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Stitching together America's story

Members of the Stevens County Historical Society and Museum display some of the embroidery and fabric art pieces that will be on display during the Embroiderers Guild of America' 19th National Exhibit at the museum beginning Jan. 24. The exhibit will be at the museum through April 6, and it is the only EGA national stop in the Upper Midwest. The exhibit also features the first hanging of the EGA's National Tapestry, "America the Beautiful," outside the EGA's Louisville, Ky., headquarters. From left are R...1 / 6
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By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

A visit to England planted the seeds of an ambitious undertaking in the minds of two of the nation's top embroiderers.

Judy Jeroy and Carol Dam, of the Embroiderers Guild of America, saw in England many magnificent tapestries that spoke to the dedication of stitchers and the pride they had in their homeland.

That visit in the early 1990s got Jeroy and Dam thinking about creating a tapestry that captures the beauty of America's people and places it in a way that showcases the talent of its embroiderers.

The finished work, "America the Beautiful," will be part of the EGA's 19th National Exhibit, "Through the Needle's Eye," a three-month exhibit that opens this weekend at the Stevens County Historical Museum in Morris.

The national exhibit begins with an opening weekend Jan. 24-25 and continues to April 6. The exhibit will feature almost 70 pieces, judged in a juried competition, by the top fiber and textile artists in the nation, as well as 42 pieces by regional artists in an exhibit titled "Fantastic Fiber."

In addition to the exhibit, the museum, in collaboration with the Prairie Renaissance Cultural Alliance, has scheduled 12 days of classes, expert seminars, technique talks, guided tours and "stitchin' days" when embroiderers can bring in materials and work on their projects at the museum.

The exhibit commences with a High Tea at the museum on Jan. 24, and a seminar and class with noted fiber artist Barbara McPhee on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25.

The Morris exhibit marks the first time the national tapestry will be displayed outside of the EGA's national headquarters in Louisville, Ky., said museum executive director Randee Hokanson.

The EGA board approved the project in 2002. "America the Beautiful" consists of five panels, measuring two feet wide by four feet high, that have been designed to represent five regions of the U.S.

Dam was the project coordinator, and Jeroy designed the panels. Jeroy then painted the canvases and gave them to Dam in 2003. The EGA board viewed the full-scale rendering and gave the project the green light.

Each panel was coordinated by an EGA member in the region depicted, and hundreds of artists worked on the piece. Nature is the overriding theme, with physical features of the region, plants, animals, fish and birds displayed prominently throughout each panel. Phrases from the song, "America the Beautiful," and embroidered in script on each panel.

Much of the work is stitched directly on the canvas while other features were created separately and then stitched to the canvas, creating a three-dimensional work.

"If you sit and look at it, you see something else every time," Hokanson said. "The people who don't know stitches will be impressed by it, and those who do know stitches will be wowed by this."

The pieces in the EGA's national exhibit are equally impressive. The EGA exhibit was displayed in Morris in 2006 and was viewed by thousands of visitors. The museum is the national exhibit's only stop in Minnesota or surrounding states, Hokanson said.

EGA's 19th National Exhibit, Jan. 24-April 6, 2009, Morris

Register for all classes at the museum by calling (320) 589-1719, email or come by the museum at 116 W 6th Street in Morris.

Jan. 24 -- Opening weekend, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

High Tea -- afternoon

11 a.m. -- Barbara McPhee, The Three Historical Tapestries

Jan. 25

Afternoon class -- Barbara McPhee, Japanese Kogin stitching

Jan. 31

Guided Tour Day -- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Feb. 3

Tuesday Night Knitters Exhibit -- "Close Knit," opens at PRCA (Hours are Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Feb. 5

Jess Larson, UMM studio art professor, seminar at 4:30 p.m., at UMM HFA 6 -- "Look and Learn Little Girl, New Adventures in Embroidery"

Feb. 7

Exhibit hall open -- 10 a.m. to noon

Stitchin Day - bring your own project and work on together

Tuesday Night Knitters Reception 1-4pm at the PRCA

Feb. 14

11 a.m. -- Sarah Annexstad on knitting: "Your Grandmother Didn't Have It All Wrong! (The Yarn Just Got a Whole Lot Better!)"

Feb. 21

Guided Tour Day -- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Feb. 28

Exhibit hall open -- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

11 a.m. -- Kathy Lyndsley: "Lifetime of a Needleworker"

March 7

Exhibit hall open -- 10 a.m. to noon

Stitchin Day - bring your own project to work on.

March 14

Exhibit hall open -- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

11 a.m. -- Jess Larson: "Adventures in Wonderland -- Where Modern Art Meets Hearth and Home."

March 21

Guided Tour Day -- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

March 28

Exhibit Hall Open -- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Marie O'Reilly: "Felting with Fibers Vest Project"

April 4

Exhibit hall open -- 10 a.m. to noon

Stitchin Day - bring your own project to work on.

April 6

Last day of exhibit