Our tête-à-tête this month is with the super talented Arielle Katz, also known as @nycmermaid1121. I first came across Arielle's Instagram account a couple of years ago and was immediately taken in by her exquisite stitching. I've had the pleasure in the past year of getting to know Arielle a bit more through @sbtstitches Stitch Club. Arielle is extremely generous with her time and knowledge and is the "go to" person if anyone has a question regarding stitches, threads, canvases, finishing, etc. She is immensely talented and I urge you to follow her on Instagram to see what she is stitching.
1. For some of our readers who don’t follow you, could you please tell us a bit about your needlepoint background, how and when did you learn to needlepoint?
I am a 4th generation needleworker! On my mom’s side, my great-grandmother did crochet and cross-stitch, my grandmother was a seamstress by trade and did needlepoint as a hobby, and my mom is needlepointer. On my dad’s side, my grandmother was knitter. I very proudly display different pieces from these amazing women around my home – a crochet blanket on my couch, a cross-stitch table cloth for Jewish holidays, a needlepoint footstool, and needlepoint pillows and wall hangings throughout the space.
I personally began needlepointing at the end of 2017 when my mom insisted I needed a hobby. She purchased a super inexpensive kit for me on the Walmart website so I could test out the craft. It came with a canvas and threads. I fell in love immediately and the rest is history! I had not had the canvas finished until 2021 because I didn’t want to spend a lot on finishing a canvas that cost around $25 (threads included! Then I found a super talented finisher who was able to turn the canvas into a pumpkin for a price I could handle for that particular piece. I was thrilled to be able to finally finish and display it. My first project with hand painted canvases was a set of four Kirk & Bradley cupcakes and a Devon Nicholson layer cake for my kitchen which was, at the time, in the very early planning stages for a major renovation. The kitchen had not even been designed yet but in the design process, I made sure there was wall space for the five canvases!
My only wish is that I would have begun to needlepoint sooner so that I could enjoy the hobby alongside my grandmother, with whom I was extremely close. By the time I began, her health was rapidly declining from Alzheimer’s and she was no longer stitching. But my mom always says that she’d be in awe and so proud of my work if she could see it.
2. 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?
My stitching habits have changed during the pandemic. Pre-COVID, I had a 45 minute commute to New York City for work so I’d be working on a large canvas at home, and kept a small one for commuting and lunch breaks. During the pandemic, I went to stitching one at a time. However, currently I have three pieces in progress – a round Jerusalem scene I had custom painted by Loops in Israel when I went in 2018, two Kimberly Ann colorful Fendi canvases that will be the front and back of a cross-body bag, and a Needle Deeva floral that is for the woman who was my nanny for 13 years and she is a big part of who I am today. She’s 91 now and I really wanted to get the canvas done, so I set Jerusalem aside.
I also currently have 6 pieces out at finishers, and I recently finished the Rachel “Keepers of the Flame” aka The Holiday Ladies canvas that will go to the framer when I finish the Jerusalem canvas (I’ll be hanging the two together so I need to coordinate their frames).
3. 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?
Oftentimes, I just have a vision when I buy the canvas. It was super important to me that the two Alice Peterson book canvases look realistic. My real job is in the publishing industry (in Children’s Books) so I was able to get my hands on copies of most of the actual books painted on the children’s classic canvas from my company’s warehouse. I really tried to make them look just like the actual books, but really wanted some areas to pop – so I did French knots for the trees on Where The Wild Things Are, Fluffy Fleece for the sheep’s head on the cover of Charlotte’s web, I matched the gold for the Golden Books using two shades of Kreinik, and I used a yellow ribbon for Mother Goose’s bonnet. On the adult classics canvas there wasn’t as much fun detail but I used ThreadWorx Overdye Metallic for the water coming off the whale’s tale on the Moby Dick spine, and I did a lot of beadwork on Don Quixote and War and Peace. For the SBT Stitches Lefty’s Right Mind collab canvas Work Hard Be Nice, I knew immediately that each letter would be its own stitch, and I really wanted the shadowing to show, so I set out to find lots of small stitches, and I knew that they’d each have to have some sparkle. That canvas had a total of 46 different threads and 16 different stitches, and was the inspiration for the stitch guide for the 2nd release of their collaboration. The Jerusalem canvas I am currently working on was tougher to make stitch decisions for. I would constantly stitch something else and then go back to it. I probably brought it to my LNS three or four times before visualizing suddenly one day what I wanted to do with it. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head! There is really no rhyme or reason to how I make decisions – the vision just comes to me! I often reference books to help – Stitches To Go is my number one absolute favorite but I also love both volumes of Mary’s Whimsical Stitches, and I have several other books in my closet that I reference. I have two preferred needlepoint shops that I frequent and I will often ask both owners for their suggestions! They are both extremely talented and knowledgeable! I’ll sometimes even take screen shots of people’s posts on Instragram if I see a stitch I like that I know would work on something in my stash! People at my LNS and people who attend the SBT Stitches stitch club every Monday always ask for my thread and stitch advice and I’m always happy to help! I’d also be happy to help anyone choose stitches or threads – just DM me on Instagram and include a photo of the canvas and the area you need suggestions for!
4. Can you please share with us some of the goodies you have in your stash?
I actually don’t have much in my stash at the moment. I made a commitment to myself in Fall 2020 that I would work through most of my stash before buying anything else. Currently, I have the Kate Dickerson SUPREME Ruth Bader Ginsberg canvas in my stash, and the Alice Peterson Fashion Books (which is currently out getting a little makeover to repaint a couple of the books to make them more in-line with my own personal fashion preferences). Audrey Wu recently painted me a custom asscher cut diamond which looks so real and I am so excited to stitch it. I love Bad Bitch as well, and I recently received the Do What You Love Canvas, which I’ll probably hang on my bulletin board in my office space, or perhaps finish it flat and place it under the glass on my desk.
I am also extremely into the Hedgehog Needlepoint retro travel tags. I wish I could buy tags for every place I’ve been but I have no clue where I’d hang them all! My bedroom closet has five doors and my plan is to hang one tag on each. Two are with the finisher (JFK, one of my hometown airports, and BOS, my college city), two are on order (LGA, my other hometown airport, and HAJ, my grandmother’s city of birth which we visited together), and one is not yet designed although it’s supposedly coming soon – TLV, for my favorite country in the world.
I live in an apartment so my space is limited. When I buy a canvas, I always ask myself, “how am I finishing this and where will it go?” If I don’t know what I am going to do the canvas, or if I’m not gifting it to someone, I won’t buy it. Ensuring that I have a place for each canvas helps keep my stash somewhat controlled. When I purchased the Susan Roberts Row Houses, I knew that it would hang with an old Lower East Side scene canvas that my grandmother stitched in the 70s. And I have a lot of little seasonal and holiday ornaments from My Pink Sugar Life that I swap out on the apothecary cabinet in my foyer. Two of my favorite pieces are these little Edie & Ginger rabbis. They each hold their own little sign – one says “make challah not war” and the other says “deck the halls with matzo balls.” I knew that “make challah” would sit on my apothecary cabinet all year to welcome friends and family into my home, and his brother, “matzo balls,” stands next to him from the day after Thanksgiving through the holiday season.
5. Is there anything special on your wish list that you would like to stitch one day?
Honestly – there is no canvas in particular that is on my wish list at the moment. The Rachel “Holiday Ladies” had been on my wish list for forever but the original canvas was 3 feet long and I had nowhere to hang something that large. In 2020 Rachel came out with a scaled down version and I snatched that up immediately. I would love to work on some more holiday themed canvases so I can decorate more for different occasions – Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, etc. but I need to find the right canvases that go with my aesthetic. My ultimate wish is to be able to stitch a name canvas, a tooth fairy pillow, an Alice Peterson alphabet, and other little fun things for children of my own someday!
Thank you Arielle for such a fun tête-à-tête and for sharing all your beautiful canvases.