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When Pat Walny joined the Farmington Hills Embroiders' Guild, one of eight local chapters of the Embroiders' Guild of America (EGA), she was in for a bit of a surprise.

"I didn't realize American women were doing this type of work," said the Farmington Hills resident. "I was a beginner about 13 years ago when I joined. I knew only the basics -- the running stitch, lazy daisy and the French knot." But she soon discovered there was a world of stitches to learn. 

"It's about being interested in learning," she continued. "I said I wanted to learn all the stitches. I did a compilation of 100 stitches that I did in thread. The stitches all have a name. But, then I ordered a book with 400 stitches listed with diagrams. I then gave up trying to do all the stitches."

Her chapter of EGA was founded in 1979. "They started as part of another group because they wanted to form a group that could meet in the daytime. We still have one founding member in the chapter," said Walny.

Members come from different cities, namely Farmington Hills, Troy, Lake Orion, Farmington, Ann Arbor, West Bloomfield, Lansing, Bloomfield Hills, Northville, Harrison Township and Plymouth.

There are currently 40 members, including two men who are "active stitchers." Walny said, "(We) hold meetings the first Wednesday of every month, except May, when we go on a field trip, usually to a couple of stitch-related shops and then lunch, and December when we treat ourselves to a holiday luncheon. Members also gather at the Farmington Hills Costick Activity Center every Friday, and at the Twelve Oaks Mall the second Saturday of the month to sit 'n stitch, followed by lunch."

Monthly meetings usually consist of a social half hour, and an educational program, offering new techniques and more knowledge about the "stitched arts."

Membership fee is $54 a year, which includes a quarterly publication from the national organization called "Needle Arts," group and individual correspondence courses, teacher certification programs, and master craftsperson programs. 

As embroiderers, their needlework projects are inclusive of anything embellished using a threaded needle -- very unlike needlework techniques used with knitting and crocheting.

In terms of learning embroidery, Walny said, "Some of it is easy, and some is difficult. There's a wide range of types of stitches. Cross-stitch is the most popular, and that's what most people are familiar with."

I also inquired about the expense involved with embroidery. Walny said, "It varies. It can be expensive when people get into what they call painted canvas, but most of our members don't do that. It (also) varies from buying a skein of floss at JoAnn's (Fabric and Craft Stores) to expensive specialty threads. There's a whole range of specialty threads and fabrics." 

And, what do long-time embroiderers do with all those beautifully stitched ornamental works of art once they're finished? Walny, who has 23 framed embroidery pictures that hang throughout her home, said, "We keep most of them, but also they're given as gifts."

And, those that aren't kept or gifted sometimes end up at the guild's biennial Needlework Silent Auction/Garage Sale of Needlework Items. The next one is scheduled for 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 6 at Faith Covenant Church, 35415 West 14 Mile in Farmington Hills. Along with members' stitched pieces, created with various techniques (crewel, hardanger and quilting), items for sale will include stitch-related supplies -- kits, fabric, threads, canvases, books, magazines, and more. Admission and refreshments are free.

I was also curious as to where members shop for supplies. Walny said, "At different stitchery shops all over the state, and online. It's really through word of mouth. Our guild goes on a field trip once a year in May called "A Mystery Trip." People don't know where they're going until that day! (Sounds like tons of fun!) We visit two stitch-related shops. It might be a button shop or beading shop." 

Anyone interested in learning to embroider, or add to their knowledge about the thread art, is welcome to join the guild. "We don't have formal teaching for beginners, but we can help with a pattern problem. A lot (of learning) is information they get and try on their own. They pick it up by the programs that are offered," explained Walny.

Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or Facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact the Farmington Hills Embroidery Guild at (248) 474-6771. Email: weidendorf@sbcglobal.net. 

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