Blog

  • Tête-à-tête with Alexandra Martin @millennial_needlepointer

    Tête-à-tête with Alexandra Martin @millennial_needlepointer

    Our  tête-à-tête this month is with Alexandra Martin better known as @millennial_needlepointer.  When I first started following Alexandra, I was immediately taken with her exquisite stitching, especially on her stockings.  It seemed she was cranking them out faster than I could stitch an ornament.  Everything from her choice of threads, decorative stitches and especially her finishing was just perfection.  As the founder of Stitch Club Official, Alexandra has done so much to connect stitchers and promote needlepoint.  I am thrilled and honored that she has been a loyal customer since I first started in the Instagram community. 

    1. For some of our followers who don’t follow you, could you please tell us a bit about your needlepoint background, when and how did you learn to needlepoint?

    I’m originally from St. Louis, where needlepoint is very popular. A common tradition in the area is that when you turn 16 a friend needlepoints a monogrammed key fob for you. I ended up making quite a few and really enjoyed it. A few years later, I started dating my boyfriend (now husband) Stephen, and per another tradition of stitching the boyfriend/breakup belt I knew I’d want to make one for him. I found the belt even more fun than the little key fobs, and once we got married, I decided to officially commit to making him a stocking. After extensive research online I landed on a Liz Goodrick Dillon stocking and was *shocked* to discover that there were actually stitches other than basketweave?! And… different fibers than pearl cotton?! I dove in headfirst and haven’t looked back since.

     Pictured is one of the key fobs I was referencing. This one currently on my keys was stitched for me by my high school friend Natalie when my daughter was born!

    Stitching the last belt I made Stephen on our way to Morocco!

    After my discovery of this whole new (to me) world of needlepoint, I dove into stitching Stephen’s stocking. I was tired of not getting any help when I asked him for thoughts on different stitches or fibers. As a typical millennial, I took to the internet for support and answers. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of needlepoint shops and designers on Instagram, and a fair number of stitchers as well. While most people I stumbled across were just posting their stitching mixed in with their regular life, I didn’t want to bore all of my non-needlepointing friends with my obsession, so I created an account just for needlepoint. I felt like a total nut-job as there weren’t any other designated stitching accounts at the time that were posting just for fun and feedback i.e. not tied to a shop or a designer. However, here we are four years later and there are more than I can count!! The community has grown exponentially over the last few years and the pandemic has added even more fuel to the fire. It’s been so much fun to be a part of, and has opened my eyes even more to all sorts of incredible things people do with needlepoint.

    The first stocking I did was the one for my obese cat, Waffles, and the first full size one was the Liz Goodrick Dillon Fly Fishing Santa stocking.

    1. As the founder of @stitchclubofficial and its multitude of nationwide chapters you started out with a bang, having monthly meetups throughout the country.  Then Covid hit, what do you see for the future? 

    That’s a great question… what do YOU see for the future?! Just kidding. I really don’t know, but I’m ok with that! When we started Stitch Club, the whole plan was to create an easily replicable format for others to follow so they could operate independently. I had to bring on three other gals to help process the requests as it took off so quickly. Since most chapters are up and running, we’ve stepped back as per our original intentions so that people can do with their chapters what they please! Some chapters have continued to meet in person, others have met up virtually, or others have chosen to sit it out and wait for a sense of normalcy to return. Either way, we want it to be up to the individuals in that area to decide what works best for them. I definitely don’t want to become the Stitch Club needlepoint police! I’m hoping that more chapters will be able to return to in person meet ups as they feel comfortable, as there are now so many more needlepointers because of the pandemic. Thankfully, as we were all stuck at home, many of those stitchers have found a place online in our little insta-community, and have found connections where they might not have otherwise. 

    First ever stich n bitch which then became Chicago Stitch Cub which then led to Stitch Club chapters all over!

     

    1. Will we see the #scoe, Stitch Club ornament exchange coming back at one point?

    Yes!! I’m planning to bring it back in 2022. This is one way I’d like Stitch Club to really continue in the future as we’ve loved seeing people forge new friendships and connections through the process. In 2020 we actually got requests from a few LNS to remind our participants not to lose their patience as a few people were calling and harassing the stores because they were missing the Stitch Club “deadline” when their ornaments weren’t coming back in time.... After that, hosting a 2021 SCOE felt like we would be asking for trouble because the overwhelming backlog of finishing had only grown. This coming year I think people have a better understanding of the current finishing situation, and that they’ll need to prep very.. very.. very far in advance. Hopefully they also will not stress if their ornament (or their partners’!) is delayed. I’m hoping to open sign ups at the start of the year!

     

    1. What are you stitching at the moment? Do you tend to stitch multiple canvases at the same time or are you a one canvas at a time girl?

    I am currently working on a Liz Goodrick Dillon stocking for my daughter. It’s an 18 mesh beast with an obnoxious amount of turkey work so it’s taking me forever. I love/hate working on multiple things at a time. It drives me crazy because it takes so long to finish anything, but for my big projects I often have to put them in “time out” if I’m not feeling inspired or am stuck on a certain stitch or section (here’s looking at you, turkey work). Then I’ll plow through an ornament or another little project to give me more immediate gratification and it will motivate me to tackle another chunk of work on a bigger project. Right now I’m also in the middle of a mini sock with Kanga on it. However, that’s ignoring the (redacted number) of WIP’s in my stash, of course!

     

     

    1. I am always so impressed by your finished canvases, your stitching is so exquisite along with your color and fiber choices. Can you give us some insight into your process of choosing threads and decorative stitches?

    As always, you are too kind! I really only have a strategy for big projects. I try to strike a balance between decorative stitches and basketweave, and to create a mix of textures, directions, fibers and their “finishes” throughout the project. For example, on a stocking, I’ll usually pick one element to use a variegated fiber on, one to use sparkle, one to use shiny like neon rays, one to do simple vineyard silk . I also mix the direction that the stitches go. If the sky is a diagonal stitch then the ground might be horizontal, or the water vertical etc. I attempt to mix density as well, so some stitches will be big or more open juxtaposed against smaller, denser or more intricate ones. Most importantly, and most annoyingly, I think mixed into all of this should be some basketweave to give your eye a place to rest. I think that you can’t appreciate the complex stitches if they’re all competing with each other, so basketweave actually helps them shine more. Lastly I like to incorporate some form of 3D element like turkey work, beading or French knots to add dimension. Also, if I’m honest, I just kind of do what sounds fun in the moment or will be something different and challenging. If its boring then it’s not fun! The basketweave is the workout you do so you can enjoy the dessert of the decorative stitches J

    When planning it out, I usually start with choosing stitches for the biggest areas first. These will be the most obvious choices, because for big stretches of uninterrupted space like sky, ocean or snow I will try and do a fairly large decorative stitch. This will make it go much faster and add interest to a large space/less interesting part of the design. Next, I choose the spaces that need to be basketweave- faces and hands, or areas that are too detailed or small for decorative stitches to really work. If there’s not enough room for the pattern to repeat itself a few times then I think it doesn’t really work for anything other than a tiny stitch or basketweave. Lastly, I’ll look at the spaces where there are big enough chunks for a small decorative stitch to repeat enough to be clear and choose something interesting and textural. 

    Once I have a rough idea of the types of stitches that will work on a big project, I’ll take it into the LNS and try to choose a variety of fibers to add contrast and interest as I mentioned before. Something like ice might be shiny, while snow could be sparkly, and sky could be variegated. If the trees are a dense stitch then maybe the clouds would be something more open. If Santa’s coat is too detailed with shading to do a complex stitch and must be in basketweave, then the trim of the coat should be something interesting like turkey work or beading. Moral of the story is, I just try to achieve interest with balance in both stitches and types of fibers! 

    A few caveats: I have often used Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration for stitches, as well as asked teachers/coaches/LNS employees for thoughts if I get stuck. Or, sometimes I’ll use them as sounding boards for starting out on a big project and then as I stitch I adjust the plan. Also, when it comes to ornaments I throw all rules out the window. The more fun stitches the better, or, if the mood strikes- all basketweave. The more sparkle and decoration, the better to reflect the Christmas tree lights. And lastly, I all out refuse to rip out any stitching on ornaments- no one will see when they’re on the tree if there’s a little mistake, but I will rip and re-stitch until I completely LOVE it for stockings. These are heirlooms that will hopefully be closely inspected over many years to come, so I make sure to take my time.

    1. Can you please share with us some of the goodies you have in your stash?

    Sure! I’ve included a random selection. Don’t judge ;) 

    It’s my ultimate goal to stitch stockings for each of my family members, and I’m currently down to three.  It seems every time I knock one off the list someone gets married or has a baby so it feels never ending!! I let each family member choose theirs (unless I have something particular in mind) so it’s a very big mix of styles. 

    My brother in law chose the santa and snowman on a scooter stocking and I have absolutely no clue what I’m going to do with it. It will definitely be a challenge to make it not come across as too busy, so I’ve left it for last as I try to brainstorm the right approach. The nutcracker is for my nephew who was born in April, and the gorgeous plaid one is for my husband’s Grandma Mary, whom my daughter was named after. She turns 90 next year! Please note the giant stain in the upper left corner, made when my naughty dog chewed up a tea bag and left the remains all over the canvas. Ah!

     

    I adore needlepoint bunnies. Don’t ask me why; I just do! Unfortunately for me this has led to collecting a fair few… here are a couple of the ones I have waiting in my stash.

     

    I love nativities of all shapes and sizes, and I also love tiny figures! Thus my obsession with tiny needlepoint nativities was born. So far, I’ve stitched two and have a few more in my stash. This is one I’d like to do for the nursery!

    My mom gives me an angel ornament every year for Christmas, and I fell in love with this Edie and Ginger angel tree topper. It’s 18mesh and beautifully detailed so it’s been languishing in my stash for… a while. But I just love it!

     

    This is a random mix of fun things I’d like to stitch next. A cape town travel tag by Hedgehog Needlepoint that I’m just obsessed with, a custom pillow my brother and his wife had made for my daughter, the rainbow by the lovely designer Tess Kvale that was a generous gift by a sweet follower, the cheeky pillow by Jessica Tongel, the darling Kanga mini sock, the St. Louis Women’s Exchange classic Cherry Dress by Needlepoint Clubhouse’s painter, and the First Christmas mittens!

     

     

    1. Is there anything special on your wish list that you would like to stitch one day?

    YES! I’m dying to do an advent calendar one day. I have my eye on the SCT Designs one, but I am not going to let myself purchase it until my stocking stash is whittled down to zero. Also, my family loves spending rainy days at my parents lake house around the fire playing board games. I would really love to stitch a set of games all in coordinating blues for the lake house. The first one I had commissioned by you! I just adore it but the amount of basketweave is so intimidating for me! One day I’d love to add on a few more, have them finished in acrylic and be reversible. Meanwhile, it’s languishing in my stash while I tackle these never ending stockings!

     

    A very special thank you to Alexandra for sharing her love and enthusiasm for needlepoint and giving us a peek into her stash!

     

     

     

  • Tête-à-tête with Dorothy Hector and Callie Robins of @pls_stitch

    Tête-à-tête with Dorothy Hector and Callie Robins of @pls_stitch

    This month our tête-à-tête is with two new stitchers, Dorothy and Callie, better known as @pls_stitch. Like many new stitchers to the Instagram needlepoint community, they picked up needlepoint during quarantine and have not looked back.  They are both talented stitchers, using exquisite threads, decorative stitches and stitch extremely quickly.  I have been very fortunate to have met Callie for coffee on a recent trip to NY which included an impromptu cording lesson in the middle of Fifth Avenue.

     

    1. For some of our followers who don’t follow you, could you please tell us a bit about your needlepoint background, when and how did you both learn to needlepoint?

     Hi everyone! Callie and Dorothy here from @plsstitch_thx. We’re both corporate lawyers at the same NYC firm.  Over the past year and half, we have become avid Needlepointers. In October 2019, C, (Callie) was staffed on a deal with D (Dorothy). We became very fast friends and D was later randomly (serendipitously?) assigned as C’s formal associate mentor. C’s mom has needlepointed on and off forever and D’s great aunt was an avid needlepointer as well. Early 2020, C bought a canvas to teach herself. She was immediately hooked and sent D frequent progress and purchase updates. Once the pandemic hit and we transitioned to WFH, C bought her third canvas and D wanted in on the action and bought her first! Our mentorship sessions quickly became virtual stitch time, with C mentoring D as she learned to stitch as we navigated the pandemic.

     In September 2020, we decided (together, of course) to take @sbtstitches Master Class, which took our stitching up to a whole other level. Since then, D has also taken the Decorative Stitches class and we have taken @abigail_cecile’s finishing class.

     

     Overall, with our hectic jobs and unpredictable hours, stitching helps us clear our minds.  It was especially great as a pandemic activity to distract us from not being able to go anywhere and the insanity of work during that time.  Honestly, stabbing a canvas a billion times over and over again is a great stress reliever and our type-A personalities love an activity where we can see the progress we make every day and turn our canvases into tangible finished piece that we can enjoy forever!

     

    2. Tell us a bit about your Instagram account, how did you come up with the name and do you both post separately or do you consult with each other first?

    We knew we needed a stitch-stagram when we realized how many needlepoint accounts we wanted to follow.  Our handle “pls stitch thx” is a play on the popular legal meme that partners always send comments saying “pls fix thx” without actually answering any substantive questions associates have asked.  We instead choose to pls stitch.

    We sign our posts from the person posting it (C or D or sometimes both), but we certainly consult with each other, mostly because D is the master photographer.

    3. What are you stitching at the moment?  Do you tend to stitch multiple  canvases at the same time or are you both a one canvas at a time girl?

    A classic lawyer answer, but “it depends.” At the moment, C and D both have a few WIPs. Our preference would probably be to work on one canvas at a time, but sometimes, we like to have a small canvas going. For example, now that we are starting to transition back to work, we like to leave a smaller canvas at work, a different one that we can bring on the go, and, of course, one we work on at home/during stitch club! D likes to alternate a large canvas followed by a small canvas (it’s nice to tackle a small project after working on a bigger one for a while); on the other hand, C does not really have a preference because she can stitch both small and large canvases pretty fast.

     C recently finished her Taco Truck and Halloween Russian Doll by @SilverStitchNeedlepoint (stich guides available for both canvases! DM us on IG if interested!), two alphabet letters by @SBTStitches and is now working on her Geometric Clutch by @AudreyWuDesigns. C also has a backgammon board in the works. D is working on Press for Champagne by @SilverStitchNeedlepoint and still deciding what is next in the WIP list. Although, by the time this newsletter comes out, the speedy stitcher (C) will most certainly have finished the clutch and will be on to the next project, so check out our Instagram for updates!

     

    4.  I am always so impressed by your finished canvases, your stitching is so exquisite along with your color and fiber choices.  Can you give us some insight into your process of choosing threads and decorative stitches?

    It takes a village! But, really, it does! We love to bounce ideas off of each other and our friends/followers. When we buy a canvas, we share it on stitch club and ask for thread and stitch recommendations. We also sometimes drop a story on our Instagram asking for suggestions. One thing we absolutely love about needlepoint in general is the people we have met that share the same passion for this craft. We love seeing everyone’s beautiful canvases and finished pieces and appreciate everyone’s willingness to share and offer advice and suggestions. 

    When picking threads, we tend to prefer certain brands depending on mesh count. For example, on a 13" mesh project, we both gravitate towards Silk & Ivory as a starting point. We love to mix in some sparkles in each project, whether that’s silk lame, kreinik, fyre werks, or beads! 

    We are always excited to try different stitches, threads and other new techniques. Worst case, we rip it out (and if you follow us, you know, C loves to keep stitching even when she isn’t necessarily feeling it and then rip it ALL out). D loves to incorporate French Knots and fun background stitches on her canvases.  We don’t take ourselves, or our stitching too seriously, so we love to experiment and take risks. 

    5. Can you please share with us some of the goodies you have in your stash?

     C: just purchased an adorable Sushi canvas by @mypinksugarlifeneedlepoint; custom floral initial canvas by @AudreyWuDesigns; “I Don’t Cook But I Like To Stir The Pot” canvas by @lycettedesigns; and the backgammon board by @SilverStitchNeedlepoint that, even for this speedy stitcher, will take a billion years!

    D: forcing myself not to buy any more canvases in 2021 because my stash is out of control (though all the designers are testing my willpower with so many cute new canvases), can’t list them all but couple I am excited to start on next are: US Open and Wimbledon canvases by @kirkandbradley, snapper by @pipandrooneedleworks (will be making this into a tray for my dad who is both an avid angler and chef), two gingham bunnies by @SilverStitchNeedlepoint and adorable custom beach sunglass case canvas by @SBTStitches, which I’m going to finish back to back with the shady canvas I stitched by @morganjuliadesigns…can you see I have my work cut out for me?

    6.  Is there anything special on your wish list that you would like to stitch one day?

    The @gaylaelliott7295 “Stitching Working Girl” canvas that we feel was created for us and NEED to stitch for our offices.

    Other than that, we don’t really have anything special on our wish lists because we (i) have no impulse control and buy something we like as soon as we see it and (ii) love to work with designers to make our wildest custom canvases dreams come true! 

    Callie and Dorothy, thank you so much for sharing all your projects with us.  It has been fun getting to know you both!

     

  • Tête-à-tête with Maryse C. Robbins of @unchiffonfonfon

    Tête-à-tête with Maryse C. Robbins of @unchiffonfonfon

    Our tête-à-tête this month is with the uber talented finisher, Maryse C Robbins, better known as @unchiffonfonfon. When I first came across her on Instagram, I was immediately hooked and blown away by her talent.  Not only does she finish needlepoint pillows, ornaments and standups, but it's her work of cartonnage and other sewing items that show her true talent.  Clearly what she does is a labor of love.  I highly suggest you follow her to see her workmanship and attention to detail.  I hope you will enjoy our tête-à-tête and getting to know a bit about her.

    1.  For some of our readers who don't follow you, could you please tell us a bit about your finishing background?

    My start as a finisher is almost comical. Back to 2016, I was teaching my monthly Cartonnage class at our LNS The West Inc, here in Tucson, www.thewestinc.com. Here I am teaching that day, usually a long class 10 to 5 pm, my students sitting around the large table, working on their Cartonnage project, myself working with them and supervising, I remember all was quiet. And suddenly, a discussion raises from another room between 2 managers, and it was not possible to ignore it!  It was about…finisher, finishing, time of return etc.…it seemed to me that they were not happy, but my first thought was, what is finishing, finisher, what does that mean, what they are talking about? It took me a while to understand what it was about. Eventually I asked my class and “Da” I saw the light.  Of course a finisher is the person who finishes a project that somebody needlepointed on a painted canvas.

    At the end of my class, and without thinking twice, I went to talk to those ladies and after I apologized for listening to their conversation, I was able to say; "You never thought of me for the job? If you would like to brief me on the subject a little bit, it seems like I could use my French Cartonnage techniques and expertise."  At the same time a lady just shows up, she had her hands full of stitched canvases.  It was Marcia, and she said, I will be happy to be your guinea pig. Show me what you can do for me, she became my first finishing customer.  Since that time, I have never stopped.  As of today, I have finished about 3.000 projects including ornaments, 3D stands up, pillows, stockings, banners, trays, lamp shades, totes/bags/pouches, hangs up, frame, picture frames, scissor cases, eyeglasses cases, 3D eggs, tree skirts, and of course boxes…etc. and I have re-finished numerous items that need some TLC...sometimes a lot of TLC, because of the doggy, child or time.

    A few months ago, I had to make a drastic decision, as the pandemic brought us so many projects to finish, I had to give up on some finishing.  I chose to remove pillows from my list of finishing which made me very sad.

    2.  I am so intrigued by the art of cartonnage.  The examples I have seen on your Instagram feed are exquisite.  Can you please explain exactly what it is and how you go about deciding how to finish them?

    “Cartonnage” comes from the French word “Carton “(kartͻ) which means cardboard in French. It pronounces: (kartͻnaz), the definition in the French dictionary applies to any item made from cardboard and describes the industry of objects made from cardboard.

    I always thought that “Cartonnage” is a perfect complement for needlework pieces, in a very different and attractive way, in case you do not have enough walls in your house to hang them!

    It is very old art form from the 18th century in Europe that allows you to create beautiful pieces for daily use like jewelry boxes, sewing boxes, office desk sets, trays, lamp bases, little shelves, herb tea boxes, magazine racks, writing cases, picture frames, CD racks, recipes box, bookstands, miniature and dolls furniture, sewing kits, glass cases, needle cases, bookmarks, ornaments, 3D stands up, framing, game boards, tissue box, sandwich boards…round, square, oval, tall, small… well…you guessed it…the sky is the limit. You could build ten times the same exact “Cartonnage” and make it unique every time by choosing different fabrics associated with your cherished needlework and trim, lace, buttons, little charms, ribbon etc.

    Almost everything is doable talking about “Cartonnage”. There are unlimited occasions to gift these unique creations: birthday, wedding, baby shower, Christmas present, graduation, Mother’s Day, or just to say I love you!

    I like this beautiful example of how to create memories.  Grandma Brenda asked her grandson to draw a little something on a piece of paper, she was able to translate it onto needlepoint canvas and stitched it.  Now, this unique design sits on the top lid of a generous treasure box, what a wonderful idea and a great teamwork.

    I truly believe that Needlepoint and “Cartonnage” were born at the same time.

    My boxes are made from scratch using cardboard 2 or 3 ply, Watercolor paper 140 lb. (330g/m²) very strong, gummed paper, white glue … once it is assembled, it is indestructible.

    And a few tools…The starting point of the entire process is the needlework itself; its size of course is a determinant element to create good proportions but not only the shape, the stitching etc. are very important too. Sometimes my customers have a precise idea of what they would like me to create for them and sometimes I am in front of a white canvas. In both cases  my thoughts come first, followed by sketching and a lot of drawing.  Each box is unique and when I am pleased with my notes, I move to the next step, the engineering, and the blue print.  That is where I wish my mathematics teachers at school could see my work.  It is also at this moment, that I am hunting in my stash for fabric, trim, cord, ribbon, padding, hardware etc.…I must confess, I am a fabric addict, I buy it anywhere when I find something I like, not that I necessarily need, but I know, one day, it will be THE one. Of course, customers are welcome to provide their own fabrics if it is natural material, synthetic are not really compatible with glue. Ok, now that all the ingredients are gathered, the construction can start.  It takes an average of 5 to 20 hours to build a box based on the size, and specific features and requirements like hinge, ledge, insert, drawer, top lid framed etc. The construction of the top lid and structure includes a lot of cutting, sanding, gluing, sanding, consolidating, sanding, cleaning and… lastly sanding for a smooth and perfect result. Now the box and lid are ready to receive the fabric, again a lot of measuring, cutting, gluing etc. 

    3.  Can you describe the finishing process for us, once you receive a canvas, how long does it take to finish and what insider tips can you give to those who wish to self-finish on their own?

    Once I receive a canvas, I first take a picture and send it to the customer, I imagine that it is good to know that our babies are home safely.  I file my order form with any instructions, any detail, requirement etc. and the date of the day to take place in the backlog. Usually, the return time is about 4 to 6 weeks, with the pandemic I am more around 15 weeks.

    The finishing process really starts when I have the needlepoint piece on my bench in front of me. It is the time of creation, imagination, visualization, time to choose all the components, fabric, trim, make cording as needed, time to try, try and try again until the perfect harmony, until my little inner voice tells me: this is it! Sometimes it takes me a while before I fall in love! But it is so important to fall in love! I am the last person working with the cherished needlepoint, it is my responsibility to bring the piece to life.  And to make it perfect, beautiful and why not magic. There is no small project, because they all come from heart.

    My big tip for those who wish to self-finish on their own would be to go slowly, very slowly. Take your time to gather all your components, take your time at every step, a wrong cut could be irreversible, if you have doubts, do not hesitate to first try on a piece of blank canvas to familiarize yourself with the material, size, thickness etc. Give yourself a try but not on the final piece.

    Use pins, clips, cloth pins etc. to visualize your work, be minimalist on gluing. Take pictures.  The eye of the camera has no pity and will tell you the truth, even what you would not like to see.  Like, round shape…that is not round or cording not aligned, or gluing showing etc. Always secure your work, spend time to baste your needlepoint, use invisible thread…And you will make it at your entire satisfaction, all is love!

     

    4. What are some of the popular trends in finishing at the moment, what do most stitchers want? Also, what has been some of your more challenging requests?

    There is certainly an increased demands for Cartonnage especially boxes and 3D stand up, hangs up followed by the continuous flow of ornaments, stockings etc. It makes me feel very happy again, as I truly believe that Cartonnage is such a beautiful complement for needlepoint. I call it practical art… just for you, as each of them is customized to fit the customer desires.

    Also, what has been some of your more challenging requests?   

    I guess these days because of the pandemic, we all spend more time at home, re-discovering heirloom treasures in drawers or damaged but cherished ones that we would like to bring back to life.

    Those restauration projects are always challenging, it is a total unknown when I receive it. Because I never know what I am going to discover. First I take a close look, and I like to take pictures too during the processes of unsewing, ungluing, cleaning, washing etc. to inform the customer of what I can possibly do or not to do. In most of the cases it is possible to bring back the original beauty with some precautions, but possible. Sometimes it is not possible as the canvas has been cut flush or the edges are extremely used, desintegretad etc., in those cases I manage to make some adjustments in order to reconstruct the piece as close as possible to the original.

    The worst case is when the stitched part is damaged by a dog bite etc. or desintegreted by time or bad quality threads. The only possibility is to salvage what is usable.  It is a tough decision.  Even if the customer is aware of the damage and I get the green light to proceed, it is still a tough decision. The cleaning and blocking are challenging as well because of  the fragility of the old threads and canvas, running colors etc.

    In the meantime I truly think that each piece is a challenge as it is unique and deserves a very close and loving attention . Definitely, finishing is a slow process . 

    5. I know that you do not needlepoint but that you do cross stitch. After finishing so many beautiful needlepoint canvases, do you have any desire to take up needlepoint?

    I love needlepoint… if only my days could count 48 hours.  I guess I would be so happy to join the club.  Life is full of difficult choices. In the meantime, I am so in love with my finishing job!

    6. Last but not least, give us the scoop on your Instagram name, Un Chiffon fon fon.

    Ok, literally it means a rag rag rag…

    But not only, it is a play on words around the tittle of a French nursery rhymes.

    The song is about puppets, finger puppets moving, dancing…and disappearing….

     In French the song says : Ainsi font font font les petites marionnettes

                                             Ainsi font font font…3 petits tours et puis s’en vont.

    Let try this in English:

    That’s how they go, go, go

    The small puppets,

    That's how they go, go, go

    Tree laps around and then they leave

    It became:

    Un Chiffon, fon, fon…the happy melting pot for my unconditional love of anything ancient fabric, linen, childhood…

     

     Maryse, I can't begin to thank you enough.  I am so humbled by your love and enthusiasm for your craft.  I have immensely enjoyed learning about you. 

  • Tête-à-tête with Hannelore Brown of @hedgehog_needlepoint

    Tête-à-tête with Hannelore Brown of @hedgehog_needlepoint

    Our tête-à-tête this month is with the lovely Hannelore Brown of @hedgehog_needlepoint.   I first became aware of Hannelore with her #canvasforacause canvases where she generously donated proceeds from the sales to very worthwhile charities.  Once the pandemic hit, she once again rose to the challenge of providing meals for health care workers.  She inspired us to create the #stayhome canvas where we also donated proceeds from the sales to healthcare workers and other organizations during quarantine.  Soon after, Hannelore created the clever Retro Travel Tag canvases and I would venture to say, her life has not been the same since.  I am very fortunate to have traveled to all seven continents and over 100 countries plus many cities in the US, so the thought of tackling all of hedgehog_needlepoint travel tags is a bit overwhelming, but I intend to slowly start my journey.  I hope you will enjoy getting to know a bit more about Hannelore.

    1.  Can you tell us a bit about your needlepoint background, how and when did you learn to needlepoint, and when did you start painting your own canvases?

    Thank you so much for asking me to join you on your blog, Joyce.  I am truly honored. I admire your designs as well as your daughter-in-law’s, Audrey Wu.

    My European mother encouraged handiwork (needlepoint, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, sewing) from a very early age.  My father even whittled my first set of knitting needles at the age of 5.  Our family motto (as a well as those many generations before us) could be described as “if you aren’t studying, playing sports or playing music, and are sitting down and not reading, then you need to do something to keep your hands busy”.  Everyone on the German side of the family, including my uncles, did handiwork.  Needlepoint, indeed all types of handiwork, was and still is just a part of our lives.  One of my aunts owned a shop, Die Wolltruhe, in Winsen an der Luhe, in which she sold knitting, embroidery and needlepoint.  Boxes of projects periodically traveled across the Atlantic which provided endless fun activities.  My mother is a Continental stitch aficionado so when my stepmom, Nancy, showed me how to basketweave, … well it was eye opening.  Being able to basketweave accelerated a project timeline.  Nancy took basketweave to a PhD level with many of her pieces, including a gorgeous tremendously large wall hanging (5’x7’)  that is an homage to African wildlife.  All in all, many influences had a hand in how and why I view needlepoint the way I do. 

    Growing up with a different mindset towards handiwork projects meant using different mediums.  Printed linen embroidery, danish embroidery designs, truly horrible 1970s printed Needlepoint canvases, counted cross-stitch, counted needlepoint, …you name it, we did it.  It also meant if we didn’t find what we wanted to make, we made it up ourselves.  Many times, we simply started stitching or knitting, making up the design as we went. 

    Over the past several years, I had stitched several needlepoint belts for family members.  Since I couldn’t find the designs I wanted for the belts, I made up them as I went along.  When our youngest child scampered off to college leaving me with time on my hands, my girls encouraged me to start designing canvases.  After doing quite a lot of research, because you can’t simply offer canvases based on “hey, just wing it”, I started painting in January 2020 and haven’t looked back. Currently there are 135+destinations available, with another 40+ new destinations slated for Late Summer and Fall releases.  With respect to Needleminders, there are super duper strong Retro Travel Tag needleminders, because who wants a needleminder that doesn’t grab ahold-  18 Retro Travel Tag Needleminders from which to chose.

    There were such lovely designers, writers/bloggers and finishers in the community who pushed me on from the start and deserve a big shout out:  Brooke McGowan, Tricia Heaton, Joanna Somers, Ashley (Ash + Gin), Victoria Whitson to name a few who took me under their collective wings, made suggestions and cheered the birth of the Retro Travel Tags.  Emma Bazilian in a needlepoint article for House Beautiful highlighting several designers, included my Wash Your Hands canvas.   Faison and Alex Carreno wrote about the Retro Travel Tags and Love&Peace+6” canvases respectively in their weekly blogs.  Joann of Island House Needlepoint made finishing Retro Travel Tags into an art form thanks in great part to her engineering background. Last but certainly not least, the Stitchers who have turned my little designs into incredible feats of creativity.  Thank you all for your support and love of the Retro Travel Tag series.

    2.   You were one of the first designers to start #canvasforacause.  Can you tell us a bit about the organizations you were involved with and will we see more in the future?

    #canvasforacause is still one of my passion projects.  Philanthropy is something we can all do, even if it is a few dollars here and there. The few organizations we are most passionate about in our family are:

    The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust - a longtime Kenyan organization which hand raises orphan elephants to be integrated back into the wild; also provides veterinary services for injured wildlife around Kenya (all HN proceeds donated)

    Love &Peace+6’ canvas provided meals for NYU ER dept during the height of the pandemic last year (all HN proceeds donated)

    Wildlife Warriors and Wires Wildlife Rescue - We Love Australia and Kevin the Koala canvases…all proceeds donated to the aforementioned organizations who were rescuing and caring for Australian wildlife caught in the horrible wildfires of January 2020. Upon providing a receipt of donation, stitchers received the aforementioned canvases for free.

    Enough (canvas)- all proceeds donated in memory of George Floyd to Reclaim the Block, Back Visions Collective, George Floyd Memorial Fund and Louisville Bail Fund.  Upon providing a receipt of donation, stitchers received the aforementioned canvas for free.

    There are ideas cooking for future #canvasforacause … I just need a little more time to figure out the logistics since I would like, especially one of the ideas, to be in perpetuity. 

    3.  Like everyone else, I am just in awe with your retro travel tags and am absolutely thrilled with your success.  Can you give us the background of how these came to be? 

    Thank you! Honestly, I’m just floored by the response to my tags.   The enthusiasm from stitchers and shops alike simply blows me away.  Never in a million years could I have imagined how much fun everyone would have with the Retro Travel Tag series.   The list of requested destination continues to grow every time new destinations are added.  Folks remember a special place or bucket list destination that they would love to see included.  With over 12,000 registered airports around the world, it’s pretty safe to say there is plenty of inspiration :)

    So how the Retro Travel Tags came into existence…

    In looking around to see what current designs were trending, I noticed that while there were/are plenty of travel canvas options, there wasn’t something truly universal.  Something for both the experienced stitcher as well as the novice.  Beginning needlepoint can be intimidating… how big a canvas, what threads (good heavens, soooooo many choices), designs, how long will this take, can I take a class, where should I purchase everything? The list is endless, right?  I wanted to design something that appealed to everyone, with a sense of nostalgia, wasn’t too busy or involved too many colors.  A glimpse of a boring old bar code, black and white luggage sticker on a suitcase sparked a memory of those wonderful tags that airports used to use.  So with a little more research, and because I’m a trivia pursuit nut, the various “Easter egg trivia” elements were added, the Retro Travel Tags were born.  The tags are the perfect size to tuck into a purse, bag or backpack.  Additionally, by using Planet Earth Essentials, kitting a tag is not a huge financial hit.  If you have a thread stash, they are a perfect stash buster.

    If you would like the Compendium, Vol 1 in which the colors, symbols, and flight numbers are decoded, I’m happy to send you the pdf or you can download it for free from my website. Vol.2 of the Compendium is the works which will include the most recent additions as well as those destinations which will join the series later this Summer and Fall.

    4.  I recently saw that these are now available as Stitch Printed ™, what does that mean for the future of the retro travel tags?

    Needlepoint is not for the faint of heart budgetwise.  Adding in the threads, specialty threads and finishing .. .well, the cost of a project adds up quickly.  Hand-painting is an expensive art form.  Designers expend considerable time and energy in a handpainted canvas.  Consequently, hand painted canvases are priced accordingly.  I think it was Brook McGowan of Thorne Alexander who wrote in her blog that there are approximately between 900,000 to 1 million needlepointers in the US—considering the uptick in stitchers this past year, that number undoubted has increased.  However, that figure still represents a fairly niche market.  I feel that needlepoint prices should not be limiting.  If we want to encourage and welcome a wider audience, and larger demographic of stitchers then we need to offer options.  Stitch Printed ™ canvases by Pixels on Cotton are beautifully and exquisitely created in small batches on Zweigart Mono Deluxe mesh with gorgeous color saturation (color fast) and are exceptionally precise.  These canvases are not the same as from the 1970s which were simply horrible.   Moreover, threads such as Silk & Ivory as well as speciality threads, do not pill or fuzz when stitching on a Stitch Printed ™ canvas.  They slide through thru a Stitch Printed ™ canvas like butter.  I firmly believe having options for all price points does not diminish the artistry, the tradition or the creativity of needlepoint. 

    As for my Retro Travel Tag series, currently, the (18 mesh) 3”x5” canvases are a hand painted wholesale line and available through various local Needlepoint shops.   Ever since the Retro Travel Tag series debuted, stitchers begged for a larger mesh size as well as multiple destinations.  Having priced out what that would mean in a hand-painted option, I felt it was simply too cost prohibitive. The 13 mesh Custom Triple destinations (9”x15.5”), and individual 9”x9” destinations are Stitch Printed ™ .  The Retro Travel Tag Stitch Printed ™ Canvases in 13 mesh make it an affordable option for everyone.  In order to keep the price reasonable, the 13 mesh canvases will only be sold on my website. 

    There are several new ideas for the Retro Travel Tag series on the design board.    Whether these ideas are wholesale options or will be offered via my website will be price dependent.  I truly want everyone to be able to collect their favorite tags.  Because Needlepoint brings joy, peace and a sense of accomplishment,  I see no reason to limit its reach.

    5.  Can you tell us what’s in your stash and what are you stitching at the moment?  Also, which of the tags is your favorite?

    Good heavens, my stash is eclectic and considering the age of some canvases, down right embarrassing.  From WIP canvases from my childhood to current fangirl purchases:

    • Thorne Alexander-3 Eleanor the Elephant (2 are competed), 1 Edgar the Elephant and 2 Cecil the Lions— Brooke’s Africa series, especially her Elephants and Lions are hands down the most creative in our community.
    • Silver Needle - Beatrix Potter Mrs Tiggywinkle
    • Bad Bitch
    • Ash & Gin
    • Crude Canvases
    • Victoria Whitson - brilliant genius wickedly funny QR code canvases
    • Stitchrock - Pink Christmas Tree
    • A ratty printed Christmas socking from 1970s which I might give up on.
    • 6 Dining Room chair seat cushions - again 1970s, 3 in a garish pink rose pattern and 3 in an anemic yellow rose pattern. My mother bought them for me to stitch when I was about 12, … I think she wanted to keep me really busy that Summer.

    On my wishlist -

    Rachel Barri-pretty much anything she’s designed

    Lycette - those pillow canvases, far too many to count

    Pip & Roo - Easter place cards which are darling

    Ramsay Gourd-Cheetah, simply the most gorgeous cheetah ever.

    However, currently, I’m stitching some of my tags to have as examples to travel with various Trunk Shows.  As someone who loves Basketweave, fiddling around with decorative stitches is an adventure.  Stitches to Go and Whimsical Stitch are my favorite resources as well as the numerous stitchers who have incredible creative powers.  I am so thankful when a stitcher shares a finished Retro Travel tag so it can be saved in the story highlights.  Sharing that creativity and having a resource readily available for everyone to enjoy is such a delight. 

    My favorite Retro Travel Tag…, that’s difficult.  But if I have to chose (a few):

    DCA Washington National- the Panda reference in the flight numbers, the cherry blossoms, the nod to the Washington monument… @char.in.stitches and @hifimakes two extraordinary stitchers have stitched beautiful DCA tags, which are awe inspiring.  

    HEL Helsinki - I spent a year studying abroad in Finland, 1987, in Oulu, which is about 100km from the Arctic Circle. 

     

    CPT, JRO,& NBO - for our love of Africa

    AMS Amsterdam - for my Uncle Harry

    VCE Venice & NAP Napoli - because of the fond memories of traveling there throughout the years. 

    BUD Budapest and SDF Louisville - because researching for those locations was so much fun.

     

    Thank you again for asking me to join you today.  I’ve had a lot of fun!