Picks and Pans Review: Quilting
with Erica Wilson
Wilson approaches needlepoint as a painter would a canvas. Saxon wools and Chinese silks are her pots of color, and each work is suitable for framing. Thus, a scenic cluster of roses spilling over the rooftop of a Cape Cod house is transformed into a pointillist masterpiece. Needlepoint (53 minutes) is one of a four-part series the British needle whiz-author-boutique owner filmed at and around her country house in Nantucket (see following review). It is a stylish production designed more to inspire than to instruct. After pricking viewers' appetites with samples of her own impeccable work—Wilson has studied at London's Royal School of Needlework—she uses a colossal canvas and a jumbo needle to demonstrate the two basic needlepoint stitches: basket weave (best for a smooth background) and continental. Then she shows how they can work magic on rugs, pillows and wall hangings. (A graph pattern with a rose motif comes with the tape.) Having breezed through the basics, Wilson treats viewers to a few flourishes, such as adding crewel stitches atop a needlepoint canvas to give lifelike wings to a swan floating in a sea of lavender yarn. The most practical advice on the tape shows how to block and transfer designs onto canvas by tracing on a sheet of acetate. (Don't be dopey and use a nonwaterproof marker; it will run all over the place, and Erica wouldn't approve). In Quilting (51 minutes), Wilson is so hospitable you half expect to be served tea and scones. A survey of her horde of antique quilts is embroidered with bits of lore: In Colonial days when quilts were necessities, not collectibles, young girls learned the craft at their mother's knee and small children were paid a penny to thread the needles. And woe to the Colonial lass who sought a mate without having first completed 13 quilts, she says, quoting from an adage, "A maid who is quiltless at 21, never shall meet her bridal son." There is more show than tell on this video, but Wilson does discuss the fundamentals of choosing harmonious colors, making a template, cutting, laying and basting your appliqués, rounding perfect edges, piecing patchworks by hand, and scrap quilting. Especially intriguing are segments on trapunto (the Italian-inspired form of padded quilting) and on stenciling a pillow, which Wilson then covers with a scrim of organdy, rendering a soft, muted cushion that makes you want to curl up and take a nap. (Craft Collectors, $29.95 each; 212/832-7290)
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