I had no idea that Erica Wilson, mother of the 1970's needlework revival, had passed away on December 13th, 2011. Does the CBC (where I seem to get all my information these days) have no sense of priority? What the hell were their journalists doing reporting on Stephen Harper's latest abuse of power? Anna Maria Tremonti totally missed the chance to talk about the millions of people Erica inspired to take up needlework and knitting. Jian Ghomeshi could have actually started a program with one of his pseudo-hipster essays on how crewel embroidery made our cultural landscape richer and more inclusive.
But no. I (and apparently the entire Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) totally missed the news. Several years ago, I wrote a bit about Erica when I made one of her Christmas bird ornament kits. Since then, I have scooped up her books whenever I come across them at the thrift store. We have much to thank her for: clear instruction, vivid, innovative design, and a wide ranging enthusiasm for the textile arts. Her classic, lady-like style might even be somewhat responsible for the backlash trend of "Not Your Mother's Embroidery"-type work we see today.
I have never seen her TV show, but I love the NY Times comparison of her to Julia Child. I imagine this tall, blonde woman with a Scottish accent, enthusiastic plying her needle and thread, miraculously pulling finished work from the hoop just minutes after beginning a piece. She made it seem effortless, and, like Julia, changed the domestic aspirations of a generation of women (and a few men.)
Do you have memories of Erica Wilson? Did you ever make one of her kits or learn from one of her books? Please share your stories.