• 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, 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… 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!









  • Tête-à-tête with Laura Rock of @stitchrockdesigns

    Tête-à-tête with Laura Rock of @stitchrockdesigns

    Our tête-à-tête this month is with the sweet and talented Laura Rock of @stitchrockdesigns.  I first came across Laura's Instagram a couple of years ago when she introduced llamas in different colors and alpacas with floral headpieces, all of them just adorable.  As what happens in the Instagram needlepoint community, we occasionally starting sending each other DMs, sometimes complimenting each other's work, asking questions and recommendations, and from there, Laura is someone I now consider a friend and someone whose work I admire quite a bit.  Her use of color and her attention to detail is evident throughout all her pieces.  I hope you enjoy getting to know a bit more about her.

    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?

    My mom taught me to needlepoint my senior year of college.  She also started to needlepoint in college and gave me a baseball ornament canvas to stitch for my birthday, as I had just completed an internship for the Mens’ College World Series.  I come from a crafty family- my mom, aunt, and cousin all needlepoint, and between us, we’ve tried a variety of other crafts like knitting, beading, sewing, and crewel.  I like needlepoint the most, because it has the most options for things you can make with it, and I love that it can be an heirloom piece for families to treasure.  

    In the fall of 2018 I decided I really wanted a cactus shaped ornament for my Christmas tree, but I couldn’t find one online or in a needlepoint store.  I spontaneously bought some paint and brushes at a craft store and ordered canvas to paint one for myself and loved painting it so much, I started building a mini collection of items.  I posted a few photos of my canvases on social media and was encouraged by friends and family to open an online store.  I opened an Etsy store a few months later that I thought would be a creative outlet and a way to make a little extra fun money.  My store gained a lot of traction and two years later, it’s my full-time job with a new website, 65 designs, and 5 needle minders in my collection!  Ironically, I still haven’t stitched that cactus ornament, but it’s high up on my list of things to complete!

    2.  You recently came out with a pink cactus to go along with your pink Christmas tree, can we expect other pink themed canvases?

    Yes!  Dusty pink is my favorite color and I was inspired by the ceramic trees with lights from the 50s.  The pink tree is my best selling canvas and I have a few accompanying canvases coming out later this summer!  I have a pink cactus ornament coming out this month that is the same color as the pink tree, as well as a number of pink and turquoise holiday items that will be out this fall in the same color palette as the pink tree, including clutches, ornaments, and coasters!

    3.  You have the cutest llamas and alpacas, tell us a bit about how and why you started designing them.

    A few years ago, my family stopped at a local alpaca farm in Nebraska on our way to an event nearby.  The farm owners allowed us to pet, feed, and take pictures with the alpacas and I became smitten.  It evolved to an alpaca/llama adoration and they’re now my favorite animals other than my dog, Augie!  Larry the Llama was one of my first canvases and initially came in purple, yellow, and turquoise.  I started getting requests for other colors, and ended up with 13 (a full rainbow) so everyone can have the one that speaks to them the most!

    4.  I love your use of color; your color combinations are so happy and cheerful.  How do you decide on your color palettes?

    My favorite color is pink and I love it paired with turquoise or gold.  I’m really inspired by bohemian themes, like flowers, cacti, dream catchers, and kilim rugs.  I also love vintage decor from the 50s, and try to evoke that look with a colorful palette or unique lettering to give it a modern spin.

    5.  Can you tell us what’s in your stash and what are you stitching at the moment?  Also, do you have a favorite canvas you’ve designed?  If so, what’s the meaning behind it?

    I have a few canvases I’m currently stitching in my overflowing stash right now.  I’m working on the Nadia clutch, which I’m debating having finished as an acrylic tray or pillow with tassels rather than a traditional clutch.  I’m also working on a lamb standup by Barbara’s Needlepoint for my mom to display next Spring, and a Point of it All alcohol bottle ornament as I am working on that will be added to a collection of beverage themed canvases, which will be finished as a bar cart garland to display around the holidays (or maybe year-round)!

    I have a soft spot for the Turkish Kilim, because it reminds me of an interaction I had a few years ago that planted a seed that I could be an artist.  My mom and I had stopped into a vintage kilim store in South Dakota a few years ago when we were on vacation and we had barely stepped inside when the owner asked if we were artists.  My mom and I both said no (I worked in sales, my mom is a writer) and the shop owner responded with “Only two percent of the world are tree hugging artists, and it’s you” and he winked.  I was asked a few more times if I was an artist over the next year in the most random places and I like to think that it was maybe the universe’s way of leading me to another career path.  I now try to incorporate kilims into every collection because I have always wanted a kilim rug, but think a needlepoint kilim is the next best thing- made even better because it’s part of my needlepoint design journey!

    Thank you Laura for sharing part of your needlepoint journey with us!





    1. Tête-à-tête with Arielle Katz of @nycmermaid1121

      Tête-à-tête with Arielle Katz of @nycmermaid1121

      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.