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  • 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.

    2. Tête-à-tête with Audrey Wu and Joyce Silverman

      Tête-à-tête with Audrey Wu and Joyce Silverman

      In honor of Mother's Day this month, we are doing something a little different with our tête-à-tête.  As many of you know Audrey Wu is my daughter-in-law.  She married my older son, Jonathan, almost 3 years ago after having met each other in Tokyo, where they were both studying Japanese.  Rumor has it they sat next to each since the first day of classes and things only got better with time. They recently relocated back to the United States, first in San Francisco where Jonathan's company is headquartered and more recently to the Phoenix area.  We speak via Skype almost daily and bounce ideas off each other all the time.  There is nothing that brings me greater joy and happiness than to have Audrey alongside me in this wonderful needlepoint community.  I hope you will enjoy getting to know a bit more about us.

      *All questions have been taken from our questionnaire on Instagram stories*

      1.  What was it like when you first met each other?

      Audrey: Just like any girlfriend meeting your boyfriend's mother for the first time, it was a nervous experience.  Especially in Asia, you have to try your best to impress your boyfriend's family and leave a good first impression.  When Joyce visited Tokyo one year, we took a few days together visiting the countryside and bonded over numerous things.  Thankfully, Joyce was extremely nice and easy-going which made things go smoothly and we've had a great relationship ever since.

      Joyce: I can't remember the exact first time we met, but each time we would go to Japan she would be around more often.  She always struck me as someone who was kind, sweet and happy, and willing to do whatever we wanted.  I knew she was the one for my son when despite a fear of roller coasters and rocky rides, she enthusiastically joined him whenever he wanted to go to a theme park. 

      2.  What is it like working with your DIL/MIL?

      Audrey: I view Joyce as a mentor who has been nothing but supportive of me and taught me so many things about needlepoint and stitching.  Without her help, I don't think I could have become the needlepoint artist I am now and am truly thankful for everything she does.

      Joyce: For me, having Audrey alongside me provides me with a youthful point of view.  Whenever I show her a new design, she always looks at it with fresh eyes and gives me her thoughts.  Even though our styles are different, we are in complete agreement in our approach and outlook of what canvases to design.  We usually bounce new ideas off each other, including the logistics of sizing, coloring, fonts, etc.

      3.  How do you have the best relationship?

      Audrey:  I respect Joyce very much as a person, but I also view her as a close friend an am happy to express my thoughts with her even if they disagree with what she was initially thinking.  I believe this openess and communication is rare in a MIL/DIL relationship and is very important in maintaining a good and honest business relationship.

      Joyce:  I would say that our temperaments are very similiar and that we look at things the same way, albeit generationally different.  We are both meticulous in our designing, painting and how we live our lives. I believe that Audrey knows and is comfortable with the fact that I will always have her back and protect her from anything in my power.  Audrey comes from a very close knit family and is very comfortable being part of ours.  For both of us, family comes first, needlepoint is a wonderful bonus that I am delighted to share with her.

      4.  How long have you been stitching?

      Audrey:  I've been stitching now for about 3 years.  One of the first few weeks after arriving in San Francisco, Joyce took me to a needlepoint shop as a way to help me transition into a new country and provide a way to relax and relieve some of the stress.  And since then, I've been doing needlpoint just about nonstop.

      Joyce: I learned to needlepoint as a young girl when I was around 10-12 years old.  I had a relative that owned a needlepoint shop in the town I grew up in.  I would always be there stitching and if I didn't like a design, I would repaint it myself with markers.  Throughout the years, I have stitched quite a bit of needlepoint gifts for friends and family, countless Christmas stockings, Easter eggs, baby sleeping hangings and endless pillows.  

      5.  What is your favorite canvas of each other's?

      Audrey:  My favorite SilverStitch canvas would have to be her "Press for Champagne".  I've never been to London but Joyce often tells me the story of this amazing bar where you press the Champagne button and it miraculously appears.  One day, I'm hoping to check it out.  Until then, I'll have to make do with a needlepoint version.

      Joyce:  Like everyone else, I am completely blown away by the gemstone collection. The intricate detail and coloring are beyond exquisite and something that had never been done before on that level in the needlepoint world.  

      6.  What is your own favorite design?

      Audrey: I like all of my canvases in their own way, but if I had to pick just one, I think I'd go with Xiao Long Bao. Due to life being a little hectic the last few years, it's been hard to visit my family in Taiwan. And each time I go back to see them, the first meal we always eat includes Xiao Long Bao. So, this food really holds a special place in my heart and I'm really happy to have the opportunity to design it as a needlepoint canvas. 

      Joyce: I  I am partial to the personalized Easter eggs.  Growing up Greek Orthodox, Easter was a very special holiday for my family  As soon as I had a family, personalized Easter eggs were quickly designed and stitched for everyone, including the dogs.  

      7.  Do you have any collaboration plans?

      Audrey:  This is a good question.  Joyce and I have discussed this idea several times.  I think it's just a matter of finding the right design idea that works for both of us and going from there.

      Joyce:  It is something we have discussed and it certainly is a possibility for sometime in the future.  When Audrey first started, I felt it was important that she create her own unique style without any interference from a meddling MIL. 

      Both Audrey and I would like to thank everyone for their questions. We hope you have enjoyed our little tête-à-tête and getting to know a bit about us and our relationship.

       

       

       

    3. Tête-à-tête with Diane and Lauren Baxter of @threadstooneedlepoint

      Tête-à-tête with Diane and Lauren Baxter of @threadstooneedlepoint

      Our tête-à-tête this month is with Diane and Lauren Baxter of @threadstooneedlepoint.  Threads Too Needlepoint is a brick and mortar needlepoint shop located in Fair Haven, New Jersey.  As you can see from the photos, the shop looks amazing and it is definitely on my roadtrip list one day. They are currently expanding to a larger space to offer even more services. Diane and Lauren are constantly showcasing new and fun canvases and promoting new and upcoming designers.  I highly recommend that you follow them on Instagram and Facebook as they have the best social media accounts out there in the needlepoint community.  I am very fortunate that Diane reached out to me a couple of years ago to carry my canvases and am absolutely thrilled and honored they agreed to do this month's tête-à-tête. 

      1.  Can you tell us a bit about your needlepoint background, how and when did you both learn to needlepoint?

      Diane: I have been needlepointing since I was in my late teens! My mother did beautiful needlepoints, and taught me. I have not been able to sit quietly and watch TV without stitching ever since. 
      Lauren: I started stitching about 7 years ago when I started dating Diane’s son, Andrew, my now husband! At the time, she was stitching a bunch of beautiful pillows for their new home in Vermont. I had no idea you could create such amazing things!
      2.  Can you give us a bit of the history behind Threads Too Needlepoint?  Have long have you been in business?  And are you both involved in the decisions as to what designers and canvases to carry in the shop? 
      -The owner of our local needlepoint store of 30+ years retired in 2017. We were saddened and worried as to where we would feed our needlepoint habit! So… on a whim, Diane decided to buy the business. As luck would have it a  beautiful space across the street became available, and Threads Too was born! We are both involved in all the decisions for the store, and we have so much fun picking out new canvases, threads, and finding new designers!
      3.  Diane, the question everyone wants to know, how is it working with your daughter-in-law and for you too Lauren, how did you start working with Diane?
      Diane: I feel very lucky to have Lauren working with me. She has brought in a young, fresh point of view while still having an appreciation for the classic art of needlepoint. We both have similar tastes so it makes it very easy to work together. When I closed the store to in-person shopping due to the pandemic, Lauren came in full time and took over the Instagram and social media. She has done an amazing job, the outreach and growth has been incredible! Those millennials!!! 
      Lauren: As Diane said, I started working at the store full time when the pandemic hit. I first though I would be taking a little break from my career as a hairstylist in NYC while “we flatten the curve”. As the months of quarantine went on I found myself loving being at the store and working with my mother-in-law and growing our family business together, so in July 2020, I quit my job and committed myself to Threads Too! We have a very good relationship and I genuinely enjoy our time together, I often hear I am lucky to have a mother in law I love and get along so well with, and I couldn’t agree more!
      4. Can you tell us a bit about what you both have in your stash and what are you stitching at the moment?
      Diane: I have a quite a few projects going at the moment! Right now I am stitching your “Netflix and Stitch” canvas, because that’s just about all I do at the moment! I am also working on a small @kimberlyannneedlepoint mini-flat squares canvas to turn into a Credit Card holder. I am almost finished with the Cornflower canvas by @thornalexanderstyle, and now I am back to stitching an Hermes inspired canvas by @katedickerson that I will make into a lucite tray for the store. I often start a project, and then a new canvas arrives at the store and I can’t help myself! I get sidetracked! There is no such thing as too many canvases in the stash! 
      Lauren: I also have a few projects in the works at the moment. It kind of depends on my mood and if  I am up for stitching my 18mesh projects (LOL). I am currently stitching your Blue Leopard clutch,  I switched up the colors to shades of green (my favorite color) with Silk and Ivory Threads and I am IN LOVE with it! I am also stitching the Ballerinas canvas by @plumdesign_ for my friends daughter. I loved that canvas from the first time I saw it and I knew I had to stitch it! I also have a belt I am working on, and on the weekends I like to do a small project such as an ornament. The quick finishes are very rewarding!   
      5.  You have a very strong media presence on Instagram and Facebook.  How do you think the business has evolved since the pandemic?
      We closed the store to in-store shopping March of 2020 and have not been able to reopen yet (we are planning to reopen to in store shopping by the end of April!).  With that said, we have had no choice but to evolve. Social Media has been a crucial part of our business this past year. Most of our new customers found us through Instagram, and the outreach has been amazing! Since we have new customers from all across the country, we have been doing “virtual shopping” via FaceTime and Text to help them to see the canvas and pull threads from afar, and we will continue to offer that service even after the pandemic! We are now buying for a much broader audience, especially now that there has been a huge surge of new and young needlepointers! That definitely opens up a wider range of canvases to choose from, that we may not have been able to sell in store before, especially when it comes to 18 mesh canvases. Now that we have been doing so much shipping, we have decided to move our store into a bigger space next door which gives us a room that we can dedicate to wrapping and shipping! We have really enjoyed connecting with this community of needlepointers and designers, and we are so grateful for the support! 

       

      6.  What do you see for the future of brick and mortar shops such as yourself?

      We think that this pandemic has made people appreciate the in store shopping experience and the social interaction. People really miss being able to look at canvases in person, touch the threads, and play with different colors and fibers, and have a friendly chat. Our local customers are missing our bi-weekly stitch ins, as are we! We do think brick and mortar stores will be stronger than ever as people have a whole new appreciation for supporting small businesses!  
      Thank you Diane and Lauren for such a fun and informative tête-à-tête.  We wish you much success with your expansion and can't wait to see what you post next!