Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shakespeare's Peddler & Ewe Count - Norden's Needleworkers

Featured Designer -

Q.  What are a few of your favorite themes when designing a pattern?
A.   I love reproducing antique samplers.  When I pick apart an antique, I also learn a lot about that little stitcher.  What was her tension like?  How did she handle her mistakes?  If she ran out of a color, what did she do (sometimes that little girl will match the best she can with another color, and sometimes she'll throw in hot pink....that substitution says a lot about a stitcher.)  Did she carry her threads, or did she neatly tuck everything in?  When I design my own samplers, I try to take lessons from the antiques I have.  I tend to like designs that aren't too matchy-matchy.  It's not fun to stitch something two or three times.  So, I like samplers that are asymmetrical.  I like mistakes - I design mistakes into my designs, and then when I stitch those designs, I make more mistakes.  It's what I see in the old samplers...and I think those mistakes add a certain air of authenticity to a piece.  I'm more of a type B personality.

I also think color plays a huge part in designing a piece.  As a shop owner, I have seen people reject a design they liked, because they didn't like the colors.  I have also seen stitchers take a design they didn't like and make it so beautiful by changing some colors around.  I think as needleworkers, we're drawn to the beauty of the supplies.  It's so satisfying to pull a group of threads for a peoject and feel happy just looking at the colors.  A lot of times, I've designed my own pieces by pulling a bunch of thread colors I like and then seeing when I can come up with.

Q.  What other designers are you a fan of?
A.  I've been stitching for about 30 years now, and have stitched pieces by a lot of different designers.  I grew up a couple of blocks from the Nordic Needle, so I always had access to great designs.  When I was in my 20's, I stitched a lot of Shepherd's Bush kits, and those introduced me to different types of stitches and helped me progress as a needleworker.  I love Lizzie Kate's color and design sense.  Little House Needleworks is designing and reproducing some really cool samplers.  I never get tired of the Americana feel of Prairie Schooler's pieces.  And Blackbird Designs charts knock me right out -- they're fun to stitch and so beautiful.  Plum Street Samplers, Chessie & Me, Stacy Nash, La-D-Da, With Thy Needle & Thread, Gigi Ries Designs, The Scarlet Letter...there are a lot of great designers right now, and they're doing wonderful things. 

Q.  How do you compare the products that are available in today's market compared to 10 years ago, and how has that changed your designs over time?
We've never has such a great selection of supplies.  I'm thinking back to the days when I was a teenager and using pre-packaged (cheap) Aida cloth that was all starchy and yucky.  I still stitch with DMC floss on occassion, but now I have so many hand-dyed fibers to choose from in silk and cotton and wool.  There are all colors and counts of linen, and again, some of this is hand-dyed.  And I can get fabric that is gently mottled, or fabric that's just crazy/splotchy.  There are great charms and buttons.  And I love that these days designers are coming up with fun finishing ideas, too.  I will say that over time, I have gone to the hand-dyed fibers that are more like a solid/aged color.  With a hand-dyed fabric and hand-dyed fibers, it's easy for a design to become difficult to look at.  Too much striping in the thread can compete with the splotchy background fabric.  I tend to look for balance - and really like the aged/dirty/been-in-the-attic look that I see on a lot of my antique samplers. 

Q.  How important is social media in the cross-stitch industry and how do you make use of it for your company?
A.  I started a needlework site back in, oh, maybe 1994 when there wasn't much online about needlework.  I put up a few articles, and within a year was getting around 6,000 a month.  My monthly newsletter goes out to a few thousand people, and I have a blog (, a Facebook page and a web site.  A lot of the time, needlework can be a very solitary activity.  Stitching is something we do all by ourselves (usually) in our own homes.  The social media, especially blogs, have made it easier for us all to get connected and stay informed.  I love seeing what other stitchers are working on, reading about their gardens, meals, learning about their children and pets.  I have found that stitchers often have a lot in common -- and the Internet has made it so easy for a lot of us to get to know each other.

Q.  Do you feel your style has changed over time, and if so how do you feel about your older designs now?
A.  I think most designers change over time due to the success of their previous designs.  As a shop owner, I know what types of designs sell well in terms of theme, color paleete, size and style but as a designer.  I don't always know when something is going to be a huge success or a big bust.  For example, the Jenny Bean Halloween Sampler I designed in 2009 was going to be kind of a "one-off".  The chart was (and continues to be) extremely popular, which led me to continue designing in that style.  Sometimes, I'll design something that I think will go over well, and it flops.  I try to figure out what about that design didn't connect with stitchers and then avoid doing those things next time.  A lot of the best designers have their own particular style.  A stitcher can look at something by Lizzie Kate and know it's one of hers by sight.  Developing a unique look is part of becoming a successful designer.  And developing that look definitely takes time.


Q.  Besides stitching and designing, what are a few things you enjoy in your free time?
Inadvertently, I have turned into a Crazy Cat lady.  Those who follow my blog know about my collection of cats at home and the many foster cats and kittens who come and go.  I volunteer a significant part of my free time to the local animal shelter in a number of different ways, but fostering tiny kittens is really something special.  I like to read and spend time with friends and family.  I have a great group of crafty/stitchy friends here in Hattiesburg.  And my husband and I are great friends.  I'm not a huge fan of traveling.  If I could, I would stay home every day of the year. =)

Q.  What's your greatest strength?  What's your biggest weakness?
A.  My creativity has allowed me to do a lot of things in life -- start my own business, design, write, raise children, and find the humor in just about everything.  I'm relentlessly positive, like my father, and always see the glass half-full.

I have an anxiety disorder that has sometimes made everyday functioning difficult.  Occassionally, coming up with the energy and bravery to complete every day tasks is difficult.  I'm a very strange combination of anxious and self-confident.  I don't like being amongst a large crowd of people I don't know, but on the other hand, I have given speeches in front of as many as 10,000 people and used to do musical theater.  Basically, I'm a weirdo -- and that's a strength and wekaness!

Q.  What changed would you make if you could go back in time?
A.  I believe my past has brought me here; I am a product of what has happened to me all of these years.  But I would love to go back to my high school-aged self and say, "Don't worry so much about what college you get into.  Take some art classes."  I drew, and sewed, and stitched, and crafted as a child, but I never took another art class past the 8th grade.  And then I took all these math, science and English classes to get into a good college, and ended up going to a state school, anyway.  I wish I had taken more time to do what I enjoyed from about 14-20.

Q.  What are your three greatest achievements?   
A.  This is a completely unexpected (and possibly boreing) answer, but I think my marriage and my two children are the three greatest things I've done so far, and probably will ever do.  I completely love my husband and sons, and we enjoy spending time together being ourselves.  The time, energy, patience, love, and commitment it takes to be a family person far outweighs anything I could do professionally or personally. 

Q.  What do you want to achieve in life?
A.  The older I've gotten, the less I put value on "achievements".  Living each day contentedly, overcoming minor obstacles, reading a good book now and then, enjoying a great loaf of bread, biting into some dark chocolate, laughing with a friend...the best things in life are the little things.  I love being able to serve others, so I guess when I die, I'd like to believe that the world was a little bit better, because I was in it.

Theresa Venette
Shakespeare's Peddler


Featured Shop -

Ewe Count
Cheyenne, WY
Penny Franz

Q.  How long have you been a stitcher & how did you first learn about stitching?
A.   I started embroidering when I was about 10, I learned to crochet at 13 & knit at 16.  When I got married I did printed cross stitch.  Then I found counted cross stitch and never looked back.  In 1985 I helped start a local EGA chapter and took all the classes I could to learn all the different techniques.
Q.  How long have you been in business?
A.  I became involved in a partnership in 1992.  After about 1 1/2 years the partnership dissolved (very messy) and I started on my own.
Q.  What types of products do you offer?
A.  I offer counted cross stitch, needlepoint, and yarns for knitting and crochet.  I also do custom framing and finishing.
Q.  Who are some of your personal favorite designers?
A.  Lizzie Kate (I love adding buttons to the designs!), SamSarah Design Studio, Amy Brueken Designs, Little House Designs, and Raise the Roof.
Q.  What types of events do you offer at your store?
A.  I do a pajama party twice a year - after the hotel shows.  I feed everyone dinner, we do a class, and then I open my suitcases with all the new products.  I also have a stitch/knit night every Tuesday evening and Friday afternoon.  We also observe World Wide Knit in Public Day and we have done a yarn bombing.

Q.  Have you ever attended a TNNA trade show, and if so what are your thoughts on it? 
A.  I love going to the trade shows!  I am currently the Chair of the Retail Council and sit on the Board of Directors.  There are so many opportunities at the shows - classes, events, networking.  I love knowing the vendors and designers in person.  I really like the convention center shows because I can see so many different things in one area - and since I also carry the yarns and needlepoint it makes it easier to see it all.  When people tell me that they can't afford to go to a trade show, I tell them that I can't afford not to go.  It sometimes just gives me a shot in the arm that I am not alone and everyone is experiencing the same problems.


Q.  Besides stitching and running your business, what are a few things you enjoy in your free time?
A.    What free time?  I stitch and knit all the models for the shop so there is not a lot of free time, but I also do some bookkeeping on the side and I do the books for a restaurant, a lottery store, and a gentlemen's club.
Q.  What are your three favorite movies?
A.  I don't know that I can narrow it down to 3 - Pretty Woman, A League of Their Own, Toy Story (all 3), Shrek (all), and Radio.

Q.  Would you share a little about your family.
A.  I have one daughter (Jennifer).  She is married to a great guy and I have 2 grandchildren.  Heather is 7 and has read all the Harry Potter books (more than once).  CJ is 3 and is my little guy.  He loves to ride his bike and play videos on their IPad.  My grandmother just turned 95 and we are having a birthday party for her in July.  It will be so much fun having the 5 generations together.

Q.  What's your greatest strength?  What's your greatest weakness?
A.  I'm not sure what my greatest strength is - maybe perseverance (I'm too stubborn to give up - I get that from my grandma).  My greatest weakness is being able to say "no".

Q.  What is your favorite holiday?
A.  Christmas!  That is the day the Lord was born.  I spend nearly every Christmas with my daughter and her family.  Since they live in Nebraska we sometimes have to deal with the weather.  I leave my Christmas tree up all year around.

Q.  How does your family & friends know you are under pressure?
A.  I try not to show it!!!

Next week we will be featuring -
Bea Brock Designs & Wasatch Needlecraft

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