• Tête-à-tête with Joanna Somers of @plumdesign_

    Tête-à-tête with Joanna Somers of @plumdesign_

    Our tête-à-tête this month is with Joanna Somers of @plumdesign_.  Joanna is married, has 4 young children and lives in Ohio.  She is extremely diverse in her talents.  She is the needlepoint designer behind The Plum Stitchery, she recently started Plum Design where she "slap-paints" onto pages of old books, she has a coterie of needlepoint designers that she manages and she does collaborations with many famous artists.  Some time ago, I slid into her DMs and am now constantly picking her brain on a whole range of topics.  I am very proud to call her a friend and am thrilled she is doing this tête-à-tête.  

    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? 

    The lovely ladies at Wool & Willow taught me to stitch in 2014; my mother-in-law brought me to the shop right after she stitched her first project thinking I would enjoy it, too.  I remember bringing home my first project and putting on a shelf, afraid to ruin it, but within a few days I couldn’t put it down.  Before that, I was a hand-quilter, and I’m sorry to say I’ve not quilted more than an hour since I started needlepointing.

    Within a few months of that first project, I had the chance to work at Wool & Willow two days a week and I jumped at it; it was the first job I’d ever had that I never once dreaded going to work.  One day, I thought I might try designing my own canvas and Anne, who owns Wool & Willow, gave great advice for painting: use thin acrylic paint and the smallest, cheapest brush.  It took many, many attempts to find the best approach, and I made a lot of canvases that ended up in the trash, but I was as hooked by painting as I was by stitching. 

    Over the next few years, I designed off and on as our family grew and when my third child was 6 months old, I picked up the brush again and re-launched The Plum Stitchery.  That was the summer of 2017 and since then I’ve met and befriended an amazing community of stitchers, designers, shop owners, and finishers. 

      2. I am in love with some of your collaborations with well-known artists. Can you tell us how you came to get involved with them and how do you decidewhich pieces to convert to needlepoint canvas? 

    Thank you!  Collaborating with artists of other mediums is the most unexpected part of running this company and it is an understatement to say how thrilled I am to work with each one.  Every stitcher has his or her own style; every artist willing to share their work with the needlepoint community just makes it that much easier for each of us to stitch something we love.

    Making connections with various artists usually happens through Instagram.  Sometimes, I see a piece of artwork and know it would be stunning in needlepoint, or that there’s nothing else like it available to stitch.  It’s a little scary to slide into someone’s DMs and chirp about needlepoint but I’m fortunate to have met generous and kind artists who let me adapt their work.  Some artists know exactly which pieces of their collection they want me to adapt while others let me make suggestions.  Either way, it’s been an experience to recreate these various works of art on canvas; in a way, it feels like I’m walking in someone else’s shoes when I paint their designs.







    3. Recently, you started painting the most exquisite pieces of art on torn out pages of old classic books. What led you to this and did you think it would be such a success? Do you have a favorite one you’ve painted?

    Thank you so much!  My oldest loves to create artwork and this summer requested “painting nights” where she would get to stay up later than her siblings and we sit together and paint (I usually am very mean about sharing my art supplies).  On one of these nights, I saw a used copy of Vanity Fair on the bookshelf and thought it would be fun to paint on its pages.  That particular novel has great chapter titles that informed whatever illustrations I could add, and soon I was pulling more and more books off the shelf. 

     There isn’t a favorite painting in the bunch, but I’m always excited when I’m able to get something on the page that looks how I imagined it could look.  The response has been lovely, and I’m immensely honored when someone commissions a custom piece, though my workload has made it almost impossible to take on these projects.


    4. Can you tell us what’s in your stash and what are you stitching at the moment? Also, do you have a favorite needlepoint piece you’ve designed? 

    My eyes are bigger than my needles and I have more canvases in my stash than I could stitch in my lifetime, but that’s okay!  There are so many gorgeous designs, both new and vintage, and it’s good to have options when it comes to stitching; sometimes I’m in the mood for small or simple or detailed or fancy stitches and it’s nice to have a rotation of projects to match my mood.  My current project is a Kirk & Bradley twelvetide stocking; I can’t put it down.



    5.  You seem to certainly have your plate full, you’re married, have 4 young children, you design needlepoint and paint, you collaborate, you manage other designers, how do you possibly do it all?

    Many times, I feel like I can’t do it all.  Running a creative business is always a balancing act between logistics and creativity; especially this year with the amazing boom our industry seems to be in the midst of, a lot of my time goes to managing orders and inventory, shipping, trunk shows, maintaining the Web site, and marketing and less to designing new canvases.  As it always does, it will balance out again and I’ll find more time to design again. 

     In the day to day, in terms of working while being a stay-at-home mom, I have a standing desk in our sunroom and I jump into work throughout the day whenever possible; that has been the most challenging lesson to learn since starting this business: sometimes I need to work in two-minute increments.  After the kids go to bed is when I get to really focus on work; I make a pot of coffee and work as late as I can. 


    6.  Since the pandemic at the beginning of this year, we have seen a spate of needlepoint designers. If you were starting out anew, what would you tell yourself?

    This is the first company I’ve run and doing so has been one of the scariest and most fulfilling things I’ve done.  I’m very much still new to this and still learning every day how I can do things better, but I would tell myself to breathe more and not stress about growing pains. 

    Thank you Joanna for such a fun and informative tête-à-tête.

  • Tête-à-tête with Alli Eagan of @francophiledallas

    Tête-à-tête with Alli Eagan of @francophiledallas

    Our tête-à-tête this month is with Alli Eagan, better known to her many followers as @francophiledallas.  Alli is an avid (and lifelong) needlepointer who lives in Dallas with her husband, Matt, and two children.  She is a Francophile at heart who loves all things French and studied Art History and French at the University of Virginia (B.A.) and at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (M.A.).  When she is not needlepointing, she loves French cooking, a chilled glass of champagne, gardening, bike rides and walks with her family, and watching British mysteries.  

    Alli is the inspiration for hundreds of stitchers that, at the moment are currently decorating their own Holiday needlepoint garland.  It is impossible to look at Instagram and not appreciate the influence Alli has at this holiday time.  She has posted a "Garland 101 Tutorial" on her Instagram stories for an inside look as to how to get started with your own garland.  She also created a "Parade of Homes" to showcase all of your holiday needlepoint.  Be sure to tag @francophiledallas and #NeedlepointHomeTour2020 for a chance to be featured in her stories and highlighted on her home page.  


    1. For some of our readers who don’t follow you, could you please tell us a bit about your needlepoint background, how and when did you learn to needlepoint?

    I grew up surrounded by needlepoint! I am grateful to my mother and grandmother who taught me how to needlepoint young and to truly appreciate the time and hard work it takes to create a piece of needlework.  They are two woman who have stitched large-scale works (framed pieces, piano bench, pillows, stockings) that I would see out year-round. Inspiration was all abound!

    My earliest needlepoint memory is sitting on the floor of Mary Jane’s Needlepoint in Nichols Hills Plaza (Oklahoma City) and picking out children’s needlepoint canvases with my twin sister.  I believe we were about six years old and always found ourselves busy as my mom and grandmother pulled threads. My children now see me doing the same thing, and I have already started to teach them!

    At Christmas, we were surrounded by needlepoint, and it became one of the ways I learned how to decorate for Christmas.  Pillows, ornaments, framed pieces, and more!  I can remember our first family trip to New York in 1989, and my mom was stitching a Statue of Liberty ornament, hand-stitching the date and personalizing it. I am still stitching travel rounds on family trips almost 30 years later.  I learned from the best!  My mom always stitched her needlepoint in carpool as well, and I have her “carpool” series of Christmas pillows that I treasure every Christmas.  

    At UVA, I nurtured my love of needlepoint at Threads, the local needlepoint shop, and began my love of collecting canvases and stitching pieces of my own. I have fond memories in the Chi Omega house of typing my undergraduate thesis and then stitching away on a bee belt (for Napoleon!).

    Below is a collection of Alli's many New Orleans ornaments from Needle Arts in Metairie, Louisiana.

    2..Please give us a bit of the history behind your incredible Christmas garland.  Was there something that inspired you? 

    As my needlepoint ornament collection grew, I started to think of ways to really feature the needlepoint.  I have such a large collection of regular Christmas ornaments that I knew they would compete for attention on my big Christmas tree. We don’t have a mantle or a staircase in our home, so it was time to get creative!  The mirror seemed like the perfect place to experiment with a garland. My children count the days til they can see the garland again and have started to help me decorate it.  They now have memories tied to a lot of the ornaments so it has really become a true, family tradition.

    Before the collection was too big, I had used twig trees that were beautiful – but alas, I outgrew them in favor for something with more impact. This will be the fourth Christmas for the garland, and I am always thinking of ways to build upon it.  I am delighted to have started a “Needlepoint Home Tour” on my Instagram where I am featuring holiday needlepoint (ornaments, stockings, pillows, and all displays) from coast to coast.  Be sure to tag me, @francophiledallas, to be featured!  As this has been such a “virtual” year, it seemed a great chance to start a fun virtual home tour of needlepoint far and wide.

    3.  What are you stitching at the moment?  Do you tend to stitch multiple canvases at the same time or are you a one canvas at a time girl?

    I am stitching three of the darling Studio Midwest vehicles from Chapel Hill Needlepoint: the ice cream truck, the New Orleans streetcar, and the red caboose.  I am personalizing each one with lettering and little touches for each of my children. I love the look of the Studio Midwest three-dimensional ornaments and adore all their toppers as well.

    For my works in progress, I live by “the more, the better!”  I tend to always have 4-5 to sometimes 10 ornaments going at once.  I love to stitch a little bit on several ornaments, and then, I have many ornaments finished all at once.  I think it also keeps me energized in each project as I love the variety of having several pieces going at a time. 

    4.  Can you please share with us some of the goodies you have in your stash?     Is there a central theme to your canvases?

    I have a secret armoire (shh!) filled with needlepoint!  I have my threads and all supplies organized there as well.  It’s where many hopes and dreams live, too!  I tend to stay so busy working on ornaments and small pieces that represent our current and recent family memories that I leave the bigger pieces for “one day.” 

     In my stash, I have Meredith Collection and Studio Midwest purses, the 12 days of New Orleans (from Needle Arts), four Alexa stockings, brick covers, pillows, and even a vintage Strictly Christmas tree skirt from an estate sale – thank you, mom!  I have many, many ornaments as well that are all divided by theme and I love to go “shopping” in my own stash when I need inspiration or a new project.  

    My big themes are children/first Christmas/hobbies, New Orleans (my husband’s hometown!), travel rounds and France. I truly think of my stash as a collection – a curated collection that represents my family, our hobbies, our joys, our favorite foods, travels and more.  I know that my stash –which continues to grow—will always keep me busy and inspired!


    5.  Is there anything special on your wish list that you would like to stitch one day? 

    I dream about doing a large-scale project like a tree skirt, rug or a framed piece –many of the pieces my mom and grandmother have stitched.  They each stitched a 2 ft by 3 ft piece of a large triptych for our church, and it is moving to think about creating an heirloom for many to enjoy. Very inspiring!  At my wedding, my mom, grandmother, and I all took a photo by these pieces and the kneeler my grandmother stitched.  These threads are all woven into our family history. I treasure my grandmother’s needlepoint that is all throughout her house and have many of her crewelwork pieces in my own home.

    My wish list is also full of Thanksgiving and Fall, many of Kathy Schenkel’s darling pilgrims and leaves.  I surely love Christmas but I would love to have some fall pieces in my collection!

    Next up is my darling Silver Stitch “Press for Champagne,” my new motto and New Year’s ornament for 2021.  I also can’t wait to start my Audrey Wu strawberry jam and my Ann Kaye Studio skier Santa. All perfect for some cozy, winter stitching. 

    Merci mille fois for the opportunity to go talk tête-à-tête about all things needlepoint!

    Alli, Merci beaucoup for such a fun and informative tête-à-tête.




  • Tête-à-tête with Helen Shultz of @wip.itgood



    Our Tete-a-tete this month is with Helen Shultz, better known as @wip.itgood.  Helen is from Houston, married for 8 years to Brent and has 2 beautiful daughters, Jillian and Ava and a mini Schnauzer named Zeppelin.  Besides being a stay-at-home Mom, Helen is extremely active in her community.  I first came across Helen, @wip.itgood the beginning of this year and was immediately impressed with her extraordinary array of canvases and her diverse use of decorative stitches.  Helen is a meticulous stitcher and you can see that she puts a lot of love into her work.  I highly recommend that you follow her if only to see her beautiful handiwork.

    1.   For some of our readers who don’t follow you, can you tell us a bit about your needlepoint background, how and when did you learn to needlepoint?

    I am relatively new to the needlepoint world, though I have jumped in with both feet!  I grew up with an appreciation for textile arts because of my mom, who hand-smocked many of my and my siblings’ clothes, made our hairbows, embroidered (and still does), and now quilts and felts as well.  So, it seems only natural that I would eventually gravitate towards something like needlepoint one day.

    I began my needlepoint journey in February of 2019.  Prior to stitching, I had another creative outlet: deco mesh wreath making.  Expensive, colorful and easy to go overboard, I made wreaths for every season and occasion.  Are we seeing a pattern here? 

    When we moved in the summer of 2018, my husband was quick to point out that we had no more garage space for my wreaths.  He gently suggested that I find a new hobby (and I’m sure he was hoping a less expensive one at that, ha!).

    My friend, Diana, a wonderful stitcher and my mom encouraged me to give needlepoint a try.  Smaller, easier to display and store, variety of beautiful canvases, productive thing to do with my time; it checked off all of the boxes. 

    In February 2019, I began taking classes at The Needle House in Houston with Nancy Laux and received excellent instruction, tips, and encouragement in my stitching.  Those classes and the ladies of The Needle House helped give me a solid foundation in good needlework habits and the confidence to spread my wings and come up with my own stitches and try things on my own (instead of relying just on classes).  The first canvas I ever stitched was this beautiful blue and white bunny from JP Needlepoint.  I made it for my daughter, Jillian, and it is proudly displayed year-round. 

    I have also received an excellent education through classes and tutelage from Frances Jue of Stitches in Time.  Frances’ creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, eye for luxurious finishing, and passion for the craft inspire me daily.  She gets me out of my comfort zone, introduces me to new (to me) fibers and techniques, and always has an element of surprise and delight in her work.

    A year and a half later, and I’ve fully embraced this wonderful hobby and the people I have met along the way.  I still have lots of room for more finished pieces and our garage is no longer brimming with yards of mesh! Win-win!


    2. What are you working on at the moment?  Do you tend to stitch several canvases at once or are you a one canvas at a time girl?

    I usually have 2-3 WIPs going at one time.  I like having a big canvas (like a stocking or a larger standup) that I work on at night after the kids are in bed when I can really concentrate. I usually have 1-2 ornament-size canvases in progress for daytime stitching when I have a few minutes to myself.  

    Having a few WIPs at a time ensures that I don’t get bored with any one project.  It’s also nice because I can stitch different things based on my mood. Sometimes I only have the energy and focus for basketweave and other times I’m ready to tackle a new or a more elaborate stitch.

    I am currently stitching for the season and have three WIPs. Overall, I try to stitch my gifts for others or ones that are time sensitive at the beginning of the year.  When my gifts are finished, I’ll focus more on projects for my family or me.  Stitching this way helps me ensure I meet the finishing deadlines for Christmas and birthdays!


     3. Can you please share with us some of the goodies you have in your stash?  Is there a central theme to your canvases?

    Yes, absolutely!  I would say the most central theme to my stash is that my daughter, Jillian, likes it.  She loves picking out what I stitch and is one of my biggest cheerleaders, along with my husband. It makes me so happy that she’s taken such an interest in needlepoint.

    Up until now, I have mostly stitched for Christmas or year-round needlepoint.  I just recently started a few Halloween and Easter pieces and am excited to stitch more for those holidays!

    Here are a few of my current stash favorites:


    1. Champagne Chinoiserie, Cate La Vie
    2. Checked Bunny, Raymond Crawford
    3. Be Mine, A Poore Girl Paints
    4. Nativity, Kirk & Bradley
    5. Goodnight Moon inspired mini sock, Silver Needle
    6. DePauw Sweater, Hook & Harbor
    7. Snowman, The Meredith Collection
    8. Rockefeller Center Tree, DJ Designs
    9. Magic Angel, Debbie Woodard for Painted Pony Designs
    10. Fox in a basket, Ciao Bella


     4. I’ve noticed that you use quite an array of fibers and different stitches, can you walk us through your thought process when you buy a canvas? Do you think of stitches or fibers when choosing a piece, or do you sometimes buy fibers knowing you will use them sometime in the future?

    I usually buy canvases based on the following criteria:

    1. Purpose and a Place -Needlepoint is an expensive hobby! I have to have a purpose and place for the finished piece in my mind before I buy it. I also take into account the potential finishing costs after having a few expensive surprises here and there!
    2. Fun factor- I like to stitch things that make me smile!
    3. Mesh count/canvas size- I used to be strictly an 18-count girl, but I have seen the light and have come to appreciate a good 13 mesh canvas, especially when it comes to stockings. I tend to choose smaller projects in general because I find I have more places to display those projects. If you see me stitching a large piece, then you will know I must REALLY love it.
    4. Stitches and fibers- I do LOVE to use a variety of fibers and stitches in my work. Sometimes I eyeball a canvas before purchase and mentally go through what I’d like to stitch on it.  I have a pretty good fiber stash going, so I always like to start there.  If I find I’m missing some fibers for a project, I’ll usually gravitate to a fiber that I think best suits the area or most closely matches in color as well as durability needed (e.g. a purse needs different fibers than a seasonal standup).  My favorite fiber to stitch with is Pepper Pot silk.

    I try to have some self-control, but I have been known to buy some fibers with no canvas in mind just because I think I’ll need them in the future.  I find that this thread hoarding comes in handy every once in a while, especially with wooly fibers like Alpaca from Rainbow Gallery.


     5. Is there anything special on your wish list that you would like to stitch at one day? 

    My wish list grows by the day, but the canvases I hope are under the tree this year are:

    1. Patty Paints Halloween witches
    2. Silver Stitch Needlepoint Gingham Peeps Bunnies
    3. Kathy Schenkel Snowman Snow cones


    Thank you Helen for such a fun and informative Tête-à-Tête.




  • Tête-à-Tête with Shana Benhayoun of @sbtstitches

    Tête-à-Tête with Shana Benhayoun of @sbtstitches

    Our Tête-à-Tête this month is with Shana Benhayoun of SBTStitches.  Shortly after joining the Instagram needlepoint community, I heard Shana speak on a podcast.  As we both live in South Florida, I reached out to her.  She was extremely gracious and welcoming to me, sharing insights and giving advice. We often bounce ideas off each other and she has been very helpful, not only to me but to other designers and stitchers.  Her classes have become very popular and often sell out within minutes after posting.  I am very proud to call her a friend and I hope you will too.


    1.  For some of our followers who don’t know you, can you tell us a bit about your needlepoint background, how and when did you learn to needlepoint, and when did you start to paint your own canvases?

    Needlepoint in my family dates back to my great-grandmother. She was an avid stitcher who ensured all the women in her family needlepointed. She passed the skill down to my grandmother and my aunts who spent most of my life trying to teach me how to stitch. I was not interested in learning at the time because, to me, needlepoint was something that grandmothers did! In 2013 my grandmother became very sick and we had to spend a lot of days & nights with her in the hospital. My aunt (obviously) had a needlepoint with her everyday & after a few days I asked her to teach me. She brought me a small canvas that said, “Happiness is an inside job” and I remember I finished it in about two days. I quickly became obsessed and set out to become an expert needlepointer! 

    At the time I was attending the University of Miami, which was right down the street from my local needlepoint shop. Instead of spending my time in the library, I would spend all my free time in the shop. I took every class they had to offer and learned as many tips & tricks as the expert stitchers were willing to share with me. I quickly grew my ‘stash’ and then even more quickly realized that needlepoint was way out of my budget. I asked a lady at the shop to teach me how to paint a canvas and that was the beginning of my business! I spent the next few years painting canvases for my friends and family and perfecting my painting skills which led me to open an Etsy shop in 2016. I kept my Etsy shop open for about a year until I transferred everything to my own personal website, which is going strong today at


    2.  How does being a mother to Amram and dog Mom to Biggi and (wife to Abraham) influence what you create now?

    Being a mom definitely influences a lot of what I create now. My most requested canvas is name pillows for newborns. This is definitely my favorite type of canvas to create because it is something that my great-grandmother did for all of us when we were born. I was 4 when she passed and still have and treasure mine. Whenever I am designing a name canvas, I always have Amram in mind and think of what I would like in his nursery. Biggi has also inspired some designs, like the custom dog collar I designed and finished recently. Abraham has also been a huge supporter of my business and is constantly sending me ideas of things to put on canvas!  


    3.  You tend to do a lot of custom canvases, what has been your most unusual request?

    Yes! I love doing custom canvases because I get to paint something new every day! I can’t say that I have received many “unusual requests” but I do get a lot of requests for inside jokes that people have together that make no sense to me, as well as a lot of profanity. I have painted just about every curse word you can imagine on a canvas! Those don’t always make it to Instagram LOL.


    4.  When did you decide to pivot (branch out) from designing canvases to teaching needlepoint classes?  And what brought about that decision?  Are you happier teaching or designing?

    I don’t think I would refer to it as a “pivot” since I consider designing and teaching the two main areas of my business. When I made the change from my regular 9-5 job as a mental health counselor to a full-time needlepoint designer, my main goal was to bring as many people into the needlepoint community as possible! Knowing that needlepoint shops are scarce around the country, I had this lightbulb moment where I thought, “how cool would it be to be able to teach people from the comfort of their own homes!?” I built off that main idea and made it full service by shipping the customer a kit with everything needed for the class so that they really did not need to leave their house! It was only a few weeks after making this decision that I held my first class and I haven’t looked back since! 

    I can’t say that one or the other makes me happier. They are two very different parts of my business that I wear very different hats for. I love that I get to be creative day in and day out, and that my full-time job mainly involves painting canvases while watching Netflix – how lucky am I?! I often tell people that the quote “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” is so applicable to me at this point in my life, and I think my love for needlepoint really shines through in every canvas I paint. Teaching, on the other hand, is so enjoyable for me because, deep down, I always wanted to be teacher. I love being able to teach someone who has never even touched a needlepoint canvas, all the way through to someone who has been stitching for longer than I’ve been alive! I have had all different level stitchers in my classes & I truly think I have the best of both worlds! 


    5.  Your beginning and intermediate needlepoint classes have become very popular, partly due to your easy-going teaching personality.  Can you tell us a bit of what you offer in these classes?

    Yes, they have! I am so lucky that in my one year of teaching, every single beginner’s class I offered has sold out! 

    My Beginner’s Technique Class is meant for stitchers who are brand new to the needlepoint world and those who are interested in learning the proper technique. I am big on building a foundation first and then going up from there. The beginner’s details the supplies needed for stitching, the techniques used to make your canvas last a lifetime, and four basic stitches to get your started. I always tell my students that by the time they finish their two-hour class, they will feel confident to take on any canvas they want!

    My Decorative Stitches Class which is meant for the intermediate stitcher who wants to begin incorporating fancier stitches onto their canvas. This class focuses on reading a stitch guide, compensating decorative stitches, and getting used to working with different fibers, while learning 12 decorative stitches.


    6.  Which brings us to your Masterclass.  Please explain exactly what is your Masterclass.  You just finished your first Masterclass, can we expect to see another soon?

    Oh yes, the Masterclass! This is my most recent project! To celebrate the one-year anniversary of teaching classes online, I created my advanced level class, the Masterclass, a 5-week series where I teach everything I know! This class covers 14 new decorative stitches as well as French knots, turkey work and beading. I thought it would a nice touch to offer a custom canvas for this special class, so the kit includes a customized canvas for each student and, just like my other classes, all the fibers and accessories you would need to stitch. 

    I cannot believe that my first Masterclass is officially over! These past five weeks went so quickly and it was so nice to build my own little community of “master stitchers!”

    To answer everyone’s burning question if there will be another Masterclass, the answer is YES! You read it here first that my next Masterclass series will be from  January 13 through February 10, every Wednesday night,  & will be open to 15 new students! 

    If you are interested in learning more about Shana's classes, click here 

    Thank you Shana for such a fun and informative Tête-à-Tête.