American Needlepoint: Then and Now

Welcome back to NeedlePoints of View, a monthly column brought to you by Emma of The Maker’s Marks and Hannelore of Hedgehog Needlepoint, where we’ll be sharing our love of all things needlepoint. Whether you’re new to the craft and want to learn what it’s all about or you’ve already fallen under needlepoint’s spell, we hope to inspire you to pick up a needle and get stitching.

The Brady Bunch - stitching!
The Brady Bunch – stitching!

In the past ten years, an explosion of new designers have blown a fresh breeze throughout the needlepoint community.  Indeed the evolution of needlepoint design in the United States since the late 1960-1970s is nothing short of extraordinary. 

While in the 1960 to 1980s, a number of celebrities were known for their love of needlepointMary Tyler Moore, Betty White, Dinah Shore, even former NFL player, Rosie Greer provided regular looks into their needlepoint…Mr. Greer even published a Needlepoint for Men

Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men
Rosey Grier’s Needlepoint for Men

Designs ran the gamut of samplers: bargello, large florals to psychedelic/ mod/ groove-tastic graphics, hand painted or printed, it was all available. Dinah Shore even produced a series of needlepoint kits some of which can still be found on eBay

If you really want to see an up close and personal piece of 1970s American needlepoint, take a look at my Summer project of dining room chair cushions that is still languishing as a work in progress.  My mother, no doubt wanting to keep my pre-teen 12 year old self busy, purchased six of these lovelies (three with pink rose motif and three with a mustard yellow rose theme).  A printed piece that doesn’t even come close to the beautiful stitch printed canvases produced currently by Pixels on Cotton or I don’t anticipate these cushions being finished anytime soon as I grew to detest them with a burning white hot passion. 

While the majority of the above designs themes have long ceased production, there are a notable few which have stood the test of time.

For example, the traditional beauty of Silver Needles unique vegetable and floral canvases are always treasured. Stitchers scour eBay and Canvas destashing sites for Silver Needles’ Beatrix Potter series which occasionally pop up and cause quite the fervor. 

Betty White getting her stitch on
Betty White was a big fan of needlepoint

Beloved Erica Wilson, a huge fan favorite is planted firmly in the US needlepoint ethos as the true maven of needlepoint.  The Erica Wilson shop remains a mecca destination for stitchers visiting Nantucket.  Lastly, Vintage Deux Amis Needlepoint incredible catalog of designs currently, curated by her daughter Raegan, brings unending joy today as much as it did 50 years ago when they first produced their needlepoint production via an individual giclée painting method. 

Vintage Deux Amis
Vintage Deux Amis Needlepoint

Scroll forward a few years, during COVID lockdown there was a leap in crafts, needlework and knitting in particular as it was easy to stitch or knit whilst participating in various Zoom conference calls.  The corresponding leap of new designers stepping into the field was at times staggering.

Hedgehog Needlepoint was one of those new designers and I count myself lucky to have found a deliberate, recognizable unique brand through mounds of research – research I absolutely love.  Today there are over 230 different Retro Travel Tag destinations available and I’m still working away at the request list that never seems to diminish.  Decidedly job security, thank you!

Retro Travel Tags by Hedgehog Needlepoint
Retro Travel Tags by Hedgehog Needlepoint

Who are some of my favorite designers of this new millennium who work tirelessly to be singularly unique and deliberate in their aesthetic? I’m so glad you asked.

Depending on what you are looking for in a canvas, undoubtedly you can find it.  Pop culture references, naughty/sassy sayings, geometrics, twists on the sampler theme to practice new decorative stitches, coastal themes, and sports all of which present wide and comprehensive choice. 

Ash & Gin Needlepoint
Ash & Gin Needlepoint

Up first is a young lady who has a degree in design, interior design specifically.  With a contemporary feel whilst maintaining traditional needlepoint ideals, Ashley Cochran from Ash & Gin is an utter delight.  Of particular interest artistically, is her US National Park series.  By sharing reels of her design process on her iPad, the impressionistic joy of every single park (yes, she’s created a canvas for each of the 63 National Parks in the US) comes to life.  My favorites aside from the National Park series are her darling woolly sheep and cow canvases.  So realistic, you will just want to snuggle them.  Please do yourselves a favor and take a peek at her Instagram as well as her website

Elizabeth Crane Swartz
Elizabeth Crane Swartz

Another fabulous designer, a trained classical painter, is Elizabeth Crane Swartz.  Elizabeth has created an instantly recognizable brand with her color palette that is bright, cheerful and playful.  While one might think putting dots of all sizes and colors into design is a piece of cake, it is a deceptively complicated process that only a trained artist can put together.  The subtle context of color is truly appreciated when pulling threads to kit one of her “this took forever” canvases. 

Recently, Elizabeth added typeface canvases to her catalog which are fabulous. Stitchers in true fashion have elevated these beautiful fonts to new levels by singling out individual letters to highlight amongst other stitching expressions.  

Jeni Sandberg
Jeni Sandberg

Speaking of fonts and typefaces, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jeni Sandberg Needlepoint.  Jeni’s background includes but not limited to working for Christie’s Auction House, American Furniture & Decorative Arts at Doyle NY, as well as Research Assistant in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Moreover, working for nearly 10 years on the Antiques Roadshow garnered Jeni a PhD knowledge base in appraising objects d’art. 

In particular interest of Jeni’s is textiles which she showcases on Textile Fridays. For me, seeing the occasional retro Marimekko fabric/designs pop up on her feed is one of my favorites.  However, I digress… Taking her aforementioned knowledge and experience, Jeni applied it to designing needlepoint canvases.  Amongst her catalog, are designs incorporating a single letter typeface, multiplied across each canvas.  Her canvases are beautiful and a joy to stitch.  

Abigail Cecile
Abigail Cecile

For a graceful more traditional floral motifs, I gravitate towards Abigail Cecile.  Her gentle designs are imbued with lovely flowers, intertwined with monograms.  Moreover, Abigail’s instruction for finishing is one of the most comprehensive courses you can take.  Her process is easy to follow, as Abigail not only holds regular classes via Zoom but also has tutorials available.  Charts are available to download of several different typefaces to add heirloom flare to a design.  

Thorn Alexander
Thorn Alexander

One last but certainly not least is Brooke of Thorn Alexander Style.  Brooke’s design/illustration background is readily apparent but also recognizable through some of her repeating borders.   In particular, her animal designs are bold, with a touch of Andy Warhol color palette ending in a fresh new perspective, especially with her African animals.  Did each one of my four children request one of her Cecil the Lion as well as Eleanor the Elephant canvases? Yes they did… I’ll be stitching (and loving them) for quite some time.  

So when you have a few minutes to spare, hippity hop on over to the above mentioned designers Instagrams and/or websites for a peek into their respective catalogs.  No doubt you will absolutely find more to put on your wish list! 

I’ll be back next time with more needlepoint designers that you need in your life! Until then, happy stitching!