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This week I’m introducing you to our friend, Tennessee-based designer and stitcher extraordinaire Brooke Nolan of Brooke’s Books needlework publishing.
Brooke creates a variety of delightful cross stitch patterns featuring whimsical lettering and quotations, people, places and objects. You’ll find designs for figures as well as houses, clothing and more for every season.
Some of my favorite projects by this artist feature people – angels, witches, brides and grooms – in various costumes embellished with beads, DMC Memory Thread and other trimmings, like the pink angel shown to the right and the adorable group of Witchie Sisters shown below…
Or these costumed beauties!
You can see more of her fabulous designs on her web site, including some that are instantly downloadable.
While visiting Brooke’s site, look closely at the images of her designs to see all of the wonderful embellishments that this talented needle artist is known for. It’s truly inspiring!
While browsing, be sure to check out her line of Spirit Angels, like the Spirit of Evergreen shown here.
These heavily-embellished figures worked in DMC Embroidery Floss and metallic Light Effects threads on perforated paper, and feature 3-dimensional stitched elements that are attached to the angels with ribbon and trims.
So pretty – and there are so many to choose from!
As a special treat, Brooke has designed a chart featuring yours truly – Emma Broidery – that you you print and stitch. The pattern will be posted Wednesday, so be sure to check back.
I love my job – especially when I have the opportunity to hang out with fun, creative needle artists like Allison Aller, one of the winners of DMC’s Needlework Memories Contest!
While the offices for DMC USA are located in New Jersey, there are several of us who live remotely, and it was such a wonderful surprise to learn that Allison lives near me on the opposite side of the country.
After Allison returned from a trip after taping class for Craftsy (check her blog for the air dates!), we were able to get together for dinner at a local bistro in our area. We had a great time chatting about needlework.
Just before dinner I presented Allison with a special tote filled with DMC Needlework Supplies, as well as a memento of her upcoming trip to Paris. It was so much fun to hang out with someone who loves needlework as much as I do!
The winning entries can now be seen on our web site, including the winning entry from Louise Doney of Pennsylvania and Florida, and information on the winning shop, Threads Needlework run by Patti Chambers.
We hope they all have a terrific time in France!
Orna Willis has been one of my favorite needlework designers for several years now, and I’ve had the opportunity to do more than one interview with her. A member of both the EGA and ANG, Orna uses a variety of brightly colored materials including DMC Embroidery Threads in her unique designs.
Today I am sharing our latest chat, offering insights into the way Orna designs her beautiful pieces of needlepoint art.
Orna describes her designs as Contemporary Ethnic and her heritage plays an important role in her designs. She states, “Whether intentionally or subconsciously, I clearly see my heritage in my designs. My pieces have an ethnic feel to them. They repeat certain elements such as arches, crescents, and stars. I also tend to choose strong vibrant colors, and add beads and embellishments all with a very Middle Eastern vibe. Elements of places I know are reflected in my work. Examples are: Window in the Old City, my take on the old city of Jerusalem and the beautiful arched windows in some of the ancient homes. Hamsa is another example; the hand that wards off the evil spirits is a well-known motif in both Judaic and Muslim cultures.”
You can learn more about Orna, her patterns and kits on any of her web sites. Check out Adorn by Orna to shop for patterns and register for a cyberclass (like the one for these gorgeous Dolci Beads!). Visit Orna’s inspiring blog for her thoughts on making thing by hand and her Adorn Atelier for a wide variety of handmade crafts including felting, paper cutting, wirework, knitting and more.
Here’s more from my interview with Orna:
When did you first discover that you could create art with a needle and thread?
I stumbled across needlepoint accidentally. I had always sewn, making clothing for my sisters and then my daughters, but never needlepoint. In 1994 I bought a needlepoint-charted design and jumped in, head first. I found it very addictive, and immediately I tried another charted design. After the second piece, I decided to play on a piece of canvas with no guides, just following where the needle took me. I wasn’t interested in creating images, I wanted to create geometric shapes and fill them with patterns, textures, and colors. It wasn’t long before I had bits and pieces of stitched canvas all over the house, like tiny vignettes of fiber combinations. I couldn’t get enough of these experimentations and soon they got bigger in size, clearer in intent and were complete compositions.
Are you self-taught, or have you taken classes?
I began as self-taught. I was too impatient and curious to stop for instruction. Later, over the years, I’ve taken classes from some wonderful teachers and designers.
You create wearable art that is stunning, like this beautiful quartet of designs sitched with DMC threads to the right, and the “Kanya” cuff bracelet to the lower left. Do you often wear the pieces in public, and what type of response do you get?
Thank you for your kind words! I wear my pieces when I go out to an event a bit more dress up than what I wear around the studio. I particularly like to wear my earring pieces but also my cuffs.
The first response is almost always, “How long did it take you to stitch that?!” I’m never quite sure of the answer but I explain that stitching is very therapeutic for me. The next question is how hard would it be to try stitching a piece. I love encouraging people to give it a try and have converted quite a few newbies to needlepoint.
In addition to needlepoint/thread on canvas, what other types of needlework do you enjoy?
I enjoy embroidery and felting but I must say that when I have the time I usually go right to needlepoint. It’s probably where I feel I can make the most happen. I have been working on smaller and smaller count. While the majority of my design work is done on 18 count canvas, I have done quite a bit on Congress Cloth and now I am focusing on Silk Gauze, 32 and 40 count. The detailing that can be achieved on this tiny count is amazing.
How much of your day is spent stitching versus designing?
For me stitching and designing are the same. I always design on canvas, never on the computer, so designing is stitching. Once I have stitched a new piece I then go on to chart and write the instructions. This is the part that takes up too much of my time – this is when I’d rather be stitching. However, it can’t be avoided… When the design has been written, charted and illustrated I have someone else stitch it again, a proof stitcher, someone who makes sure the instructions are correct. Most of the stitching I do is in the evenings. During the day I work on my computer and in the evenings I sit and stitch.
Where do you seek inspiration on days when your muse is taking a break?
I “hoard” inspiration everyday, for just those moments when I think I have no muse in me. I am constantly browsing online, looking at sites that focus on interior design, fashion, the art world and the craft world. Everyday I make sure to find at least one new site that excites me and offers ideas for a new direction, a new design. I live in the city and while others look at nature for inspiration, perhaps go out to their gardens or hike near their home, I walk the streets, look at people, shop windows, and the city skyline for inspiration.
If you could create one design that would become your masterpiece and spend 100% of your time on it, what would it be?
If I had all the time I could ask for, I would take a huge piece of canvas and I would let my needle guide me. I would not make any determinations in advance, but rather just pick a fiber, a color, and plunge into the canvas. Then I would like to never have to chart the piece, just let it sit across from me. I will make that day happen at some point.
In my stitching stockpile for this winter are quite a few patterns from Emily Wilmarth, a wonderful American-born needlework designer living in Sweden – on her site The Floss Box, you’ll find all kinds of lovely embroidery patterns. As a child, Emily was taught by her mother to stitch, and she draws her inspiration from nature, happy times and other stitchers.
Today, I’m interviewing Emily to learn more about what inspires her and to share some of my favorite winter-themed designs from her shop. I hope this interview gets you into a cozy, holiday stitching mood – enjoy!
I love with your sweet cross-stitch designs in particular – although you are gifted at all kinds of embroidery – Biscornu, Stumpwork, and freehand. Do you have a method for planning your designs?
Occasionally I have a clear idea, but often I don’t. I usually begin with something I want to be in the design and work to build a design around it. I don’t know ahead of time how it will turn out, but that’s part of the fun and adventure. You make lots of little discoveries about yourself and your subject as you go along!
What inspired the United States series of patterns? They are gorgeous – I love the bits of architecture!
It’s just my way of staying connected with my roots. I live far away from where I grew up, so it’s nice to think about places I’ve seen and lived. The houses are all based on real buildings from each state. I also plan on making a series of country designs too.
The best designs are those where I try to capture a feeling by combining colors and shapes and lines. As I said above it’s very much about building up a design. I start with something and try some different things, lettering, borders, little motifs and see what feels right.
Spring is by far the favorite. The world is waking up. Full of new life and energy. The light green of new leaves is one of my favorite shades of green. The days grow longer, and each day brings something new to discover. And here I thought it was winter!
Is Halloween a popular holiday in Sweden? How is it celebrated?
Halloween is viewed as an imported holiday, so no, it isn’t so popular. It’s usually celebrated on the Saturday after Halloween and not the actual day. It’s pretty much the same spooky stuff. In some neighborhoods the children will come out looking for treats, but it isn’t at all common. Halloween was always one of my favorite time of year, so I do miss it!
Do you have a favorite color palette?
Hard question! I let the time of year influence me a lot. Right now fall is coming quickly, so it’s nice to think about the reds and golden yellows and browns.
Thank you, Emily, for taking the time to share a few words and thoughts with us!
A few fabric suggestions… If you’d like to get stitching on one of Emily’s holiday designs, Charles Craft Aida cloth boasts a huge palette of subtle shades – for winter patterns I’d suggest Light Blue or Beige 14 ct Aida. For a gorgeous heirloom look, try 28 ct Monaco in Glass Blue or for something vivid and modern, try Bright Ideas Aida in Polar Ice (a nice turquoise-y shade).
American-born artist, actor and poet Stephen Beal has a penchant for color, and feels “colors are the magic carpet for his mind and his heart.” Through poetry he explores memories and emotions evoked by the colors of embroidery floss.
His collection The Very Stuff : Poems on Color, Thread, and the Habits of Women (Interweave Press), received the poetry award from The Colorado Center for the Book in 1997.
Stephen poems are inspired by shades of DMC Embroidery Floss that he uses for his own needlepoint canvases, which have been exhibited around the world, with many of them focused on the magical world of color.
An example is his stitching skills and sense of humor can be seen in the Periodic Table of Color, a spoof on the chemical periodic table we all memorized in high school.
Read some of his poems, the swatches and threads that inspired him, and more of the interview here.
I think I’m going to go pull some threads and let them inspire me!
We recently had a chance to chat with Beth and learn more about her work, which you can read below.
Beth has also graciously provided this pattern for a needlepoint project that can be worked in our gorgeous Pearl Variations size 5 thread.
The simple pattern is perfect for working with these multi-colored threads, and you can download the pdf pattern here.
DMC Color Infusions Memory Thread is also used in the project, and has been couched in place in the center of the upper flower.
Our Interview with Beth:
How did you begin to needlepoint, and are you self-taught or formally trained? Do you think this affects your practice, and how?
My M.ed is in Adult Learning and Development. Hopefully that influenced my desire to work with all ages interested in learning to stitch. We have many artists in our family as well. My mother is a needlepoint designer, my grandfather was a commercial artist. My grandmother was a skilled stitcher, knitter, and painter.
Describe your studio and studio practice.
I work in a pretty small space, but there is a lot of natural light and white walls. I am surrounded by all sorts of needlepoint threads and display materials.
How has your work evolved since you first began working with needlepoint?
I started out targeting the entry level stitcher. I still think that is essential to the future of needlepoint. But it is hard to hold back from moving toward more intermediate projects. So I work with more complicated designs but try to focus on them as teaching tools.
Most of your work is fun, contemporary designs and colors. Can you talk about what draws you to these themes both conceptually and visually?
I thought if the look is fresh and trendy, the younger stitchers would like it. It has been well received by all ages, which I am happy about but did not expect.
Tell us a little about your company, Beth Gantz Designs, and the next direction or step for your work.
I am always looking for ways to attract new stitchers of all ages. I’ll keep pursuing that goal. I am also introducing items for the next level of ability so the beginners can continue to use my products as they learn and grow.
What else do you spend your time doing and do any of these influence your work?
I enjoy golfing, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. I have always been fascinated by trends in home decor and fashion. I look outside the industry for what is happening design wise.
Where can we see your work?
My web site is www.bethgantzdesigns.com. There you can see my designs, as well as in stores nationwide. www.tnna.org has a listing of shops carrying my products.