Our tête-à-tête this month is with Alli Eagan, better known to her many followers as @francophiledallas. Alli is an avid (and lifelong) needlepointer who lives in Dallas with her husband, Matt, and two children. She is a Francophile at heart who loves all things French and studied Art History and French at the University of Virginia (B.A.) and at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (M.A.). When she is not needlepointing, she loves French cooking, a chilled glass of champagne, gardening, bike rides and walks with her family, and watching British mysteries.
Alli is the inspiration for hundreds of stitchers that, at the moment are currently decorating their own Holiday needlepoint garland. It is impossible to look at Instagram and not appreciate the influence Alli has at this holiday time. She has posted a "Garland 101 Tutorial" on her Instagram stories for an inside look as to how to get started with your own garland. She also created a "Parade of Homes" to showcase all of your holiday needlepoint. Be sure to tag @francophiledallas and #NeedlepointHomeTour2020 for a chance to be featured in her stories and highlighted on her home page.
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 grew up surrounded by needlepoint! I am grateful to my mother and grandmother who taught me how to needlepoint young and to truly appreciate the time and hard work it takes to create a piece of needlework. They are two woman who have stitched large-scale works (framed pieces, piano bench, pillows, stockings) that I would see out year-round. Inspiration was all abound!
My earliest needlepoint memory is sitting on the floor of Mary Jane’s Needlepoint in Nichols Hills Plaza (Oklahoma City) and picking out children’s needlepoint canvases with my twin sister. I believe we were about six years old and always found ourselves busy as my mom and grandmother pulled threads. My children now see me doing the same thing, and I have already started to teach them!
At Christmas, we were surrounded by needlepoint, and it became one of the ways I learned how to decorate for Christmas. Pillows, ornaments, framed pieces, and more! I can remember our first family trip to New York in 1989, and my mom was stitching a Statue of Liberty ornament, hand-stitching the date and personalizing it. I am still stitching travel rounds on family trips almost 30 years later. I learned from the best! My mom always stitched her needlepoint in carpool as well, and I have her “carpool” series of Christmas pillows that I treasure every Christmas.
At UVA, I nurtured my love of needlepoint at Threads, the local needlepoint shop, and began my love of collecting canvases and stitching pieces of my own. I have fond memories in the Chi Omega house of typing my undergraduate thesis and then stitching away on a bee belt (for Napoleon!).
Below is a collection of Alli's many New Orleans ornaments from Needle Arts in Metairie, Louisiana.
2..Please give us a bit of the history behind your incredible Christmas garland. Was there something that inspired you?
As my needlepoint ornament collection grew, I started to think of ways to really feature the needlepoint. I have such a large collection of regular Christmas ornaments that I knew they would compete for attention on my big Christmas tree. We don’t have a mantle or a staircase in our home, so it was time to get creative! The mirror seemed like the perfect place to experiment with a garland. My children count the days til they can see the garland again and have started to help me decorate it. They now have memories tied to a lot of the ornaments so it has really become a true, family tradition.
Before the collection was too big, I had used twig trees that were beautiful – but alas, I outgrew them in favor for something with more impact. This will be the fourth Christmas for the garland, and I am always thinking of ways to build upon it. I am delighted to have started a “Needlepoint Home Tour” on my Instagram where I am featuring holiday needlepoint (ornaments, stockings, pillows, and all displays) from coast to coast. Be sure to tag me, @francophiledallas, to be featured! As this has been such a “virtual” year, it seemed a great chance to start a fun virtual home tour of needlepoint far and wide.
3. 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 stitching three of the darling Studio Midwest vehicles from Chapel Hill Needlepoint: the ice cream truck, the New Orleans streetcar, and the red caboose. I am personalizing each one with lettering and little touches for each of my children. I love the look of the Studio Midwest three-dimensional ornaments and adore all their toppers as well.
For my works in progress, I live by “the more, the better!” I tend to always have 4-5 to sometimes 10 ornaments going at once. I love to stitch a little bit on several ornaments, and then, I have many ornaments finished all at once. I think it also keeps me energized in each project as I love the variety of having several pieces going at a time.
4. Can you please share with us some of the goodies you have in your stash? Is there a central theme to your canvases?
I have a secret armoire (shh!) filled with needlepoint! I have my threads and all supplies organized there as well. It’s where many hopes and dreams live, too! I tend to stay so busy working on ornaments and small pieces that represent our current and recent family memories that I leave the bigger pieces for “one day.”
In my stash, I have Meredith Collection and Studio Midwest purses, the 12 days of New Orleans (from Needle Arts), four Alexa stockings, brick covers, pillows, and even a vintage Strictly Christmas tree skirt from an estate sale – thank you, mom! I have many, many ornaments as well that are all divided by theme and I love to go “shopping” in my own stash when I need inspiration or a new project.
My big themes are children/first Christmas/hobbies, New Orleans (my husband’s hometown!), travel rounds and France. I truly think of my stash as a collection – a curated collection that represents my family, our hobbies, our joys, our favorite foods, travels and more. I know that my stash –which continues to grow—will always keep me busy and inspired!
5. Is there anything special on your wish list that you would like to stitch one day?
I dream about doing a large-scale project like a tree skirt, rug or a framed piece –many of the pieces my mom and grandmother have stitched. They each stitched a 2 ft by 3 ft piece of a large triptych for our church, and it is moving to think about creating an heirloom for many to enjoy. Very inspiring! At my wedding, my mom, grandmother, and I all took a photo by these pieces and the kneeler my grandmother stitched. These threads are all woven into our family history. I treasure my grandmother’s needlepoint that is all throughout her house and have many of her crewelwork pieces in my own home.
My wish list is also full of Thanksgiving and Fall, many of Kathy Schenkel’s darling pilgrims and leaves. I surely love Christmas but I would love to have some fall pieces in my collection!
Next up is my darling Silver Stitch “Press for Champagne,” my new motto and New Year’s ornament for 2021. I also can’t wait to start my Audrey Wu strawberry jam and my Ann Kaye Studio skier Santa. All perfect for some cozy, winter stitching.
Merci mille fois for the opportunity to go talk tête-à-tête about all things needlepoint!
Alli, Merci beaucoup for such a fun and informative tête-à-tête.