Charles Town artist’s needlework on display at library
Some artists work with paintbrushes, others through words, and still others via instruments, but Linda Briganti’s creativity comes out through needle and thread.
Now the 77-year-old Charles Town resident is enjoying her first show, a sampling of her life’s work that’s on display downtown at the Charles Town Library through July 22.
The exhibition includes framed pieces, pillows, three-dimensional objects, ornaments and Christmas stockings. An artist’s reception is set for 2 p.m. June 28 at the library at 200 E. Washington St. in Charles Town.
Briganti’s work also is on display in the wider world. Two pieces may be seen at Sulgrave Manor in England, the ancestral home of the Washington family. A kneeler she stitched is in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and she also helped with two small Christmas stockings for one of Barbara Bush’s White House trees.
Although a master at the craft now, Briganti didn’t begin stitching until age 35 when she spied a kit of graphic butterflies at a friend’s house and was so drawn to it, she tracked one down and taught herself to needlepoint. She made that piece from 1972 into a pillow she still cherishes.
Briganti later delved into counted cross-stitch when she bought a kit portraying a dozen birds sitting on branches by Danish designer Eva Rosenstand. “I desperately wanted to do the pattern but I had a hard time justifying it because it was expensive,” she said. “It took me awhile to take the plunge, but I did.”
Years passed before she fully immersed herself in the craft. “At the time, needleworking wasn’t wildly popular so it wasn’t really on my radar,” she said. “But over the years as time allowed, I taught myself from books filled with beautiful and inspiring designs as well as instruction.”
In 1982, while living in California, Briganti bought a needlework supply store she renamed The Creative Needle.
“I had confidence I could do it because I had some prior experience owning a small business plus at the time, I didn’t know how little I actually knew,” she said. “But I remember the instant feeling I was in the right place.”
She joined the Embroiderers’ Guild of America and then the American Needlepoint Guild. She took advantage of their national seminars, attended workshops and took classes.
“You know how some people can make pies – they just have the right hands for it?” she said. “I had the right hands and temperament for needlework. I like the process very, very much.”
She owned the business until her retirement in 1997. Over the years, Briganti has made Christmas stockings for a number of family members and all kinds of beautiful creations for relatives and friends.
She describes creating gifts for others as satisfying. “When you’re doing something for someone else, it’s like a little prayer because you’re thinking about him or her while you’re doing it,” she said.
Challenging pieces are particular favorites. “Those have lots of pattern, are small scale, with possibly multiple types of stitches used,” she explains. “For example, the piece for Sulgrave Manor — a leopard — contained tiny stitches and was very complex. It requires good technique in order not to be a mess.
“Neatness counts. It is a sign of good work when the back is neat without any strings dangling, carried across or knotted up.”
She is in the process of cataloging her life’s work through photos and text. Her intention is to share it with family and friends and eventually create a handmade book to go into Embroiderer’s Guild’s library.
“Stitching is usually a slow and often meditative process so I am not really surprised I remember so many of the details about each piece,” Briganti said. “Most especially why I wanted to make it in the first place.”
– In addition to working as a freelance writer, Katherine Cobb is the daughter of Linda Briganti, and the proud owner of many of her needleworks