My uncle recently sent me this picture of a needlepoint map he made. It has kind of an interesting story. His father started it in 1961 (hence some of the older place names, like the Hawaiian Islands instead of Hawaii) but never finished it because he was running low on blue yarn for the oceans and got frustrated. When my uncle was going through chemotherapy last summer—and when he was on Prednisone and frequently up even earlier than he usually rises—he decided to finish the map, and I’d say he did a darn good job. I’m not sure whose flourish it was, but I particularly love the curlycue on the E in Mexico. Uncle David wrote about his time during chemotherapy on his blog Lymphoma, Family, Food and Diabetes. His writing is often moving, poignant and hilarious, and his first post on the needlepoint map is a good example.
The map reminded me of some embroidery work that a friend of mine does of street-level maps. Her work can be found at her Etsy shop. The map below is Eastown, for those of you familiar with Grand Rapids.
Computer mapping and GIS are wonderful, as anyone who’s ever used Google Maps or a Garmin knows full well. But maybe we’ve lost the physical feel of accordion city maps and highway atlases, and maybe that’s a sad thing. These maps make cartography tactile again, and I love that.