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 www.sbtstitches.com.
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.