Joyce Braybrook, Hardanger stitcher

From the hectic early days as a farmer’s wife and capable mother of five, to a more relaxed pace in her bright second-floor suite at Evergreen Place, Joyce Braybrook remains industrious, expressing an unusual artistic talent.

She took classes on Hardanger needlework about 10 years ago and has become renowned for this fancy and highly detailed work.

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As a new resident in Evergreen (last October), Braybrook recently displayed samples of the Hardanger work that she does, laying it out in the common room.

Embroidery stitching is done on fabric called Lugana. Once the stitching is in place, threads are snipped with tiny scissors, leaving a cut-out pattern.

“I’ll show you some pieces.” Her voice takes on a musical lilt. “This is my very, very favourite one,” she says, unfolding an azure blue and white geometric designed table centre. “There’s 10,000 beads on it… give or take a half-a-dozen.” Beads the size of a pinhead beautifully highlight the piece.

Like an architect, she can visualize, create and modify her patterns.

Braybrook is currently creating a Hardanger piece for her granddaughter in a pattern that includes a musical staff.

“She’s taking dramatic arts out of Brock University. She’s very musical, she’s had voice training and is graduating after four-years of university.”

Sewing and stitching has been a lifelong passion for this lady.  On her seventh birthday, her grandmother gave her a ‘runner’ with stamped embroidery. “She told me that if I made a good job of it she would make some lace for it.” She laughs, “I got my lace. I’ve been doing stuff like that since I was that age.”

She works in cross-stitch, petit point and she crochets. “The only thing I have never done was tatting. I could never find a book that would teach me to do it left-handed.” All her handiwork is done the opposite way around, because of her left-handed approach.

Braybrook, a widow now for close to a decade, moved to town last fall from the farm home of 64 years. It was there that she and her husband Gordon had raised five children: Stan, Jim, Beverly and Barbara (twins) and Sidney.

As well as farming, Gordon had worked the Virden auction mart. “He would sooner I stayed at home with the kids,” said Joyce. She was happy to cook, garden, sew (and much more) for the large family.

“I made all the kids clothes, right from their gotch (underwear) to their blue jeans.”

While it sounds hectic, she took it all in stride, with all five children born between 1955 and 1960 (including twin girls).

She chuckles and says, “You milked cows, had a big garden, we carried all our water. In the winter time we had ice or snow we melted for washing clothes.

“We had hydro, but, we were married in ’54, and we didn’t get flush toilets… until 1980.” In 1967 when an oil furnace was installed, Braybrook said goodbye to the woodstove.

She reflects, “I certainly don’t regret it at all.” She doesn’t want to be 21 again. “I wouldn’t want to go back and do it all over again.”

In 2018, Braybrook felt it was time to move.

“I didn’t have my name in any place. I kept putting it off because I loved the farm, I loved the country – the animals, the birds, the wildlife… a deer was on the deck one day.”

But, a timely call offering Braybrook a suite in town got her thinking that she did want a smaller place.

She had always had a connection to Evergreen Place. “Our Hargrave ladies group served supper here for 25 or 27 years, once a month.”

Braybrook phoned the manager of Evergreen Place, Sherald Joynt, who encouraged her that there would be room for her there by fall (2018).

The decision was made. Now she enjoys the convenience of town life, being able to slip downstairs for coffee with others and her handiwork.

One childhood dream did not come true and that was her deep desire to learn to play the piano. But she may yet work on that skill.

© Virden Empire-Advance