We thought a lovely way to kick off our new column would be to introduce ourselves and our background in the glorious stitchy world of needlepoint.
Emma: Shannan, why don’t you start us off. When did you first discover needlepoint?
Shannan: Hey everyone, it’s great to be here!
I first discovered counted canvas needlepoint when I inherited some books from a friend of my mum’s who was having a de-stash. She gave me a set of counted canvas books by Anchor, some stranded cotton, needles, and some Aida.
Looking back, I was ‘doing it all wrong’, stitching needlepoint on Aida rather than canvas and tackling the challenges that entailed, but the needlepoint police didn’t catch up to me and I was having fun! I had this hand stitch technique that allowed me to experiment with different stitches, colour and pattern, and I was hooked.
S: What needlepoint supplies did you start out with?
E: Binka! Do you remember that stuff? It’s like jumbo Aida that they give out at school. That was definitely the stuff I started out with.
And I remember my mum teaching me when I was about 7 years old on a Long Stitch kit with three black and white cats on it. It was stitched in gorgeous Anchor Tapestry wool and started my lifelong love of needlepoint. I still use Anchor in all my kits now. But my supplies have boomed and I’m up to my ears in embroidery scissors and cute needleminders now.
It’s interesting looking back on that first Long Stitch design and realising how early it was I started needlepointing before I even realised. It’s such a lovely stitch to use.
E: Do you have any favourite stitches?
S: One of my all-time faves will always be Norwich Stitch, it’s one of the first decorative stitches I learnt and it helped fan the flames of my passion for needlepoint. You’ll often see that and Rhodes Stitch in my counted canvas designs.
I love experimenting with new stitches and seeing the effects they create, but I often come back to tent stitch, continental, half cross stitch, and basketweave. I just love the classic look and the way the stitched fabric feels. The durability of those stitches makes them perfect for creating hard-wearing pieces that’ll last a lifetime.
E: Oh, great choice! Norwich Stitch is such an amazing statement stitch. I’m really partial to a Rhodes Stitch at the moment.
S: When you’re creating a new design, where do you start, and what does that process look like for you?
E: I’m forever bookmarking things, whether it’s an inspiring colour palette on Pinterest or an Instagram post from an illustrator I’ve fallen in love with and want to collaborate with. Sometimes I have a theme prompt from XStitch Magazine and I just start drawing ideas. I’m very influenced by my ‘80’s childhood so you’ll see a lot of retro vibes amongst my kits.
Once I have an image in mind I sketch, sketch and sketch some more. I look for the smallest element to build my stitches around and go from there. As much as I want designs to be a certain size sometimes they dictate what they need to be. Like my Zoltar card design in the Fortune issue of XStitch Magazine, I pictured a small card design but once I started I just knew I had to get lots of detail into his eyes. The design ended up about ten times the size I’d imagined! 🙂
E: When you’re buying a kit or canvas how on earth do you choose? Do you have favourite places to look?
S: There are so many beautiful kits and talented designers out there, I can see why so many of us have big stashes of charts, canvases, and kits to stitch! I love pattern and colour so I tend to favour designs that showcase those elements.
The other aspect of needlepoint I love is the finishing, so when I’m choosing my next project I’ll often look for something that has a different finishing technique or construction method to learn.
S: As a needlepoint designer, what does your working day consist of?
E: I’m writing my first craft book at the moment so a lot of my day is working on that. It’s funny you said about looking for projects with different finishing techniques, you’ll be happy to hear my book will be packed with them!
I’m trying to give myself a good balance of time spent stitching and designing, mixed in with writing sessions. So I tend to start the day with a bit of stitching to wake myself up and focus my mind, then it’s up to my craft room to write some pages. Usually, I’m listening to a creative podcast like Stitch Talk or The Lovecrafts Show.
Then mid-morning I pack kit orders ready to drop at the Post Office and start dreaming about lunch! 🙂
Afternoon rolls around and you’ll usually find me camped on the sofa under a pile of WIP’s with a crime drama on the telly; I’m partial to a bit of Agatha Christie.
Very often I find myself doodling new ideas in the evenings or having what I call a stitch holiday; which means I’m stitching someone else’s design. At the moment I’m working on Thread & Mercury’s Deco Diver. It’s meant to be stitched in cross stitch but I love to go rogue and experiment with decorative needlepoint stitches. So far I’ve included Condensed Mosaic, Upright Cross, and some freestyle ribbon work.
E: It’s been great chatting to you about needlepoint, and I’m really looking forward to seeing this joint column explore more about the wonderful world of needlepoint. Can you give us a teaser for what we can expect?
S: We’ve got an exciting year ahead, both in terms of our own creative directions and also that of our column here.
Over the next year, I have a very exciting collaboration coming out, and I will be throwing open the virtual doors to my online pattern shop! I can’t wait to share more about it with you all. Sign up for my newsletter to be the first to hear all about it and to get your free pattern to make a Turkish Jewel Needlebook.
Here on our column, we will be spilling the tea on all things needlepoint. Next month I’ll be taking a look back in time to see how historic needlepoint has helped shape the contemporary designs that we see today.
But that’s not all, over the coming months we’ll be sharing how to get started, decorative stitches for more advanced stitchers and confident beginners, easy finishing ideas, and so much more!
We’ll look forward to seeing you back here for that next month. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you. Is there anything that you’re dying to know about needlepoint? Can we help you with some tricky needlepoint issues that you’re having?
Let us know in the comments and we’ll do everything we can to help.