YAKIMA, Wash. — Other than the unusually brisk temperatures on May 19, 2007, Lee Ann and John Estep enjoyed a memorable visit to Bickleton.
The Yakima couple saw bluebirds and picnicked with John’s mother and two of his sisters. They visited the Bickleton Carousel Museum and took dozens of photos, among them shots of a lonely barn in picturesque decay on a road south of town.
“We had a great time,” John said.
Because it was such a good memory, Lee Ann created an original needlepoint piece from a photo of the barn and a massive dead tree nearby.
Her recreation of that photo with needle and thread earned Lee Ann yet another national honor for her art. She received first place from the American Needlepoint Guild for “Bickleton 2007.”
“It’s always a surprise. I never expect it,” she said of awards for her original designs, which began with an honorable mention in 2009 and include three other first-place awards, one second-place honor and one third-place ribbon.
Lee Ann, who grew up in Tieton, began learning embroidery at age 3 from her great-grandmother, Frances Britten. She also learned how to quilt, knit and crochet, but needlepoint is her true passion.
She wears special needlework glasses as she stitches. She also has employed a hands-free magnifying glass and a magnifying visor to boost the detail even more.
While Lee Ann has rendered other photos in needlepoint, her latest award-winning creation is her first featuring a barn. She started it soon after their trip.
“I stitched the sky and the barn and I wasn’t liking what I was seeing,” Lee Ann said. “So I put it away.”
As years passed, Lee Ann took more needlepoint classes. She brought her barn piece back out in the fall of 2016, finishing it that November.
“One of the things that was a problem to begin with was it was just flat; I needed to build dimension to it. I played with the stitch size,” adding more colors and threads of varying textures, Lee Ann said of the 11-by-8-inch piece.
“The old tree — I love that tree. I used two different kinds of thread; the trunk is cotton overdyed thread,” she said.
Adding a barbed-wire fence in front of the barn by twisting together pewter and copper metallic threads, Lee Ann saw that laying it on the piece didn’t get the effect she wanted.
“One thing that I discovered when I was going to frame it … when I tried to stitch and laid (the fence) on the canvas, it became flat,” she said. “I realized that the only way I could do it was lifting the fence forward of the picture.”
And that’s when Heidi Butz of Heidi’s Place Custom Picture Framing in Bothell fashioned a solution.
Butz is a needlework specialist, using stainless steel pins to hand-stretch pieces around foamcore. She then painstakingly laces pieces to the foamcore using two needles simultaneously.
“I asked and she said, ‘I’ve never done anything like that before,'” Lee Ann said. Using a deep frame, Butz attached a border to the front of the frame and strung the “fence” across from one edge of the border to the other, making the piece dimensional.
Lee Ann’s latest project involves needlepoint pieces from four small drawings showing the four seasons. She usually has several projects underway at once, working on them as time allows.
“When I’m stitching, I might work all day on something. It just depends,” she said. “I have lots of things in the pipeline. It’s very interesting because they start off slowly.”
Once that’s done, she plans to create more geometric pieces.
“They require very exacting stitching,” she noted.
Information from: Yakima Herald-Republic, http://www.yakimaherald.com