It was the talk of the 52nd Northern Gila County Fair -- at least in the non-animal exhibits, according to Domestic Superintendent Gary Bedsworth and Home Making Arts Director Trudy Cory.
"It" was a huge dollhouse, made from plastic canvas needlepoint by Eloise Jones of Thompson Draw.
"I had never done anything that huge and probably never will again," Jones said. "It took some contortions to do the furniture -- it was all built in."
Bedsworth said it took Jones almost two years to make the dollhouse, which deservedly won both Best of Show and Judge's Choice ribbons.
The project had its start when a friend sent a newspaper clipping from Oregon. There was a story about a woman in her 70s who had designed a plastic canvas needlepoint dollhouse and wrote a 200-page instruction book to show others the process.
"I looked at it and I said ‘this is something I could do for my granddaughter.' She was only two at the time, now she's four and we showed it to her for the first time this Christmas. It's the size to be used with a ‘Barbie' doll."
Jones' granddaughter, India Michaela, lives with her parents in New York, so the dollhouse is staying in the Rim Country until the family is able to move back to Arizona. "Sometime next year we hope," Jones said.
The award-winning Jones has been doing plastic canvas needlepoint for more than 30 years.
"I started it when I was teaching knitting and crocheting at a store in the Valley. I had done needlepoint on cloth for years, but when you're finished with it, it has to be stretched. When you're done with this, you're done with it," Jones said of the reason she made the switch between the two types of needlepoint.
Over the years she has made lots of toys and household items for relatives, "And I do small pieces for the hospital auxiliary's boutique sales."
Most of her supplies she is able to find in Payson, she said. In fact, for the dollhouse she didn't even buy any yarn, it was all leftovers from other projects. If she can't find what she needs for her plastic canvas needlepoint (knitting or crocheting) in town, she can almost always find it at a Michael's store in the Valley.
Jones said people interested in learning plastic canvas needlepoint just need to pick up a beginner's book.
"The instructions are very clear and you can learn to do the different stitches -- they're really not that many," she said. There are also kits available, mostly designed for children, but they provide a basic introduction.
Jones said larger kits, with more advanced work, can be found in catalogs, such as "Mary Maxim."
While her dollhouse took almost two years, most of Jones' other projects take only a week or so to a month.
"It's something you can pick up and do while you're watching television," she said.
Jones has designed some projects of her own as well.
"It's really amazing what you can do with it," she said. "I've made ‘ABC' and number books, children's games, wind chimes, pictures, bookmarks, a music box and even a clock -- it looks like a cuckoo clock and you can put a watch in it and it will tell time, the pendulum just doesn't move."
Jones and her family have had property in the Rim Country since 1968, and made a permanent home in Thompson Draw in 1991.
Tips to get started
Jones recommends getting started by buying a beginner's book.
She said the information is very straightforward and easy to understand.
With a beginner's book, novices can learn the basic stitches in plastic canvas needlework.
Another way to get started is to get a kit designed for children. These can be found at any store carrying craft materials.