Stick and Poke

Between the writing and the traveling, not a lot of sewing has happened. But I have been somewhat obsessed with punchneedle (or as my daughter calls it "stick and poke," which is apparently a reference to a homemade tattoo). I first heard of punchneedle back in 2006, when I wrote all 20 quilt shop profiles for the Best of Quilt Sampler.

Time and again during interviews, shop owners told me "Punchneedle is really big!" and I nodded my head and dutifully wrote it down. But I'd never tried punchneedle myself. To be honest, I didn't really know what it was.

This past spring when Codi and I went to Quilt Market in Minneapolis, we stopped at one of my all-time favorite shops, Eagle Creek Quilt Shop in Shakopee, Minnesota. I first visited the shop when I interviewed owners Becky and Lori for Best of Quilt Sampler and I was blown away. Eagle Creek is in an old train depot and they have done a fabulous job of taking advantage of the unusual space (the train still goes by once a day). The shop is bright and the fabrics are an eclectic mix—they have lovely wools and darker colors, but loads of lighter, crisper fabrics, too. The rooms are dotted with little surprises—intricate pin cushions made by a Minnesota craftswoman, hooked rugs, wonderful quilt samples, etc. It's also the first place I found shwe-shwe, a fabric from South Africa that I've grown to love (a story for another time). And in little nooks and crannies they have punchneedle samples in frames and stitched to boxes and pillows. To be honest, many of the patterns are a bit "countrified" for my taste, but adorable nonetheless.

So while we were there in May, I mentioned to Codi that I was intrigued and she said she'd teach me. I bought the materials (realizing that here was a whole new world of obsession...gorgeous, variegated threads, many hand-dyed) and later that night in my hotel room I was punching away. (This pattern is called Soft Perch by Threads that Bind.)

This past weekend I learned at another terrific shop (Heritage Designs in Amana) that I was punching too closely, which is why I'd run out of thread. So I bought some more and I'm still finishing the flowers, edges, and putting eyes on the critters. In my overzealous punching I made the bird a bit chunky—Paul claims he thought it was a fish. But it was a soothing, mindless thing to do and I may well do it again. The only problem I can see is that you really can't watch TV while you're can only listen to TV. One false move with that hypodermic-like needle and you'd have a hole in your thigh. Stick and poke, indeed.