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:
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!