I know exactly when I became a stitcher. It was June 1987, and I had driven by the Needle’s Excellency in Evanston, Illinois every day for 7 years. The shop drew me in, finally, with the colorful variety of needlepoint canvases on the walls and classes amenable to my schedule. I started by stitching a sampler and jumped in whole-heartedly after that. I’ve lost track of how many canvases I have finished and wish now I had kept an inventory.
Credit for my enthusiasm goes to the shop’s owners, Amrita and Edward Goldberg. Amrita combines her artist’s background and interest in fiber arts into a business that has thrived with great taste and personal attention. What sets the Needle’s Excellency apart is that Amrita creates individual stitch guides, section by section, piece by piece, for all her customers who attend workshops. Thus, even those who are working on the same painted canvas will end up with unique pieces, differing in thread types and stitch patterns. Most of us are seriously devoted to our projects and our individual stitching journeys. As we often repeat: Needlepoint is cheaper than therapy.
I first started taking classes from Amrita in the mid-1970’s and I was so thrilled after the first class, that I decided to take them all, even if I couldn’t complete the projects immediately, because I knew that I wanted to eventually return to the home of my birth; the Pacific Northwest.
I subsequently completed most of the projects while enjoying the memories I had, learning from the most talented and skilled, needle artist I have ever met, i.e. Amrita Goldberg. The time I spent in her shop under her instruction is a highlight of my life, and I am most grateful for her friendship, albeit too short lived, and for the skills she taught me that I have used and enjoyed for years after I moved.
I am now at the end of my life, and I still remember with great fondness, her shop, her skill, and her immense talent that she so generously shared with all of us. Thank you, Amrita …and my God continue to bless you always.
This is by far the finest needlepoint store in the entire country. I’ve visited other needlepoint stores, both many other states, Illinois included, and The Needles Excellency is head and shoulders above all the others. This is due completely because Amrita Goldberg, artist extraordinaire teaches classes, sells canvases and fibers and anything a needle-pointer would ever need.
Maybe it was a coincidence, but then again, maybe it was an intentional act of marketing genius. The storefront was eye-catching; warm light that cast an ethereal glow through slightly fogged panes of glass and floor to ceiling wall-mounted canvases that created a remarkable display of design and color. The sign said, “The Needle’s Excellency.”
For months I’d been wanting to stop in and have a closer look. The day I finally made it inside the shop, I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store.
It was a circle of intensely occupied needlewomen, all engaged in the craft of fiber art and, upon closer inspection, each individual piece proved more exquisite than the next.
I purchased a small needlepoint kit that came with prepackaged fibers. After two more kits I selected a larger project and signed up for classes.
The other women attending classes, some for over 20 years, had formed connections over time. There was a broad background mix, but a substantial percentage of women were working on canvases with judaic themes: challah covers, t’filin bags, decorative atarah neckbands for the tallit, Israeli landscapes.
The store’s proprietress, Amrita Goldberg, is a gifted teacher, a talented master crafter, an artist extraordinaire. As she moves round-robin among the circle of women in attendance, she teaches complex stitchery, lends advice on the use of fiber, dispenses praise, gently directs or offers corrections. I’ve come to view her as an art therapist, a shaman of sorts, a healer. I realized this was a shared perception when one woman jokingly remarked, “Needlepoint is an organic form of relaxation and I have something beautiful to show for it!