Sunday, December 17, 2006

You Meet the Nicest People

The needleart world is filled with some of the nicest people and you meet them in the coolest ways.

I just went to log into blogger to post and as I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing I simply typed my name in a block and hit return. Well, who knew, I am listed on other people's blogs. That's a huge compliment.

I start looking at the various blogs and get completely sucked into one and who knew it belongs to the President of our local EGA chapter. I met Susan about a year ago at a class taught by Betty Chen Louis. Susan is one of those people you just want to be around. She has a great energy that you just want to be around.

Her blog is so much more animated than mine. It's lots of fun to read. She's an avid Japanese Embroiderer who will graduate in October 2007. That means she will be able to teach!!!! I don't know if she has any plans to or not, but I certainly hope so. Japanese Embroidery is a beautiful art and very disciplined. If I were ever to try to learn it, Susan would be the one I'd want to teach me. Her enthusiasm for life and stitching shines through everything she does. Take a moment and check out her blog. I think you will enjoy it. I know I do!

Happy Holidays!

It's a week until Christmas and the house should be decorated, the cookies should be baked and just as importantly I should be ready for the tradeshow in San Diego. I'm not ready for any of these things. Oh well, we'll get there.

There will be lots of new designs introduced at market. I have a new series of Holiday Ladies. They are very stylish. This is Merry Christmas. We also have Sugar Plum (dressed in ribbon candy), Candy Cane (in of course the candy cane ensemble) and Miss L. Toe (she's the holiday lounge singer).

I also decided to develop a line of canvases to portray all the things kids are into these days, soccer, ballet, karate, baseball, skateboarding, the list goes on and on. I think there are well over a dozen different kids. Boys, girls, caucasian, african american, 18ct, 13ct. We've got them all! It was interesting as we started designing them that with each one there had to be another. There are so many activities that kids are involved in these days. I'm excited to see them stitched and brought to life. They are all very colorful and have cool backgrounds that are perfect for stitches!

This is just a quick sneak peak at what's coming. More news to follow.

To all my stitching and beading friends may I wish you a Happy Holiday and a New Year filled with all thing bright and shiny!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Problem Solved !!!

The orange kitty is now one of my favorite canvases!!!!

After the trials and tribulations of the last few weeks trying different things to bring the canvas to life as I wanted it. It is now complete.

The flower pot that was in my head subtly shaded has been giving me fits. After a few false starts I hit upon something that I really love. Canvas Collage. Rosalyn Cherry - Soleil is an amazing needleartist from Canada. She has been working with fabrics in her needlepoint for years and the results are stunning. If you haven't seen her work, go to you will be amazed!

I decided to give it a try. With a little encouragement from Rosalyn I embellished the pot with beautiful batik fabrics in 3 different tones. Then added embroidery stitches on top for more texture. The results are stunning. Okay, I'm biased. It's finished and the problem is solved!

I'm also hooked! There is something very freeing about adding beautiful fabrics to your canvas. It covers large areas quickly and adds an entirely new dimension to the piece. It's really a lot of fun.

I've sent the canvas off to the finisher to have it made in to a leather tote. It's going to be wonderful!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Make it Work in Real Life

As I mentioned in my last post, sometimes you just have to make it work.

I have a series of beautiful cat canvases that we designed several years ago and have now finally decided it was time to stitch at least one of them. I had the orange cat with tullips almost completely finished and then I decided I didn't like the flowerpot. In my mind it was to be a very subtle gradation from shades of purple to pink and back again.

Well, that was in my mind. In reality it is striped.

It's much too busy, it's all you see when you look at the canvas. Not the beautiful cat or the tulips or the floor. So, now to make it work. I could rip the entire thing out and shade it mathematically with several strands of silk. Working with 4 strands of one color for a few rows and then moving to 3 strands of the same color plus one of the next and so on. But, I'm really lazy when it comes to ripping out stitching.

So, I need to consider another option. This is a chance for creativity, right? What if I overstitch the entire pot in a larger pattern stitch? In theory that color will blend it all together.

Well, let me say that was a theory only. I tried it. I used a single strand of Sparkle Braid in a large stitch and now it is just as busy and sparkly. The Sparkle Braid wasn't the answer as it is a little too thick for this and slightly rough, so it doesn't necessarily lay even all the time when it is being used over a field of Trebizond Tent Stitches. What was I thinking using Trebizond and hoping it would shade?

Okay, more creativity. This is actually fun. It's empowering to just go with it. I'm off to try something else. I'll show you the results soon.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Make It Work

What a great philosophy for life and needlepoint.

I am addicted to Project Runway. I can watch it over and over. Most of the reality shows don't do it for me. I never saw the point of Survivor and we won't even discuss American Idol. Project Runway brings together some amazingly talented designers. Each week they manage to work a miracle in very little time and with typically no preplanning. They follow their hearts and the advice of the show's mentor, Tim Gund - Make it Work. Sometimes making it work is a struggle and other times all it takes is a good look at the product and the answer is clear.

There are times in needlepoint where I think a little more of that "Make it Work" philosophy could come in handy. We tend to take it all so seriously, We should take it seriously. This is our art.

But we shouldn't take it SO seriously that we lose the joy in it or the willingness to experiment.

Step back and look at the piece you are working on. What does it tell you? Is it going in the direction you want or has the piece become predictable. I like to experiment and try different things. Different threads, stitches, techniques. Sometimes, they work, sometimes they don't. Either way, I challenge myself to "Make it Work" move on and learn from the experiment.

I think perhaps I will adopt more of the - Make it Work philosophy and see where it takes me in life.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

More Needlepoint Publicity

I can't believe it! Just last week I posted the full page feature from Lucky Magazine that confirms what we already knew that Needlepoint is hip.

And then this week in my inbox is a notice from daily candy. If you don't know about daily candy it is very cool website ( that posts daily news on the following topics: fashion, food & drink, beauty, arts & culture, fun, services and home. All this news can be emailed to you. Different topics different days. What's even cooler is that there are versions for many big cities giving you tips on what's cool in a certain city.

Okay, so back to topic - the email from Daily Candy. it was promoting AMH Design which is a needlepoint line of photo albums etc.

I particularly liked their take on needlepoint which reads:

"If you counted all the minutes in a day during which you do absolutely nothing, they’d definitely add up.

Why, yesterday alone you spent six minnies waiting for the valet, half an hour in line at the post office, and twenty long ones in a paper gown standing by for Dr. Delayed.

Put that time to good use with a needlepoint kit from AMH Design. Far from granny-style eyeglass cases and pillows, the kits will have you needling and threading your way to contemporary photo albums and journals.

Choose from designs like Rio (a funky red, purple, and white pattern with an initial), Rome (squares and crosses in ecru, orange, and green), and London (multicolored stripes with an initial).

Not only will you create a keepsake, but you’ll also be relieving stress (consider it therapy) and losing weight (no hands to shovel food into your piehole).

In which case, time really will be on your side."

So perhaps the tide is turning and we are finally getting others to see what we already knew. Needlepoint is becoming trendy!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Cyber Classes

I am a class junkie. I want to learn from everyone I can. I may not have felt this way when I was in school but those classes weren't needlepoint, now were they. Now that I have the opportunity to study the needlearts I am interested in what everyone is doing. Particularly if it is a new technique that I may not have explored before.

I've been taking beadwork classes from Cynthia Rutledge who is amazing and basket making classes from Marilyn Moore. Also amazing. I'm dabbling in wirework. Who knows where these new techniques may lead. Watch out, they may come to life in a needlepoint canvas yet.

Taking the classes gets me excited to do my art and stop letting everything else come first for just a short period of time.

When deciding whether or not to take a class it is easy to get caught up in "do I like the picture or not". It's important to look beyond that at the techniques and the instructor. Many of our most talented teachers are retiring and the window of opportunity to take a class with them has closed.

I particularly like cyber classes. We offer cyber classes with national teachers on Bedecked and Beadazzled. There are also other websites offering cyber classes so you have lots of choices. It's a wonderful opportunity to take a class with a national teacher without having to leave the comfort of your own home. It's also a more relaxed environment. You don't have to commit to 3 days in a row that may have seemed convenient when you signed up for the class but are now filled with deadlines, and kid's soccer matches. You have the supplies and instructions, you can read the teachers additional tips and hits at your leisure and participate in the online chat as desired. 2AM is an okay time to chat if that's what works for you. It's all about convenience.

Cyber classes are the best of all worlds. Meeting the teacher in person is still the best, but this is a great alternative that offers you the best of both worlds. I hope you will give it a try. Take a class. Explore a new technique. Stretch your skills. I bet you will enjoy it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hipster Needlepoint

Could it be! A major fashion magazine has admitted that needlepoint is cool!

The one thing that rivals my interest in needlepoint is shopping. So, yes, I read Shop etc. and Lucky and a local Baltimore based magazine on shopping, Paperdoll. Don't even go there, if you know anything about Baltimore it is not hip and cool and fashionable, but we're trying and according to the magazine doing a pretty good job.

So, here I am, reading the October issue of Lucky Magazine and right there on page 44 is a full page devoted to needlepoint.

trend in the making....
hipster needlepoint

"Up until now, this kind of traditional stitching has come off as either granny-ish or preppily twee, so we were pleasantly surprised to spot these nw, incredibly cool iterations trickling into the market. From an unconventional ottoman to a fresh take on the cocktail ring, these are all subtly subversive - though they still maintain an excellent touch of old-world, folksy charm."

That's a pretty glowing review. And it looks like some of what they show and call needlepoint is actually needlepoint! One piece is cross stitch and one that they call cross stitch is needlepoint, but at least they are trying.

The featured photo is a cross stitch sampler by London-based Kate Westerholt - Ghetto Fabulous. They refer to it as "giving an 18th-century art form a hilarious pop-culture makeover -- the results are brilliant."

Maybe there is hope that others will recognize what we've always known. Needlepoint is Cool!

Until next time.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The birth of a new idea - Stitches CD

We introduced Stitches CD Volume I in June at the Indianapolis tradeshow. We are delighted to say it was a huge success.
We've received wonderful feedback from the shops and stitchers who are using it. Several have asked us how we came up with this idea.

Just 20 years ago we were lucky to have a few great needlepoint books. Jo Ippolito Christensen's book was the bible for stitchers and then there was Pageant of Pattern which is today, still a classic. The techniques were there and we were doing some cool stuff.

But now!!! There are more and more books on the horizon and new and different techniques to be explored. So the question in my mind was what's next? So many designers publish stitch books and do a fabulous job. I wanted to do something different. Look at things outside the box.

So, Stitches CD was born. This is a joint collaboration with Kathy Holicky. She loves to draw stitches. I don't. I however, like to use stitches. I wanted all my stitches to look alike. So, we worked out a system and created our 300 favorite stitches. We then saved them all as single page cds and put them on a single cd for your enjoyment.

All the stitches are arranged in a series of pdfs by name and again by stitch type. That's a handy feature.

Okay, so you are saying but, I don't want to stitch in front of my computer. I like my big comfy chair. True. So, print out your stitches for this project, nice and big so you don't have to squint and toss them in the project bag with that project. No big heavy book to carry around. Just a couple of sheets of paper. Doodle on them. Take notes on them. Toss them when your done. Print new copies when you need them. Do you travel for work, copy the cd to your laptop and never be without. Now this idea is starting to excite me.

Once we had that much done, we decided to take it a step further. The illustrations existed so why not give everyone access to them? It's just like clip art for your computer. Why not stitch clip art?

There's so much talk about copyright these days and designers should be protected. You can't copyright a stitch or a sequence of stitches. You can however copyright a diagram. All of our diagrams are original. Once you buy a copy of the cd you are free to use the sttiches however you like. You may put them in a newsletter, put them in a stitch guide, print them on a t shirt. All we ask is that you respect our copyright on the illustration and give us credit. A simple tagline "Stitches CD Volume 1 © Ruth Schmuff" will do the trick.

There you have it, the birth of a new idea - Stitches CD.

We're working on Stitches CD Volume II now with even more stitches. It will debut in January, so stay tuned as that project comes to fruition. Could you have imagined 20 years ago getting your stitches on cd? Next we'll be able to beam them into open air like in the matrix.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Welcome To My Blog


I thought it might be interesting to start a blog that talks about the design end of needlepoint and how mucch it has changed and is changing over time.

If you have come to this blog via one of my websites you already know me. If you found the blog elsewhere you very well may not know me. So let's start there.

I have been stitching and crafting as long as I can remember. It's just what I do. I was never one to just sit still and watch tv, I always had to be doing something else. My mom would crochet and is now an avid needlepointer. She gets to stitch more than I do! Her mom also crocheted. Remember all those teeny tiny handkerchief edges and wonderful lacey tablecloths and doilies? Well, that's what she did. And then there was my Aunt Elsie, she stitched all the time and I do mean, all the time. She did crewel work, kit after kit after kit. Many she stitched several times (I wish I had one of those now, but I was just a kid). She stitched so many pieces that the walls in her house were covered top to bottom with her stitching.

I took my first formal Needlepoint class when I was in 6th grade. Okay, other kids play outside, I stitch.

I went on to college, attained a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts. I even painted and exhibited my own abstract watercolors for a while. Maybe one day those paintings will be recreated in needlepoint.

In 1990, Kreinik Manufacturing moved their corporate offices to Owings Mills, Maryland and I became their Design Coordinator. This was a great opportunity for me to learn about thread and the industry and to meet many talented designers.

In 1994, I left Kreinik to pursue a new vision. I wasn't sure what would happen, but it certainly has been an adventure. I began freelancing as a Graphic Artist and that soon turned into my own design and marketing firm, Plum Creative Associates, LLC. It's a wonderful business and I work with many great people. I wouldn't trade them for anything.

But being a true Gemini and having more than a little A.D.D., I wanted more. I was still stitching and had been designing counted canvaswork. I sold designs to many needlework magazines. I also published my own chartpaks, plus those of several other friends, to sell to shops nationwide. The industry goes through many cycles and Counted Canvaswork (while beautiful and so much fun to design and stitch!) just wasn't a cost effective business. I needed to regroup if I was going to stay in the industry.

So, in 2003 my dream came true of being able to start a hand painted needlepoint design business! Needlepoint is my first love. I love the painted canvases and bringing them to life with stitches and threads. I work a little differently than many artists in the industry. I do not actually paint the canvases myself. I am the Creative Director. I come up with concepts and then work with very talented illustrators to bring them to life. So what you ultimately see is my vision translated through their hands. All of our illustrations are then charted for needlepoint and stitchpainted - giving you the highest quality and easiest canvases to stitch. There's no guess work for color or stitch placement with these designs!

I still get to stitch many of my designs and develop stitch guides for them so that stitchers can follow me or create their own art. My goal is to create art that appeals to all ages... but especially to the thirty and fortysomethings. We need to keep the art alive and exciting - It's not your Grandmother's Needlepoint!

I currently live in Towson, Maryland with Karl, my partner of 20 years and one of the amazing illustrators of the needlepoint canvases. We have 4 cats - Jasper, Tigger, Hunter and Harold. They know they are in charge of the house and are gracious enough to let us live with them. One day soon they may have to share their home with a puppy (shhhh! don't tell). Mom is well and not far away, putting up with my requests for more stitched models for the tradeshows. The joys of being an only child - a mom who doesn't have to divide her time.

Thank you all for helping me realize my dreams... and for sharing yours with me! The Needlepoint business is thriving as is the Graphic Design business and we are having a wonderful time!

Until next time.
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