crossing the finish line (it only took a year)


(view out the north window)


(view from the south window)

A disclaimer before we begin: We live in what was once a fishing shack build on a waterfall on top of a mountain. While the scenery is hugely gorgeous, the house is small with ceilings that are unbelievably low – unbelievably, I tell you – which makes taking photos incredibly difficult. But today, I pushed everything to one side of my studio, folded down the top of each panel and let the bottom pool up on the floor, and hung each panel from the curtain rod in my studio. Despite the less than perfect situation, it was incredible being able to stand and see them hanging. It really is so different seeing the work this way as opposed to spreading it out on the floor and standing in a chair to look at it. The main thing I want you to know is that this lovely space does not offer ideal picture-taking opportunities. I trust you will take that into account and use your imagination as you look at the photos.


In Our Own Language
3 panels, each measuring 60″ x 90″
hand stitched

In June 2012* my developmentally disabled my sister-in-law Nancy surprised and delighted me when she started drawing. I started right then stitching each drawing, eventually pulling the individual stitched renderings into a 3-panel piece I call In Our Own Language 1. It quickly became a series.

In Our Own Language 1 consists of 154 drawings. I finished those 3 panels (each measuring 59″ x 90″) just in time for them to be part of a museum exhibit in January 2012. The very weekend we delivered IOOL 1 to the museum, I began stitching In Our Own Language 2. It’s 457 drawings, and I just finished stitching this week.

Iool2 1fullfront1

In Our Own Language 2.1

Iool2 2fullfront1

In Our Own Language 2.2

Iool2 3fullfront2

In Our Own Language 2.3

The stitched drawings are arranged in the shape of a church window because with every fiber of my being, I believe creativity is sacred.

Iool2 1fullback1



Each panel is a sandwich of, starting at the bottom, a sheer window curtain, a collage of crocheted doilies,



Nancy’s drawings that I stitched (457 total in this set spread out among the 3 panels), and topped off with another sheer window curtain. The top curtain is from my Aunt Rene’s house. She loved Nancy, Aunt Rene did, and Nancy loved her right back. There are stains in those top sheers, and I didn’t even try to get them out.




You know how it goes: I had this vision, then set about gathering materials needed to create it, figuring out the meaning of the vision as I stitched. For me, In Our Own Language 2 speaks to individual perspectives and interpretations and how some people tut-tut at anything that’s not considered “fine art”. “Doilies? How commonplace and frivolous,” they might say. And “You call what Nancy did ‘drawings’? Harumph.” I can just hear them – I have heard them – and that’s probably why I made these 3 church windows far too large to ignore and dismiss.

* When I merged blogs, I lost all the comments in this and other posts which is a shame because there were some good conversations that – poof – disappeared, and after a good cry and a lot of time, I just had to sigh and move on. But hey, you’ll at least get to see the post and photos.

I’m including this post as part of Nina-Marie’s Off the Wall Friday, and soon enough (hopefully before this time next year), I’ll be telling you all about In Our Own Language 3.

[ ::: ]

Now listen: If you’ve ever said you were going to get around to writing your personal and family stories, stay tuned cause I’ve got just the ticket, and I’ll be telling you about it tomorrow or the next day (though it might turn out to be Monday. You know how that goes.)


  1. crazy as the moon

    Church windows, because creativity is sacred, and because love is the mightiest of prayers.
    They are magical, meaningful and so are you…

    • whollyjeanne

      i worship in the cathedral of your creativity any day, every day, you amazing woman you.

  2. Regina

    What an incredibly beautiful project.

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you. I hope to have better photos one day (relatively) soon.

  3. mrsmediocrity

    These are just absolutely magically fabulous. xoxo

    • whollyjeanne

      thank you. sure wish i was close enough to get you to photograph them . . .

  4. Margaret B

    It’s good to see your work…it’s an amazing project!

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Margaret. That’s quite a compliment coming from one as talented as you. And to think, you were such an integral part of In Our Own Language 1.

  5. Susan Lenz

    These are wonderful, sacred, personal, universal … and all the other “good words” that one can think of when looking at work as powerful as this. Congratulations!

    I love the fact that you often throw work on the floor and then stand on a chair! So do I. I laugh about this almost every Friday while linking to Nina-Marie’s “Off the Wall Fridays” site … because I secretly consider it “Off the Floor Friday”. LOL!

    Now … are you serious? !!! You’re going to come to Legacy Weekend at Arrowmont and be in my workshop! OMG!

  6. judy martin

    OH Jeanne
    I am so glad that you have continued your important and beautiful work. I think that I like these even more than the first set you did.
    Are there yet more drawings from Nancy ?

    • whollyjeanne

      Judy, Nancy will keep me stitching till kingdom come! Every time we visit, I bring home the drawings she’s made, and they become a set, then each set becomes a piece in the In Our Own Language series. Right now, I have 8 sets, 2 completed In Our Own Language cloths, and 2 more in the works. (Plus a journal filled with sketches of ideas for about 47 more various cloths from Nancy’s drawings.) The drawings in each set is different – it’s amazing. She’s amazing. I want to hurry up and get them all done so you can see them side by side.

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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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