My first encounter with needlepoint came at the hands of my maternal grandmother. She purchased canvases with the detail work completed, leaving only the background for her to fill in. I remember her home being filled with her handiwork in the form of pillows, footstools, evening bags, and bell pulls much like the ones in Downton Abbey. The pieces were ornate and lovely, but also heavy and of another era. I was mesmerized by the texture, running my fingers over the stitches to feel the nubby bumps of wool, all of them identical, yielding depth and detail merely by variations in the shade from stitch to stitch.
My next encounter with needlepoint came at the hands of a dear friend who has always felt like a big sister to me. I met her when I was a college student, and she would stitch during her down time, primarily at night or while waiting in the carpool line. She specialized in stitching ornate, themed Santa Clauses. Her collection was breathtaking, and I was in awe. She assured me I too could be a stitcher. She went with me to the local needlepoint store to pick out an easy canvas, guiding me towards a project that would allow me to gently dip my toe into the needlepoint waters. I bought a simple canvas, and I wanted to be a stitcher, but unfortunately the timing was all wrong. Still in the thick of the toddler and baby years with my four children, my days consisted of non-stop sippy cups and diaper changes and my evenings were focused on doing as little as possible to recover. Having four children in six years brought with it a season of constant need anticipation, and for me there was no room for needlepoint in my life at that time.
Fast forward to the fall of 2020.
I began to see needlepoint projects pop up in my Instagram feed. People I had followed for years were all learning to stitch, loving it, and sharing it with the world. The canvases were cute and modern, at times even bordering on irreverent and funny. The patterns were eye-catching and colorful. The designs were clever and included everything from Topo Chico bottles to disco balls to classic monograms. I began to pay attention.
About the same time as needlepoint began to become a character in my daily Instagram scroll, so too did lockdown fatigue. The pandemic was thick, we were all in the throughs of despair and drudgery, and I was feeling myself begin to fray a bit emotionally and mentally. One day, during a daily scroll session, I saw a needlepoint canvas that instantly called to me. The design by Audrey Wu featured a jar of Bonne Maman strawberry jam. With no hesitation, I ordered the canvas, chose the threads, and began to stitch.
It took me ten whole minutes to become hooked on needlepoint, giddy with the sense of accomplishment found in making one stitch, then another, and another until a satisfying trail of color was left for me to admire. Ever since that first row of stitches, I have not looked back. It took a long time for my needlepoint love story to come full circle and finally land, but when the timing was finally right and the canvas called to me, it was a match made in hobby heaven.
I finished the Bonne Maman canvas in what felt like record time. I did not have another canvas waiting (rookie mistake), so I popped into The French Knot and picked out my next endeavor. I chose a beautiful oyster designed by Morgan Julia featuring shades of blue and a single pearl in the middle. My favorite detail is the glittery thread I used to stitch the sand around the oyster. Sparkles and pearls and shades of the sea made this project easy to love.
Since that first canvas, I have stitched many different designs, always choosing canvases that call to me for one reason or another. I have become such a fan of stitching that I host regular Sip and Stitch events at Hurley House, encourage everyone I know to take up the hobby, and love connecting with other stitchers to hear what they are working on.
Needlepoint has benefitted my mental health, connected me with a creative community, and provided an outlet for when I want to feel productive but don’t want to think. Needlepoint and I are a good fit, friends for the long haul, destined to create a lot of beautiful things together, and full of lovely lessons along the way.