, and touches of pomegranate red.



Because the kneeler is being created especially for St. Martin’s Church, and he is the patron saint of France, more fleur-de-lys are placed between and outside the shields.

The kneeler will rarely be knelt on, giving the opportunity to use silk fiber. It was my intention that the kneeler look as though it has been a faithful companion to the altarpiece for the last five hundred years.

Nearing completion

Nearing completion.  (The work of one stitcher!)




Mistletoe Noël

It is always an exciting day when a canvas returns from the finisher, and today Mistletoe Noël arrived. It is elegant and lovely and I look forward to hanging it next Christmas.

An antique silver braid on top of red ribbon is used to frame the edges, complementing the ‘old world’ feel of the canvas. With finishing, it measures 12″ x 7″ and is stitched on 18 count canvas.


Harper Lee

My niece Whitney, whose favorite colors are blue and orange, has a fabulous dog named Harper Lee.

Whitney is a needlepoint novice, so I thought it would be fun for her to use three basic stitches— tent, scotch, and brick —to stitch this canvas.When finished, it will look great framed, as a pillow, or even on the side of a big tote bag.

Bamboo Pillow

A friend of mine lives in a beautiful home with plate glass windows looking out into a lush garden. She was interested in stitching a project with a theme of bamboo: a spare design using a basketweave stitch and made into a box pillow.

She did a lovely job. The red box adds a pop of color and shows (in Roman numerals) the year it was stitched. I have fun creating unique designs that are the wish of the stitcher!



Santa Fe Ornament

While I have been busy writing stitch guides for the Saints, I have been having fun stitching a quick project— a new design reminiscent of the Santa Fe Railroad. It is a 4 1/2 ” circle on 18 count canvas. I chose the same Milanese stitch as the white miter on Snow St. Nicholas, except that I will replace some of the tent stitches with red beads.You may have seen some of my other Santa Fe canvases on the Dream House website. A small stocking with a pueblo, mountains, and moon, and Santa Fe Heart, a hanging valentine with turquoise mountains.

I have spent many happy summers in New Mexico playing second harp in the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra. There is no place quite like Santa Fe, or the beautiful opera open air theater. When this ornament is finished it will hang on my Christmas tree, reminding me of the magic of that place.

If you are interested in stitching this ornament, e-mail me and I will send it to you. (I will be selling it rather than Dream House.)



Last year I decided to create a St.Nicholas canvas inspired by iconic images of the saint. Born Greek in the 4th century, he became the Bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey. That initial idea developed into three canvases: Byzantine St.Nicholas, Holly St.Nicholas, and Snow St.Nicholas.

Two of the canvases have just returned from the finisher, The Big Finish, and I am thrilled. ‘Snow’ is still in the stitching stage.

gold nick full shot

Each of the three ( 9″x 22″ on 18 count) has a different palette and elements, but several aspects remain the same: the crozier, the miter, the halo, and the crosses between the shoulders. All have the same Gothic arch silhouette.

Above is Byzantine St.Nicholas, inspired by ancient mosaics, with a palette of gold, purple, ruby, emerald, and sapphire. (I’m sorry the color in these photos looks “washed out”. The fibers are vibrant.)

His miter looks a bit like a fur hat, and in his left hand he carries a candle, symbolic of Jesus, The Light of the World. There is a small cross at the very top. Below you can see the detail of the “jewels” in the crozier.

Below is the beautiful Bargello purple coat and some of the crosses in the front panel.

The second canvas is Holly St.Nicholas. Red and green and white are prominent on a black background. I had fun turkey tufting the “ermine”, and beading the tiny berries on the hanging mistletoe.

full front

A descending dove holds a sprig of mistletoe overhead, and a dove nestles in his mitten. There are large holly leaves, vines and berries around the figure, and small beaded holly leaves down the frontispiece as well.

St.Nick red face detail


dove detail

The third canvas is Snow St.Nicholas. Under a canopy of snow covered branches and the guiding star, he comforts a young deer. A snow hare rests at his feet. This depiction reminds me of the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.

My original idea was to have a pale blue background with white snowflakes. After trying half a dozen different stitches, I decided to cover the background with a snowflake pattern in blue Silk Lame Braid, but white snowflakes on blue sky would be beautiful. On the frontispiece are beaded snowflakes as well as crosses.

His halo is a beautiful laid pattern with beads, and his miter is the most traditional shape of the three canvases. I am working on creating stitch guides for all 3 canvases and painting master canvases to send to Dream House, so that these canvases will be available to you.

I had a fantastic time stitching these three saints, and I hope you do, too.

Joyeux Noël

I am enjoying stitching a new canvas in a soft palette of blue, white, and silver with a little French village on a snowy hillside. I decided to bead the Christmas star to give it dimension.

I have finished everything except for the blue background, the snow on top of the letters, and the silver outline. I chose 16 count canvas, and it measures 14″ x 5″. I think it will make a beautiful pillow.

Thanks to everyone who commented on the mistletoe Noël and I wish you all a peaceful lull of year-end stitching.




That “last” stitch

What a thrill to put in that “last” stitch on any canvas!

To finish Noël, I added two red beads to make the diaeresis over the e.

I read that the word diaeresis is from ancient Greek, meaning division or separation. It indicates that a vowel should be pronounced apart from the letter that precedes it. Without it, noël would have one syllable and sound like nole, instead of having 2 syllables.


Below is a close up of the red beaded sections. I stitched alternate rows of tent, and then filled in with hex beads. I had tried at first to use only beads, but it looked too crowded, and then French knots and beads, but it didn’t look right either. The tent/beads turned out to be a much more successful and elegant approach.

In Houston, we rarely experience snow during the holidays, but with this canvas I can pretend that I am looking at ice and snow.

Wishing a very happy and peaceful new year to all, Joan


Stitching Friends

Here is a photo taken last April at Destination Dallas. I am on the left and Carolyn Hedge Baird is holding her 4th of July pig — a Melissa Shirley Design with original art from John Johnassen. She said it was a very fun canvas to stitch and I think it is gorgeous.