Gayle Crawford Bicknell grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and was educated there and was graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She married Richard Bicknell who was also from the area. Dick Bicknell’s career brought the couple to Greensboro, North Carolina where they settled permanently. They reared three sons and Gayle decided to embark on a career of teaching and designing needlework.
Gayle and several friends from her area who were also needlework teachers heard about the Assembly for Embroiderers sponsored by the National Textile Resource and Research Center of the Valentine Museum in Richmond, Virginia. (This program later became the National Academy of Needlearts.) The friends learned that they had a Teacher Certification Program and decided to check it out, so off they went to Richmond, Virginia and the Assembly. Gayle enrolled in Level I of Teacher Certification in 1975 with her focus on needlepoint. I was enrolled the same year and, as fate would have it, we sat across the table from each other during the certification classes that year. It must have been a long time ago because many of the candidates smoked and were allowed to smoke in the classroom. Each candidate was required to make a presentation before the entire group. We were all a bit nervous, but when I looked across the table and saw Gayle with two cigarettes in the ash tray, I had to muffle my laughter. I reached over and took one of them so that it would not be obvious. Gayle saw what I did and grinned at me. That was the start of a beautiful 26-year friendship. In 1976 we both completed Level II of our certifications. Gayle went on to continue her studies and gave an outstanding Honors presentation several years later.
Gayle Bicknell had a quick wit and an infectious smile. She loved a fun time and was always first with a prank or funny story. She was a most effective needlepoint teacher because she always knew her topic and was able to put her class at ease. She was a prolific stitcher and designer and her projects were popular at seminars on local, regional and national levels. Her greatest strength was her vast study and understanding of fibers. She wrote many articles and gave lectures all over the country on this topic. She and I wrote a series of “letters” discussing fibers for The Silhouette, the newsletter for the National Textile Research and Resource Center of the Valentine Museum. She also authored the book, Take Ten, which featured projects and instructions for stitching them.
Her designs were much like Gayle herself – bright, cheerful and happy. It made you feel good just to see her many stitcheries. When I started the magazine, needlepoint now, I called Gayle and asked if she had any great project that I could use for print. Her immediate response was a resounding “yes.” When I arrived at her home, she told me to take anything I wanted for publication. I took many things including a project right off of her dining room wall. The project was Pieces of Eight. It was the cover of the September/October 1999 issue and is still the most popular project we have ever printed.
Gayle Bicknell passed away on June 22, 2001. She will be remembered by her many friends as one who brought color, cheer and fun to the world of needlepoint.
Written by Joyce Lukomski