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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!