WESTVILLE – Arlene Olmstead of Danville and Sharon Latoz of Georgetown had to share honors at last year's Vermilion County Conservation District Counted Cross-Stitch Show.
Visitors for the 17th annual show will get to see why, in a display of former best-of-show winners as well as new entries from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the air-conditioned Gannett Outdoor Learning Center in Forest Glen Preserve, seven miles east of Westville.
"There really aren't 'winners' because no judging takes place," said Lorna Konsis, one of the show's organizers. "But the people that visit the show vote for their favorites."
Konsis, along with Claire Biggs and the late Van Sheets, started the show in 1992 because they were "stitching buddies," Konsis said.
"They joked that since I knew the boss, wouldn't Forest Glen be a perfect place to host a show for counted cross-stitch?" said Konsis, who is married to Ken Konsis, Vermilion County Conservation District executive director. "It was supposed to be a one-time thing. We called our friends that did cross-stitch and put a notice in the paper. It worked so well, we've kept it going."
Over the years, Konsis has seen a wide variety of items, but thinks her biggest surprise was a queen-size quilt stitched by a man in his 80s.
"I just don't know many men with that kind of patience," Konsis said of the tedious work.
The art ranges from using a printed pattern of "X's" on fabric to kits with patterns and threads to books with patterns where the stitchers buy their own fabric and thread colors.
Konsis got involved with the intricate work by accident.
"I had done stamped patterns, but one day I bought a kit and when I opened it, there was nothing on the fabric," she said with a laugh. "I took it back to the store and said, 'What's this?' That's when I learned where the counted part comes in."
Konsis' habit is to measure the design from top to bottom and side to side and determine where it should fit on the fabric. She then always starts at the top, working her way down.
"Different kits have different directions. That's just what works best for me," she said.
Her biggest challenge has been a nativity scene consisting of several panels.
"It has a special frame available just for it," Konsis said. "I've probably been working on this for 15 years off and on. Ken told me if I could get three panels finished, he'd buy me the frame. He thinks I'm getting close."
Konsis saw the finished product in a shop in Indianapolis and was told it took the stitcher 20 years to complete, so she's right on target, she figured.
This year's show is expecting 25 exhibitors. The number is down from an average of 30 to 35 exhibitors in the past.
"Gas is an issue for some people," Konsis said.
Still, about 100 items are expected to be displayed.
Olmstead's creation "Cinderella" and Latoz's "Roses" will be among other show favorites returning. Konsis has show favorites in a separate display because people actually call and ask to see certain items again.
"They may just appreciate them or want to take a closer look because they are now working on the same kit," she said.
Olmstead likes to vary her projects. Having just finished a Thomas Kinkade painting re-creation, her second, she tackled something much simpler next. "I like to have a time to relax before I start another more complicated and intense project," Olmstead, 77, said.
She has created counted cross-stitch names for all her great-grandchildren using animals to form the boys' names and angels to form the girls' name letters, and usually does a wedding sampler for each of her grandchildren's weddings.
"I give some away like that or for other gifts and I keep some that I worked so hard on, I can't bear to give them away," she said.
Her husband thinks she should sell them. So, just to see what she put into a project, she tracked the creation of a Christmas bow featuring cardinals.
"I had 122 hours in that one project," Olmstead said. "How do I value that?"
Olmstead keeps at the craft because she feels it is good for the mind.
"And when you're finished, you have something to show for it," she said.
Latoz, 64, is currently working on a pattern for the painting "The River" by Claude Monet.
"I like that sort of thing. There are no bare spots," she said. "It'll take me several months to finish."
One of her favorite creations was a yellow school bus with children hanging out the windows.
"I gave it to my daughter to hang in her classroom," she said. "It was just great fun to work on and see it come alive."
Latoz likes the show because it's fun to see what everyone else has been working on.
There is no admission charge to the show. Items on display include painting reproductions in thread, Christmas ornaments, special subjects and quilts.
Call the conservation district office for information at 662-2142.