Lea Wait – National Crafting Month

Inspirational Women of Deerfield

In my Mainely Needlepoint mystery series my protagonist, Angie Curtis, runs a business in which a group of needlepointers (men and women) in a small Maine harbor town do custom needlepoint for gift shops, decorators, and individual customers, and do their best to identify and restore antique needlepoint.

A unique concept? Perhaps today. But from 1896 until 1926 women in Deerfield, Massachusetts, also banded together under the leadership of Margaret Whiting and Ellen Miller, to revive needlecraft skills lost since colonial days, and literally created a cottage industry.

Studying patterns from the past, ordering linen thread from Scotland and fabric woven by students at Berea College in Kentucky, they trained women (most years twenty to thirty women were in the group,) checked each piece assigned and completed to ensure high quality, and sold the resulting needlework (at first only in three or four shades of blue on white linen) at an annual exhibition and sale. Tablecloths, napkins, doilies, place-mats were decorated with simple, graceful, subjects from nature: strawberries, thistle, clovers, birds, bees, and berries.

People ordered work from the Deerfield Society of Blue and White Needlework in advance, happy to pay the high prices they charged. Today their work is in textile and regional museums. If you find a piece of embroidery from the early twentieth century, look for a “D” inside a circular wheel, and, if you find it, know you have a sample of work by the industrious women of Deerfield.

Christmas in Haven Harbor, Maine, means family, trouble, and murder . . .

This Yuletide season, there’s no time for Angie Curtis and Patrick West to linger under the mistletoe. Patrick’s being needled by his mother—movie star Skye West—to set the stage for a perfect white Christmas as she brings her costar, screenwriters, and director home for the holidays. With his mother’s long list of wishes, Patrick’s becoming unraveled. To help, the Mainely Needlepointers offer to decorate Skye’s Victorian mansion and create needlepoint pillows as gifts for the guests.

But not long after the celebrity celebrants invade Haven Harbor, an unscripted tragedy occurs. Then some questionable Christmas cookies make Patrick sick. Before Santa arrives at the town pier on a lobster boat, Angie and the Needlepointers need to trim down the naughty list, catch a cold-hearted killer, and wrap up the case . . .