In the 1980’s, my Aunt Lois Blieden forwarded me a letter she had received from a Nettie Yanoff Schwartz.  Nettie was researching her Blieden ancestors and went to her local library in Louisville, Kentucky, searched phone books from all over the United States for the name Blieden and wrote to everyone listed with that last name.  Since my uncle, Arthur Blieden, was listed in the New Jersey phone book, he got one of the letters.  My Aunt, Arthur’s wife, labeled me back then as the family historian, and forwarded the letter to me.

As you can tell, this was long before home computers and the Internet and I had no idea who this woman was who wanted information about my family.  I was skeptical.  However, Nettie and I ended up corresponding for a few years. She was very friendly and earnest and shared everything she had discovered about the Bliedens. One thing she had mentioned to me in her letters, was that she was also writing a book about her needlework. That intrigued me since I also liked to embroider, do needlepoint, stitcheries, and sew.   Little did I know that over 30 years later, in 2021, I would be in contact with her grandson, Matt Schwartz, and her great-nephew, Andrew Steinberg, and that I would receive a copy of her book from a mutual cousin, Norman Blieden.

She Painted with a Needle by Nettie Yanoff Brudner
Inscription by Nettie Yanoff Brudner

For one birthday, Nettie’s family presented her with an unlimited airline ticket to travel all over the United States.  She took that as an opportunity to meet Blieden relatives.  On one such trip to California in 1986, she had dinner at the home of Joe Bleeden. Norman Blieden, Joe’s daughter Suzi, my first cousin Amy Blieden, and Pearl Bleadon and her husband were also there.  She sent me the photo taken at that dinner.  Back then, other than my Cousin Amy, I had no idea who these other people were, or if and how, they were related to me.  I now know that Suzi is my fifth cousin, and her father Joe, would have been my fourth cousin once removed.  Norman Blieden is my fifth cousin and Pearl Bleadon was my third cousin twice removed. I also now know that Nettie was my third cousin twice removed.  How she would have loved knowing how this group fit together!

Blieden Family Gathering 1986
From the left: Nettie Schwartz, Elaine (Norman’s wife), Ed and Pearl Bleadon Feldman, Amy Blieden, Norman Blieden, Joe Bleeden

When Norman sent me her book, he also sent me his correspondence between him, Nettie and Joe Bleeden concerning Blieden ancestry.  One letter confirmed that Joe Bleeden descended from my branch of the Blieden’s.  His grandmother, Sarah, was the sister of my great-grandfather, Aron.  This was proved by the letter. Joe mentioned his great-uncles, Mordechai, Lazar and Judel Reuven. They were known brothers of Aron, also.

Nettie Yanoff Schwartz 1929
Nettie at the Louisville Normal School, 1929
Nettie, photograph by the Courier Journal and Louisville Times Staff

I only wished I had gotten to know Nettie better.  She loved travelling and travelled all over the world.  She visited 49 states and over 38 countries. She was also quite accomplished.  She was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but was raised in New Richmond, Ohio, until she was 11. She taught in the public schools of Louisville until she married.  At the time, married woman were not allowed to teach.

After raising her three children, she went back to school and completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Louisville in 1957. She went back to teaching and retired in 1973.  However, she then went back to school and got a Master of Education from Spalding College in 1976.

Her early interests included music, dancing, artwork, swimming, tennis, hiking and volunteer work.  Later in life she loved collecting things including rocks, shells, fossils, driftwood, flowers, weeds, and leaves and used those things to make collages.  She also collected picture frames, lamps, accessories, and old furniture which she repaired and sold.  She considered herself thrifty and this led to designing and making her own clothes, accessories, and gifts. For those people that know me, it sounds like collecting things must run in the family!

Nettie in Peking in 1982
Nettie in Peking in 1982

She exhibited her stitchery creations at state fairs, art shows, and bookstores.  She also sold her stitcheries, some of which are now housed in museums all over the country and world. Some are in permanent collections of some famous people such as Bob Dylan, Mamie Eisenhower, and President Jimmy Carter.

In her biographical sketch that I received from Cousin Norman Blieden, she mentioned that her pen name was Nettie Yanoff Brudner (she was married more than once) and that she had sold 3 stitchery designs to Good Housekeeping Magazine in 1967.  In the late 1960’s, I bought some stitchery designs from Good Housekeeping Magazine.  Could I have bought Nettie’s designs?

Here are two photos of her “Harvest” stitchery from her book “Painting with A Needle”:

Harvest Detail from Painting With a Needle
Color detail of harvest stitchery by Nettie Yanoff Brudner

Here are the stitcheries I ordered and completed from Good Housekeeping Magazine:

Stitcheries ordered from Good Housekeeping in 1968

Let me know what you think.  Did I inadvertently buy and stitch 2 of Nettie’s designs?

Post Author: trothman

One Reply to “She Painted with a Needle”

  1. What a great story. You certainly have a lot in common with Nettie . How amazing that you probably made one of her needlework designs!

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