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Full-Color Bicentennial Needlepoint Designs
Author: Carol Belanger Grafton
Discovered at: Thrift Town in the Mission
The Cover Promises: That George Washington heartened his troops by donning enormous waxed lips.Also, scan down a bit to see the pink mush of his right hand, the Spam lump of his left, and, uh -- I guess it's good and patriotic to salute the father of this country's impressive bulge, right? It's that kind of attention to detail that make this forgotten pattern book of history-of-America needlepoints the Cadillac of its genre. Any issue of Annie's Pattern Club could teach a crafter how to whip up the old stars and stripes. But only Carol Belanger Grafton would encourage her readers that their medium is ideal for capturing historical moments like the death of Nathan Hale. Expert needlepointers should be able to capture Hale's heart and courage but know not even to attempt his nose. Of course, Grafton includes some more workaday patterns, such as this one, which combines a commemoration of the two hundredth year of America with the screen that you get when you beat a NES game. This one celebrates the motto of New York but also makes a stern judgement of that state's hot summer weather: The sun is vomiting, people. And there, on the left -- isn't that the well-known sandwich aficionado, Doo-wrangler, and 'fraidy-cat mystery solver Shaggy? Here's Conehead George Washington showing off his electric dickie. Note his long, thin, straight mouth. It's ironic that the president on the bill most often rejected by vending machines was born with a coinslot. If we move in closer, we can pick up a fashion tip or two from our first president. For example, here's how to be sure your eyes stand out: One layer of ash, one layer of scalp burn, and then one dab more ash, and you're guaranteed to make an impression. Despite the shortcomings of needlepoint's yarn-on-the-points-of-a-grid form, Grafton insists on bold, intricate, truth-telling patterns that deny the horrors of war. Here is a continental soldier lying legless in his own blood. Grafton's heart -- like that of most Americans in 1976 -- was deeply stirred by heroism and sacrifice, and she seemed to love above all else to capture real-life moments of both. Her interpretation of the famous ride of Paul Revere emphasized a part of the story others skip over: the fact that his midnight ride to warn sleeping Bostonians about the approach of British soldiers actually took place at noon. Also, if you look closely, you can see that "Paul Revere" was actually the first secret identity of Plastic Man. It's hard to imagine that many of her readers committed the requisite time and emotional energy to capturing that moment at this high level of artistry. Instead, it's likely that they stayed with the most common of all needlepoint projects: a couple lines of dot-matrix-looking text. "I only regret ..." said Nathan Hale, just before the hanging kind of depicted above. Anyone who ever bought this book, was moved by that sentiment, studied this pattern, worked out its grid system, and actually needlepointed the words almost certainly thought something simpler some years later when looking -- really looking -- at their work: "I only regret I didn't learn cross-stitch instead." -- Hey, you could do worse than following @studiesincrap or @ExhibitionistSF on the Twitter thing.