Address to Seminar 2017, St. John’s, Newfoundland - May 2017
Helen McCrindle: Project 150 Team Leader
In May of 2014 – 3 years ago, Seminar was held in Ottawa. Some members took a tour of Rideau Hall,
home of the Governor-General of Canada. They were disappointed to discover that there was no textile
art in the collection of Rideau Hall. The people on the bus tour had an idea to produce an embroidered
piece of art to celebrate Canada’s upcoming sesquicentennial.
I was approached that summer by the then president, Beryl Burnett, to ask if I would become the team
leader. I thought about it for a few days and took stock of the possible local textile artists that I could
call on to be part of my team. I invited three people to be committed to the project. Catherine Nicholls,
Bonnie Adie and Pat Ross met with me to brainstorm what would be included on our tribute to Canada.
These meetings were held frequently to nail down what we wanted and finally Catherine Nicholls, a textile
artist from North Vancouver agreed to be the designer. She spent 3 long months on the design, which is
divided into 2 panels because the woodwork on the walls in Rideau Hall is divided into 2-3 foot strips.
Once the design was complete in black and white, Catherine started the colouring of the images. Meanwhile
it was decided to use sturdy linen twill for the fabric as it is strong enough to receive all the different threads.
We decided on a mixture of DMC cotton floss for detail and Appleton Crewel wool.
There were many meetings with Catherine to determine the exact colours of both threads. In the end there
were 133 different colours of DMC cotton thread. DMC headquarters in the US agreed to donate 2 skeins
of each thread. I supplied the Appleton wool threads of which there were 118 different colours. Metallic
threads were also gathered for special effects.
We transferred the design to the cloth using Saral transfer paper. It is not permanent so we had to go over
every line with archival pens to make the images permanent.
Once the design was on the fabric, we turned our attention to dividing up the design for embroidery. We
divided each panel into a 6” square grid – 24 squares on each panel. We selected all the threads needed
for each 6” square and stored the threads in small plastic bags.
All the while we were sampling many of the elements to see what the effects would be. Extensive directions
were written for each of the squares.
Basic rules were established. No knots, 2 strands of cotton thread unless specified otherwise. One strand of
crewel wool. Most important: Follow the coloured images.
The Western panel was started in Winnipeg and the Eastern panel in Truro, Nova Scotia. The panels were sent
with their accompanying frames to the many guilds in the east and west and then at the end of 2015 the
panels switched from east to west and west to east.
The panels have been worked on at festivals, like Folklorama in Winnipeg and in needlework store windows
and even in grocery stores.
Our goal was to have the panels completed by December 2016, but that did not happen, so as of February
of this year the panels have been in the Vancouver area and are currently in my studio where members of the
Vancouver Guild and the North Shore Needle Arts have been working on them.
Thousands of hours have been spent designing and writing directions and actually embroidering the designs.
At each stop the log books have been signed by our members with their comments.
Who knew that the mighty maple tree provided the wood for the early Lacrosse sticks? (Find it on the Eastern
Who can identify all of the provincial and territorial birds that are perched on the maple tree’s branches?
Who knew that the helicopters or seed pods of the maple tree are called ‘samaras’?
Did you discover that there are three golden ribbons that twist through both panels, representing the Trans
Canada Highway, the Trans Canada Railway and the Trans Canada Trail?
Notice that there are bird and animal tracks that appear on the panels – moose tracks, Canada goose tracks,
great blue heron tracks and polar bear tracks.
Did you know that the wispy bits at the tip of the wheat plant are called ‘awns’?
I have been struck by some of the comments in the log books, left by stitchers who have worked on the panels:
“We have enjoyed our time together, stitching on Project 150. It has brought our guild closer together. We are
all looking forward to the unveil and seeing it hang in Ottawa.”
“Congratulations to our designer – what an epic way to represent Canada!”
“What a privilege to stitch on such a national project. It brings us all together.”
This comment was written on Remembrance Day. “It was poignant working on this today – what it means to be
Canada and to have the freedoms with our natural resources and our lives. Thank you for this opportunity.”
“Everyone who came to my house to stitch was apprehensive at first, but then enjoyed the process and were
glad they had participated.”
“From coast to coast – people sharing a passion for the threaded needle!”
All the way along I have been in contact with the National Capital Commission who oversees the acquisitions of
objects for the various venues in Ottawa. They wish to wait until the project is complete with cleaning, blocking,
mounting, and photographing done until they will make a decision on the project. As of this time at Seminar in
St. John’s, I estimate another 200 to 300 hours of embroidery left to complete the project.
I want to thank all members, young and not so young, who have spent some time translating the vision of the
artist, Catherine Nicholls, into a Canadian tapestry of celebration!
Happy Birthday, Canada!
The Embroiderers’ Association of Canada has a huge project underway (in case you have had your head buried under a pile of embroidery hoops!)
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation, EAC has undertaken a big embroidery project in the form of two panels, each 61 x 92 centimetres (2 x 3 feet). They represent what it is to be Canada and the design is focused in the centre on a mighty maple tree. From the Northern Lights in the north to the forests, mountains, streams and lakes, from the abundance of wild provincial birds, to mining, farming, fishing — all the many facets of Canada are featured on these two fine linen canvases. One is based in the West and the other is based in the East of Canada.
The plan is to present the finished panels to the National Capital Commission in Ottawa, as a gift to the country of Canada in 2017.
Many members have stitched motifs on these panels to date, but there are many more opportunities for more members and guilds to add their flair. Our goal is to have all embroidery finished by December 2016.
There is still time to book a segment of time for your area to have the panels in your town or city. All the directions and materials are provided! EAC pays for transportation from one area to the next.
National members are welcome to stitch with their closest guild. Youth members are also encouraged to stitch on it.
Interested groups should have the panels set up in a place where members can book in for a morning, afternoon or evening of congenial stitching. It could be in someone’s home!
A Project Update from Helen
One year ago my Vancouver team was putting together the many packages of threads and wools that would be needed to embroider the two panels of the project that will celebrate Canada’s entry into Confederation in 1867. Last May the Committee launched the project in Calgary at Seminar 2015 and ever since then, the two panels, one in the East and one in the West, have been circulating around the many guilds of our organization.
Hundreds of hours were spent designing, colouring, transferring the design and writing directions for the creation of this project.
The panels have gone through four seasons of the year. The summer was spent in Vancouver looking out over floral gardens, in the Maritimes looking out over seascapes. Fall brought stitchers on Vancouver Island and Eastern stitchers in Ontario. Winter came with a vengeance to the embroiderers in Ottawa and Quebec, and western stitchers in Alberta and Manitoba. Through it all the panels have travelled in all weather conditions! The spring now entices the Fraser Valley embroiderers and Regina and Edmonton to put in their embroidery stitches in the West, and Montreal and St. John’s in the East.
Now, we look forward to Seminar 2016 in Toronto at Humber College, where the two embroidered panels will meet for the first time. Seminar participants will be able to spend time stitching on them. After Seminar the Eastern Panel will go West and the Western Panel will travel to the East of Canada.
I want to thank all members, young and not so young, who have spent some time translating the vision of the artist, Catherine Nicholls, into a tapestry of what it means to be Canada into stitch. May we continue throughout 2016 to complete the work. We hope to present the finished panels to the Government of Canada after our Seminar in 2017 in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
I look forward to the finished embroidery!
Project 150 Team Leader
West Panel: Launched in May 2015 at Seminar in Calgary
- Chatham-Kent, ON (Tulip Tree Needlearts): August 2016
- Prince Edward Island: September 2016
- St John's, NF (St John's Guild of Embroiderers): October 2016
- Ottawa, ON (Ottawa Valley Guild of Stitchery): November 2016
- Toronto, ON (Toronto Guild of Stitchery): December 2016
East Panel: Launched in May 2015 in Truro, NS
- Vancouver Island (Victoria, Nanaimo, Qualicum): July-August 2016
- Winnipeg, MB (Winnipeg Embroiderers' Guild): September 6-26, 2016
Eastern Panel Stitchers
Simcoe County Embroidery Stitchers
Kim Beamish, Phyllis Borgdorff, Colleen Clark, Colleen Darling, Dorothy de Silguy, Barbara Dietrich, Kathy Farr, Sandra Jupp, and Sharon Pollack participated in stitching the panel.
The Moncton Stitchers
Front row, left to right:
- Linda Rogers
- Gisele Nowlan
- Odette Gaudet
Back row, left to right:
- Noölla Cormier
- Monique LeBlanc
- Lynne Eagles
- Bonnie Bingham
- Mildred Dunklee
- Patricia LeBlanc
- Louise Jardine
- Sharon Hanna
- Joan Watt