Updated May 18, 2021.
Liz, who was an extraordinary designer, passed away late last year. I loved her designs and stitched many of them. I have many others left to stitch. It’s in her memory that I am running this profile of her from 2013.
Liz Morrow has been one of my favorite designers since I started to read both Needlepoint News and NeedlePointers in the early ’80s. My notebooks of projects from magazines are filled with her projects. So I was delighted when she started to blog, and even happier when she opened the Lizart shop, and bought two charts right away. We talked this week about needlepoint and Bargello.
Please note: Liz’s site, link above, is open under Rinda’s management, with a redesigned site. Please check it out.
Here’s her interview, along with a selection of her Bargello pieces. To see a larger version of any piece, click on it. You can see lots more by visiting Liz’s site. Information about the designs follows the interview.
Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview. During the process, I have thought a lot about needlepoint, past & present. What a revelation! I hope the readers will find my discoveries as interesting as I did!
I’ve loved your style since you first started designing, how would you say it has changed?
When I first started designing, back in the early ’70s (boy, that dates me, doesn’t it?), I was mostly adapting from other art forms. For example, I would adapt a design from a Christmas card, an advertisement, a picture in a book. I did a whole book of designs (Classic Posters for Needlepoint, no longer in print) adapted from the turn of the century posters. Then, of course, I discovered Bargello, which remains my first love today.
Now I think my designing is mostly Bargello. Over the years, I “discovered” and “invented” quite a few Bargello techniques that are unusual, maybe even unique. I still love to play with Bargello. I guess that is how my style has changed; I concentrate a lot on Bargello. I still do needlepoint designs as well, and I still do adaptations. But I think the needlepoint designs I do now tend to be mostly geometrics & abstracts, and the adaptations I do now are often adapted to the point of becoming original designs.
You do some of the most inventive things with Bargello, they always inspire me. How do you come up with them?
Somewhere along the way, I discovered Bargello. Some of the first books I found on that subject were by Dorothy Kaestner and those inspired me greatly. Then I took a class in the early ’80s from a gentleman by the name of Don Mettler. His innovative techniques really inspired me and still do, although I don’t think Don is teaching anymore. Today I think the most inspiring Bargello designer is Joyce Petschek.
How do I come up with inventive things in Bargello? I don’t know if I can answer that! Usually ideas come to me as I am stitching. So one thing kind of leads to another. Sometimes I’ll see a picture and think, “Oh, that would make a wonderful Bargello.” And well, I was a bookkeeper/accountant for more years than I want to count and you just can’t take that out of me! Math is math, whether it is needlepoint or accounting!
You have just opened a website with some of your designs for sale, what kinds of additional things can we expect and will you be making some of your older pieces available there?
I am just thrilled with the initial success of my website, www.lizartneedlepoint.com. I plan to offer a lot of Bargello designs, probably more Bargello than needlepoint. Many of the designs will be from my “stash,” where there is a wealth of material. I have tons of designs that have never been published. Some will need to be updated with today’s materials, and almost all of them have to be put into the computer to make nice charts (I used to do all that by hand!). Plus, many of them will have to be stitched, either because I no longer have the stitched piece or because it was never stitched in the first place. I will also be resurrecting some of the designs that have been published in needlework magazines in the past. I am planning to offer at least one, hopefully two, new patterns every month.
You split your time between Reno and Las Vegas, what are the benefits and challenges of regularly stitching in two places?
Oh boy! I’m afraid it is mostly challenges! The benefits are having a terrific group of stitching friends in both places and having access to two wonderful needlework shops, Stitch in Time in Reno and Stitcher’s Paradise in Las Vegas.
The challenges are many. You end up with double stuff, so you don’t have to haul as much back & forth. What you need is always at the other house! The project that you want to work on today — oops, it’s in the other house! This year I have carried much of my thread & canvas stash with me. It is just too frustrating when you “know” it is in the other house. The hardest thing is that I have an extensive library in Reno and I just can’t take it back & forth. So I have duplicates of the 5-6 books I use the most.
What challenges do you see for needlepointers in the future and how might we meet them?
Well, the first challenge is to recover from this horrendous economic disaster! It is a huge challenge for all stitchers to find the funds to acquire the patterns and supplies they need/want. The cost of materials is so high now. I am trying to find lower-cost threads to use for Bargello, for instance, but it isn’t easy. Needlepoint is NOT an inexpensive art/hobby! Of course, since I design counted work, I am naturally an advocate of counted designs, but you have to admit they are much less expensive to do.
Second, we must try to capture the attention and imagination of more young people, and I think the various guilds can do a lot. I know it is hard to raise a family and make a living and keep up with an art or hobby, but some manage, so it must not be that hard. Having a creative outlet is very important to our mental health. We don’t want these arts to die off with us oldsters! It isn’t just getting children interested; we must attract people of all ages. I think the Cyber-groups will be of use for this. Sometimes I think we just sit in our comfy chairs and stitch away and aren’t very “public” about it. Even going to the frame shop helps to publicize what we do!
Third, we need more designs that appeal to a wider range of stitchers. I think (hope) that some of my Bargello designs do that. Maybe we need some new designers who are younger people with a fresh outlook. Or maybe the designs are there, but the stores don’t carry them. You go into many needlework shops and see the same old designs or style of design that was there 40 years ago! Of course, there are a lot of wonderful designs available, don’t get me wrong, but there are still a lot of the same-ol’, same-ol’. Designers get in a rut just like anybody else. We designers need to stretch too and not always play it safe!
Again, thanks Janet, for the chance to air my views!
About the Designs
Barbara’s Ravine, which was on the cover of Needlepoint Now. It was inspired by a photo from Liz’s sister-in-law of a ravine near her home in full wildflower bloom. I love the way it’s such a striking interpretation of the landscape.
Mad Miters is a technique Liz developed. I love how she has mixed up so many shapes and made a monochromatic color scheme very exciting.
Beatle’s Songbook uses a technique Liz developed to convert music to Bargello. I am dying to learn how to do this as I want to make some for the people in my family.
The other pictures show off innovative Bargello techniques Liz has developed.
About Janet M Perry
Janet Perry is the Internet's leading authority on needlepoint. She designs, teaches and writes, getting raves from her fans for her innovative techniques, extensive knowledge and generous teaching style. A leading writer of stitch guides, she blogs here and lives on an island in the northeast corner of the SF Bay with her family
Carol LaBranche says
Thank you for this interview. i knew Liz was sick, but didn’t know she had passed away. I was the editor of Needlepoint News and published her wonderful designs. And yes, she hand drew them, until the computer came along and she became a whiz at that too. She and her husband were also competitive ball room dancers! She was a funny, smart, talented lady who took no prisoners but was incredibly generous.
Janet M Perry says
Pretty much every day I look at a lovely bunch of flowers that liz charted & that i stitched from your magazine.
Thank you so much, it was a lifeline for me when I was a young needlepointer.