How I Got Back Into Needlepointing
....with a Little Help from KC Needlepoint
It all started with a picture on social media – a wonderful canvas of the new hip “heart KC” logo being stitched into a pillow by a friend of mine. It may sound crazy, but I was blown away. I had never seen such a cute design in needlepoint. It wasn’t the same traditional floral or dated looking design, right?
The saying comes to mind, “Everything old is new again.” Could it be that there was a new kind of needlepointing? With fresh, fun and trendy looks? I quickly typed in a comment on my friend’s post and asked her where she got the canvas. She said, “KC Needlepoint. You should check it out!”
Well, that was the beginning, and the rest is history, as they say. I made a trip to this store that is the only store in Kansas City solely focusing on the art of needlepoint. I was greeted by friendly faces who very patiently reminded me the best way to thread a needle and how to do the basket weave. “It’s easy!” they said with encouraging smiles. And yes, after at least 10 years of not working on a canvas, it all came back to me.
I guess I started this craft when I was around 12 years old because it was fun, doable and you ended up with something pretty at the end. My best friend’s mom had a needlepoint shop, and it was easy to find canvases.
Some 33 years later, when my young children were walking around with me in Old Town Scottsdale over Spring Break, we happened upon a needlepoint shop. I went in, and like baby ducks following a mama duck, they followed me into the store. When they saw that I was buying a project to work on, all three, even the boys, shrieked, “What about us? Can’t we do one?”
I was kind of struck by their interest, and funny to think about, we spent our down time on that vacation, sitting inside working on our needlepoint/quickpoint projects - a sailboat for my youngest, a dog for my oldest and a “LOVE” saying for my daughter.
Although it was a great way to keep little ones busy and out of the hot Arizona sun, needless to say, these projects never got done. Just one year ago, now that my husband and I were almost empty nesters, I had the time to actually find these projects in a drawer. I had an idea for Christmas. Before I embarked on any new projects, I would finish the old ones and give them back to the kids as gifts. The sailboat was framed, and the dog and “LOVE” saying were made into pillows – all finding new homes in my kids’ rooms at the lake house.
It was then that I realized I had another reason to needlepoint. I wanted to make family heirlooms that could be passed down to generations. This is the reason I scrapbook, too, and nothing makes me happier than to make something that creates or preserves family history.
The owners of KC Needlepoint, Carol Crowe and Polly Kramer, have also been stitching since they were very young, and family heirlooms are some of their favorite projects as well. Polly took seven years to stitch an incredible 12-step runner for the front stairway in her home. It has family initials, birth dates and special symbols about each cherished family member. Carol, whose son just got married in September, took great care in stitching five cummerbunds (two done by other stitchers), a purse for the bride, five flasks for the ushers and a ring bearer’s pillow – all in less than a year. Amazing! And what is more important, these are all things that will last and have special meaning for years to come.
So, you might be thinking, what have Carol and Polly been seeing that’s new and trendy? It seems to be modern designs and bright colors. New young artists like Lycette Designs by Jessica in Palm Springs and Rachel Donley from Pittsburg are becoming well known. Rachel, who is inspired by pink and green, loves to create canvases with bunnies, pearls, picket fences, tailgates, Island time and Christmas sweets. Jessica, on the other hand, says she is reinvigorating this beloved past-time through a millennial lens. Fresh creations are popping up all over social media with beautiful new ideas that are attracting 20-somethings and younger. Two other very prominent contemporary designers are Thorn Alexander and Pewter & Pine (formerly Tess and Thorn). (See the picture at left of one of Thorn's spectacular designs completed by Carol Crow's daughter.)
In the heart of the Midwest, this store is truly your needlepoint destination - north of Dallas up through Wichita and east to St. Louis. They specialize in custom-painted belts and the 12 Days of KC Christmas ornaments that highlight icons associated with the city, designed and painted by local artist, Marianne Ensz. Other big sellers are the travel rounds that can be made into coasters, ornaments or paperweights, serving as special remembrances of trips to cities, states and countries.
With all this custom work, it is mind-boggeling to think about finding artists for such specialized handiwork. That’s where this store stands out in the community as a catalyst for breaking the cycle of poverty among women, and more specifically mothers. KC Needlepoint is one of 10 employers in the area to give employment to 40 moms through a program supporting Amethyst Place, transitional housing for women in recovery and their children.
The long-term goal of the organization is to “create work environments where this population of mothers can flourish and in turn, model these career accomplishments to their own children, providing their children with the feeling of hope and opportunity,” says one employer. The needlepoint store currently employs three such moms who are painting needlepoint canvases. After being trained by Marianne, they not only can copy her designs but also now can design their own paintings.
Carol and Polly admire these women and both agree that it has been a rewarding experience for everyone in the store. “They’ve been through so much as single parents, “ says Carol, “and it’s amazing for us to see how much they have grown in their skills since they started working here.”
Other staff at the store are talented as well, in terms of teaching a myriad of classes. These include everything from the ongoing once-a-month Beginner Class to their next-step-up Brick Sampler Class and the ever-popular annual Top Secret KC Needlepoint Ornament of the Year Class. (See the 2017 wreath ornament in the photo.)
One of the reasons Polly loves to come into work each day is seeing the looks on customers’ faces when they pick up their projects. “They are so happy,” she says, “and that combined with the beautiful canvases makes this place a really great environment.”
Needlepoint has also brought me closer to my friends who have the same hobby. As it comes up in conversation, I have discovered more and more friends and acquaintances who love to do this! As a result, we get together weekly at the shop for stitching and catching up, and twice a year, we gather at the lake for a Scrappers and Stitchers Retreat, including those who scrapbook as well.
The craft of needlepoint has not only filled a creative outlet for me, but it just plain gives me joy to be around beautiful things and friends who love to create keepsakes. If you’re thinking about starting up for the first time or getting back into it, Carol and Polly have some valuable guidelines to share.
The Top 5 Tips for Beginning Needlepointers:
1. Start with something small in canvas size and big in mesh size.
2. Choose a simple project without a lot of detail.
3. Do a square or rectangular project, not a circular one.
4. Stitch a design you like!
5. Concentrate on what’s on the front of the canvas, and don’t worry about what the back looks like.