1C911491-9A13-4097-8DCF-919DB9F20ED4I’ve shown you my needlepoint footstools in past posts, now let’s look at some of the pieces I have done in years gone by. I’m going to concentrate on the pillows I own (I have done a zillion more as gifts and commissions over the years) and I must admit I have an abundance of pillows….an obsession, probably!  I’ve mentioned I prefer to work from charts and I think all but one I’m featuring today, which is tramme, are from charts.  The piece above is a combination of several charts that I made into a charming “picture”..I love baskets, roses and bows….all work together here, the tassels were purchased, not hand fashioned and are silk, used to tie this small pillow to the back of a vintage chair. It along with a matching green vintage secretary were the first pieces I choose and purchased for my bedroom while in high school, needless to say, they have been with me forever.  The chair now resides in my “library”.  A good time to mention the May Randolph Street Market  is Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27 from 10 to 5.  It’s the first outside market of the season, and the classic Plumbers Hall continues to have three floors of treasures year round.  I’ve found patchwork quilts, remnants of textiles and lots of needlework there over the years.  If you look you will definitely find a textile that will interest you or a treasure or two or three or………

FDC07921-2B0C-440F-A465-5B384EAC1322A close up of the basket (needs a good steaming…sorry!)

i started doing needlepoint while commuting from Evanston to Chicago for the first 12 years of working…I’ve sewn since I was very young with my Mother who was a superb seamstress, she particularly loved doing French smocking, Battenberg lace and both silk and wool embroidery embellishments on my clothes and my dolls clothes.  When I was old enough she gave me a beautiful sterling silver and cloisonné thimble (where is it?????).  Much to her chagrin, I couldn’t use it, I can’t stand hearing and feeling the metal needle on the metal thimble, pity!!!  We made our drapery, slipcover furnpniture as well as doing upholstery, bed spreads, you name it we sewed it!!!!  Mom finished all my needlework pieces, did most of the tassels, I did some, and silk ones were purchased.  She was so good at it she started doing friends pieces and from word of mouth it turned into a small business for her, it was called “The Little Pillowmaker”. But is was more than pillows she finished most of my other work and the work of others…glasscases, belts, rugs, Christmas stockings, etc. complicated pieces such as golf club covers, slippers, etc. we took to our local needlepoint shop

76A204C7-0828-46E5-97F8-50981AC322DESome of my collection resides on my built-in window seat that is covered in a pastel Asian pattern cotton toile.  The four small pieces in front (from a collection thoughout my home) are made from fragments of vintage Aubusson carpets that I purchased, over the years, from a fabulous dealer from the UK who exhibited at the Chicago Antiques Show that will be at the Merchandise Mart this week, May 17-20, an always extraordinary show.

62EF4C1E-796F-441A-A69D-617A965A0A95A set of three floral pieces my first assistant, Lucye, created for me to work. In return  she received a long vest that I did in a multI-color flame stitch, for Christmas that year, I created the pattern and even covered the seams with stitches, it was held together with black silk frog closings.  It was very boho (hippy in that era!) when I find a photo of her wearing it I’ll share it with you.   ABFC89D8-2AD0-4039-8267-4EA77A182123Obviously I need to get out the steamer yet again, my apologies for the poor shot….its been a few days of gloom here.  Here you can see some of the lily of the valley pieces i have done, I shared my lily of the valley rug in a previous post.  All the fringe is hand done, by me!!  Tedious but very rewarding. You can see a glimpse of the pastel Asian inspired toile.  I use the window seat as an extra bed when I have an over night guest (the cushion is down filled and very comfortable, I sleep on it when company visits).

4D34A8C1-E278-44C4-9955-730E997C1770Here is a close-up of one of the tapestry pieces in front of one of my larger pillows, this one a French tramme piece from a kit I actually got on my first trip to London in the late ‘80’s.  I enjoyed working in tramme, in which the pattern is worked in long yarn stitches on canvas rather than being painted and you cover the horizontal stitches with traditional tent stitches.

Another large piece that anchors the other pillows, I love to do borders and am mad for boxing pieces, doing endless plain background (especially all black backgrounds) not so much!

Back to my needlepoint beginnings, in addition to travel time I also had lots of time before fashion shows after I had set up the show to do busy work  I read a lot, always have, and found that wasn’t going to work when I was with other people and we all wanted to chat.  I could easy stitch (knitting makes me very uptight) so needlepoint it was.

I have a huge collection of needlepoint and other needlework books (I’ve done quite a bit of crewel as well, mostly as gifts) was and am particularly fond of those by Maggie Lane.  I would presume they are out of print but if you can find them do add them to your library, the stories she tells of China as well as her extraordinarily exquisite work are worth the read even if you don’t do any needlework.  The cover below is from her first volume.  The pictures below the book cover are just some of the many, many pieces I did from her charts. 


These are just a small selection showing you what I did, each of these as gifts for friends, some got many others one or two, all from graphed charts from the Maggie books.  All, of course, done in colors to coordinate with the recipient ‘s individual decor. And I always asked if they would like a piece before beginning the process, I work quickly but don’t want to spend my time on something the recipient thinks is “homemade” and not “heartmade”, an Ivonism, by the way!!!! The photos above are from Pinterest credit unknown.E10B5D96-A69D-4C92-B4C0-C530A1936821One of the most ambitious of any of my work, other than the rug, was done for my first boss, Kay Walsh Dobson, for her Pompano Beach, Florida home.  One of twenty, or more, pillows I did for her along with a set of six Chippendale chair slip seats and a backgammon board (yet another post) all in various shades of yellow (probably my least favorite color palette to work with!) and black and white.  I would say this piece finished was approximately 30” wide x 24” deep plus the box border. If I never do another black background again……  I must admit the finished piece was spectacular! Again, when I locate photos of all her pieces I promise to share them with you.

As as you know I follow a million blogs and my interests are quite varied, I follow food sites, book bloggers, home and garden pieces and on and on. As luck would have it one blog I follow and look forward to, always so well done is The French Tangerine  which had a perfect post, for me to share, this week. I quickly send an email and Jan Vrana, the creator of The French  Tangerine, not only answered immediately but has given me permission to link you to her May 10 story on the Lauritzen Gardens and some of the most exquisite Elizabeth Bradley needlepoint pieces I’ve seen, they are always special but the way they have been finished they are even more gorgeous. Thank you so much Jan, for sharing your fabulous post with my readers, they can’t help but fall in love with The French Tangerine and follow you

Now, dear friends that you have been properly introduced, I hope you enjoyed getting to know some of my pillows. Have to go find that thimble and think about stitching something new, interested in a special piece…..let me know!!!!


  1. Virginia Heaven May 16, 2018 / 9:39 am


    • nenasnotes May 16, 2018 / 12:40 pm

      Thanks Virginia.

  2. Jane Miller May 16, 2018 / 11:48 pm

    I love needlepoint and was very impressed with all the pieces you have done. It’s always nice to have a project you can work on anywhere, Thanks for sharing your amazing work. You learned from the best! You sound like the perfect hostess, giving the guest your bed.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.