This exhibition explores how the humble needle and thread, the shiny bead and sequin, the porcupine quill and tuft of moose hair have been used in the hands of skilled creators to make intricate works of art, craft and fashion.

The history of needlework spans centuries with the earliest known examples from Egypt approximately 3000 BCE and India 2000 BCE. It has been used around the world in many forms and for many uses. More recently, in Western culture, stitchery has been a gendered craft, identified as a female occupation, although this was not always the case.

Needlework is about more than decoration and embellishment. It is a form of communication and an avenue to great art or the simply pleasurable. Today, many artists and crafters employ embroidery as part of the DIY movement. Intricate embroidery is currently on-trend in contemporary fashion, showing up in both high-end couture and fast-fashion outlets.

With an emphasis on the maker, Eye of the Needle features selections from Glenbow’s 19th and 20th century clothing collection, including articles of Indigenous and Metis creation, early Calgary high fashion and flashy postwar western wear. Mary-Beth Laviolette has also selected examples of domestic handiwork that come with great stories, including Violette Kirby’s exquisite petit point, Greta Johannesen’s Scandinavian needlecraft, and embroidered postcards sent by Canadian soldiers and other domestic handiwork. Complimenting these historical examples of craft are contributions by contemporary artists using needlework and textiles as their primary form of expression: Judy Anderson, Tanja Berlin, Jane Cameron, Alaynee Goodwill - Littlechild, Matt Gould, Colleen Kerr, Jane Kidd, Sharon Rose Kootenay, Melissa Jo Belcourt Moses, Rhonda Paul, Pat Piché, Caitlin Thompson, Wendy Toogood, Diana Un-Jin Cho, Laura Vickerson and Zoe Williams. Lenders include the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.