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“It really felt like a meditative process for me and seemed to ease anxiety. ”
— Tess of Pewter and Pine
Since I got back into needlepointing after a busy mom time in my life, the look of the canvases has changed dramatically in just 15 years. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and it made me even more excited to stitch. We will hear from three young designers who are helping to give this art form a super fresh new look: Tess Kvale of Pewter and Pine, Joanna Somers of The Plum Stitchery and Abigail Cecile of her company of the same name.
I was fortunate to meet Tess in Phoenix while vacationing there, and she was so kind to invite me into her studio. As I looked at all of the beautiful southwest innovative designs, I couldn’t help but think, “It’s not your grandmother’s needlepoint anymore.” Tess is the daughter of Elizabeth Nagle of Doolittle Stitchery, famous for stylish destination rounds, especially ski destinations. Tess’s beginning with needlepointing began as a stress reliever when her mother suggested it. “It really felt like a meditative process for me and seemed to ease anxiety,” she says. Tess fell hard into love with needlepoint and learned how to stitch paint from her mom. “She’s been doing this for so long so she’s an amazing resource for me…we are on the phone at least once a day talking needlepoint!”
Tess says she feels lucky to live in the Southwest where the aesthetic she gravitates towards is all around her. She is motivated by her love for nature, and the name, Pewter and Pine, actually came from just that. The “pewter” being a thread color she loves and the pine symbolizing how close she feels to a higher power when she is around nature. Her designs reflect this and her region of the country in a new and beautiful way. Along with her unique geometric treatment of animals in paintings, she also has designed some fun phrases on canvas, like “mi casa es su casa,” “flow like a river,” and my favorite, “good at naps.”
Tess could go on all day about the benefits of needlepoint, but here are a few main ones she shared:
The only thing I would add to that is the main reason I needlepoint is to create family heirlooms. I love making things that last and that my family can cherish forever. I guess I would also add the social part of needlepointing has been really fun for me. I feel like life goes by so fast, and if I’m getting together with friends, I would much rather be creating something to be treasured for years, than playing cards. But that’s just me! So I started a group to meet once a week to stitch together and we even meet at our lake house for a retreat once in a while. We always learn things from each other with lots of laughs along the way.
“There are also glimpses into the fashion industry over the past few months that indicate (they see) needlepoint as relevant and in touch.”
— Joanna Somers of The Plum Stitchery
I feel like I witnessed history this past February when the Stitch Club City Chapters started forming. I happened to follow it on Instagram and saw the epidemic grow daily as more and more cities were added with their own logos. Joanna remarks, “The stitch club revolution was thrilling to watch unfold in real time; to see it explode over the course of a few days across the globe.” She went on, “This group of lovely women had the idea to inspire stitchers to gather together, understanding fully that stitching should be a social event.”
Joanna from The Plum Stitchery gets her inspiration from everywhere, she says. After a while, she admits that whatever she’s looking at becomes a possible canvas and she wonders how it would render. If I had to choose a word to describe her canvases, it would be “whimsical.” I love her charming paintings that have an airy and almost classical feel. She is creative in her subjects, and I have to say my favorite is probably the “Meet Me in St. Louis” cable car ornament. With this being one of my favorite movies, I don’t have to even be from St. Louis to want to stitch this. I also adore the sailboat ornament with a Christmas tree in tow.
“There are (also) glimpses into the fashion industry over the past few months that indicate (they see) needlepoint as relevant and in touch,” says Joanna. There have been purses on the runway, India Hicks partnering with Jonathan Adler to create a series of needlepoint pillows and style magazines featuring needlepoint in its pages. A great example of this is Abigail’s lemon round appliquéd to a purse, pictured here. I have to confess this is probably my favorite finish on one of her pieces, as it is hers.
“This is about finding joy in creating with your hands.”
— Abigail Cecile
Another favorite of mine by Abigail is the majestic stag design she has done on an ornament as well as a stocking, and I believe a pillow canvas as well. The problem with writing this article is that it makes you want to buy, buy, buy all these beautiful canvases! I’m trying to figure out where and how I can use this design in my house.
Abigail’s advice to novice stitchers is being okay with mistakes. “I’m a perfectionist and I can get wrapped up in the fear of messing up. Throw that feeling and thought away. Dive in. So what if you wish you’d used a different stitch/thread/technique? Use it on the next piece. This is about finding joy in creating with your hands,” she says.
And the pursuit of joy is greater today than ever with the vast array of designs available to us! As Joanna says, “We’re lucky to be needlepointing in a time with this large contingency of unique designers, each bringing something new to the canvas.”