The Journey

I have always followed a creative voice and I never know where it will lead me. All of the art I have experienced and all the places to which I have traveled influence my work. Today I want to share a story about the journey of my three St. Nicholases.

It has been a busy travel year for Holly, Byzantine and Snow, and they are looking forward to staying home for Christmas.

Their genesis began during the long, hot summer of 2012 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and they were my constant companions when I was not practicing, rehearsing or performing for the opera. I enjoy playing second harp in the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra and that summer I was lucky to play The Pearl Fishers by Bizet and King Roger by Szymanowski.

I knew I wanted to work with three distinct palettes and various elements, although the basic silhouette of the canvas and the saints was the same. In 2013, after the canvases were designed, stitched and finished as stand-ups, they began their own journeys.

Holly led the way with a trip to Elmira, Oregon. He was so pleased to have been chosen to grace the cover of Needlepoint Now, published and edited by Elizabeth Bozievich.

This is Elizabeth’s commute to her magazine office.


Holly had a wonderful time during his photo shoot with Elizabeth and Carol and all the other wonderful women who create that publication.



Enthusiastic morning salutationsphoto







From Oregon, Holly traveled to Virginia to visit Jo Christensen as he had been chosen to be included in the latest edition of her fantastic book.

Jo and her husband were traveling to Houston for Christmas, and they were kind enough to bring Holly home in person and save him the uncertainty of UPS shipping.

Meanwhile, Snow and Byzantine had been chosen for subsequent issues of Needlepoint Now. The thought of shipping them weighed heavily upon their mother, that would be me, and in a flash I realized for the price of shipping I could fly Southwest with their fantastic free luggage policy, and deliver Snow and Byzantine in person.

It was a marvelous trip. Elizabeth and Jay were welcoming hosts and I enjoyed exploring new territory with Elizabeth. Here she is starting to set up Snow St. Nicholas for his photo shoot.
                      I was invited to join her stitching group and we had a lovely time. I took Holly and Snow home and Elizabeth offered to transport Byzantine to TNNA in January. So, the three friends were reunited in San Diego for their TNNA debut.
     They loved meeting all the people who paraded past them all day long, and showing the people at Kreinik and Rainbow Gallery how their fibers and metallics had completed their finery.
     At the conclusion of the show, as I was hurriedly packing all my hanging valentines and St. Nicholases into suitcases to return to Houston, with very little time to make my flight, a great woman named Snookie walked up to see them.
She exhibits at Woodlawn In Virginia and encouraged me to entrust them to her care.
A little history: The Needlework Exhibition at Historic Woodlawn in Alexandria, Virginia is the nation’s premiere show of contemporary needlework. The exhibit honors Eleanor “Nelly” Custis Lewis’ legacy by displaying her needlework as well as inviting the public to display theirs.
     Visitors see hundreds of needlework entries on display in every room of the historic mansion among the museum collections.
Snookie McInnis lives in Potomac, MD, runs a terrific needlepoint business called From Start to Finish, and regularly exhibits at Woodlawn.
     Back home, I managed, with Lynda’s brain for dimension and space, to pack all three saints in one big box, and off they went to Snookie. I was so happy that they arrived safely and I knew Snookie would shepherd them carefully to and from the exhibit.
      I was not able to attend the show, but my niece Lindsay and my friend Candace were able to. I believe there were about 500 pieces of needlework.
     All three won ribbons and it has been hard to ask them to take them off, they are so proud.
     Holly and Byzantine won red second place ribbons, and Snow won a white ribbon – one of two Director’s Choice ribbons.
                Snookie and me
   The saints lived with Snookie for several months. In July, The Lincoln Center Festival brought Houston Grand Opera to New York City to present the New York premiere of The Passenger, one of the most important and meaningful works I have ever been involved in.           After our week there, I visited Snookie and we boxed up the saints for travel back home.
 I am grateful to all the stitchers who have bought the St.Nicholas canvases, and I hope you have as much fun as I did bringing them to life with stitching. People call them different names at first glance… Bishops… Santa Kings… Santa Claus… I am just glad the idea for them popped into my imagination and I was able to bring them to fruition.
 Wishing joy to all of you this holiday season,

Cloisonné Angels

Good morning, stitchers!

I hope you all had a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving week with family and friends.

Thanksgiving Day is a holiday for me, but the days around it get a little busier as 35 performances of The Nutcracker for Houston Ballet begin. (I am the harpist in the orchestra.) We open the Friday after Thanksgiving and continue until almost the end of December.

The Nutcracker is a big part of the winter performing arts season in Houston and our production designed by Desmond Heeley has been seen by more than a million people since its debut in 1987. If you type in ‘Houston Ballet Nutcracker images’ online you will see still photos of this stunning visual feast.

In my last post I introduced the jewel-toned Byzantine angels. Today I bring you my second group of angels, in a Cloisonné style.

While the Byzantine angels are on a background of vibrant red, these present a palette of aqua and teal and a rich cobalt/midnight blue.

They come in three different shapes and sizes. Octagonal, rectangular, and arched. All are painted on 18 count, but could be on 16 if you prefer.

The rectangular angel below measures 4″ x 7″ on 18 count.


I was reading that the French verb cloissonner means to partition. This makes sense as the metalwork is divided into partitions or compartments, little raised cells that are then filled with enamel, glass and jewels. I am using lots of beads and Kreinik Facets to give the effect of enamel.

Below you will see my first efforts to bring this canvas to life with Silk Lamé Braid and beads. I am going to frame it and place it on a stand.

On the left is the pattern I chose for the robe. My favorite — Criss-Cross Hungarian. Filled in with beads.

Below is the brick-beading on the wings… and the Rhodes type stitch on the aqua square.





I will send more photos as I progress. If I could finish the rectangular Byzantine and Cloisonné angels by the last performance of The Nutcracker I would be happy!

Happy stitching! Joan

Byzantine Angels

Hello stitchers!

I have been thinking of designing angels for a long time. These are the Byzantine, or red angels.


They come in different shapes and sizes.

Octagon, round, square, arch and rectangle.


They are painted on 18 count, but could be on a smaller count, such as 16, if you prefer.

To give you a sense of size, the rectangular angel below is 3.5″ x 6.5″ on 18 count. On 16 count, the octagonal angel is 4″.

The smaller canvases would be wonderful Christmas ornaments.

I think the arch and rectangular canvases would be beautiful if framed and set upon a stand, or finished as stand-ups.

Below is a photo of a rectangle angel that I am stitching.  I am using lots of gold and will bead all of the little rectangles in the inner arched frame. I love the bright green feet against the intense red. The wings have an intricate pattern of Treasure Braid and beads. I am sorry the photo does not have more definition – I’ll snap a better one when I have finished.

My next post will be the Cloisonné angels, in wonderful shades of blues and golds, and whose arms are opened in a blessing.

Have a wonderful day, and a happy Thanksgiving week, Joan


Texas Boots

Texas Boots made its debut at Destination Dallas in September. As you can see in the photo, I am having fun stitching it. I am using Memory Thread and Alpaca and Rainbow Linen and Neon Rays and all kind of fibers to vary the textures.

Each boot features different aspects of life in Texas, from a horny toad to the Alamo to the yellow rose, bluebonnets, mockingbird, longhorn steer and armadillo. There is even a scorpion tail coming out of the top of the “A” boot. As a child, even here in Houston, I learned to always shake out boots and shoes that had overnighted in the garage, just in case a scorpion had spent the night there.

I had fun designing different boot patterns, resulting in feminine “T” and “A” boots and rougher work boots such as “E”.

The canvas measures approx. 20″ x 12″ on 18 count.

The border “frame” is a double brick stitch of Glazed Ginger Vineyard Silk interwoven with Silk Lame’ Braid. Just inside this frame will be barbed wire surrounding the boots.

Have a great day, your Texas stitchin’ friend, Joan



Happy Valentine’s Day!

I am wishing each of you a Happy Valentine’s Day! Last year when we trimmed our bur oak tree, I saved a limb with this project in mind.

It is too early here in Houston for our fruit trees to bloom, but they are budding out. With them in mind, I attached artificial flowers to the bur oak limb to make my valentine tree.

The photo below shows the striped heart I made to showcase the Sundance Designs opaque flower sequins.

The next photo shows a close-up of Pink Heart Fan and Bonbons,  a multi-dimensional  piece that can hold candy.

Happy stitching! Joan



Dear fellow stitchers,

I had a wonderful time at TNNA in beautiful San Diego last month. Because of my performance schedule I had never before been able to attend, and I was like a kid in a candy store.

I enjoyed meeting designers whose canvases I have enjoyed stitching and perusing new options in fibers. I especially enjoyed meeting shop owners whose clients are stitching my canvases and found out that there is a group in San Angelo stitching the St.Nicholases. I would love to go and meet them!

My mother and I had stitched a Boston Red Sox Christmas stocking (my design) for our granddaughter/niece Erin using Planet Earth fibers and I was delighted to learn that the Planet Earth owners are Red Sox fans. It was fun to show them a photo of the stocking showcasing their beautiful green, red, and white silks.

Go Sox!

Santa is at the plate.The green monster (back green wall at Fenway) shows a full count of three balls and two strikes and Santa, # 25, is pointing to the bleachers where he will hit a home run. Elves are running around the outfield like mad with their gloves up trying to anticipate him. In the lower right corner, a Boston Terrier fetches the baseball.

All of the TNNA booths are visual eye candy. Here is a photo of the women who work so diligently to create the Needlepoint Now magazine. From left to right: Ada Haydon, Carol Finsand, Elizabeth Bozievich (editor) and Vicky De Angelis. I am so happy to have my work represented in such a lovingly crafted publication.

I arrived at the convention center with my three St.Nicholas stand-ups. It is the first time they have all been displayed together since they were finished. A big thank you to Southwest Airlines for their free baggage check!

The photo’s a bit blurry, but you can see the saints and my hanging valentines above. The St. Nicholas canvases measure 9″ by 22″on 18 ct. canvas, and from left to right they are Snow, Byzantine, and Holly.

All best, and as always, happy stitching! Joan

Framing Needlepoint at Davis Hardware

Today I went to pick up Sakura. Luckily, Karry Davis Mader of Davis Hardware is a great resource for framing needlepoint here in Houston.

Davis Hardware has been going strong in The Heights since 1956 – the family-owned-and-operated business no longer sells hardware, converting years ago to a full-time art and frame shop.

Karry was busy helping other stitchers when I arrived.

Here is a close-up of the combination she selected to best enhance the flowery heart.

The stitchers below are Susan Wynn and Marsha Krezel with Karry in the middle.

I am so pleased with Sakura. It has the shadow box feel that I was hoping for. If you would like to read more about Sakura go to the 9/25/12 post. It is catalogue F3703 at

Karry & Joan

As always, happy stitching! Joan

Stitch Guide Errata

For those of you stitching Holly St.Nicholas, I’m afraid I made two errors in the Stitch Guide Materials List.

The green Soie d’alger is number 143, not 943.

You will not be able to find Kreinik Balger #8 Braid 085. I had it in my stash, but you cannot find it any longer. It is only used as one of several green threads for the greenery on the crozier. As I said in the instructions, you can just raid your stash and find 4 different green threads that look like greenery. Boucle would be great.

Happy stitching!





Silent Night, Holy Night

It is a hundred degrees in Houston these days, and I am staying cool by creating a new design for Christmas, an old-world style canvas telling a story of a long ago Christmas Eve in a small Austrian village.

It is 1818, at Midnight Mass in St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria.

For the first time, the carol we know as Silent Night (Stille Nacht) is heard, sung by its composer, Franz Gruber, playing guitar, and its lyricist Joseph Mohr, both accompanied by a choir.

Mohr, a priest, had written the words of the poem in 1816. On Christmas Eve in 1818 he traveled to visit his friend, Gruber, a musician and schoolteacher in nearby Arnsdorf and asked him to write music to accompany his poem.

Gruber wrote the melody we know so well today and added a guitar accompaniment. (The original melody is somewhat different from what we sing today).

The moment I am trying to capture is the magic of a cold snowy Christmas Eve as the choristers leave the Mass and process out of the church beneath the guiding star to return to the village. Perhaps they are humming the song that captures the stillness and holiness of that night.

I am stitching my canvas with the words in the original German, but if you prefer, the canvas will also be available in English.

Painted on 16 count canvas, it measures approx. 21 x 4.5 inches.

So far, I have only stitched the red in the letters (Petite Very Velvet) and the little choristers. I’m looking forward to stitching the houses in the village.

Stille Nacht