Wednesday, August 29, 2012

JBW Designs & Golden Needle (Port Charlotte, FL)

 Featured Designer -

When did you begin designing your own patterns and how did that turn into a business?
It all began years and years ago with a needlepoint class .  I had been stitching since childhood, and began taking more advanced classes through the EGA after our children were born.  Since my background is in education, I volunteered to teach a few friends how to needlepoint.  The first mistake I made was asking them to design the layout for their own sampler.  It was much too intimidating for beginners, and so I designed two beginning needlepoint samplers.   I taught classes in our home, and also for a lovely needlework shop in our area.  The manager  was not only a friend but a mentor as she encouraged me to continue designing new samplers for the store.  
 I also worked for a woman who owned a distribution company, and that gave me  a glimpse  into the  potential of the wholesale market.   I realized that I could sell my designs to shops to use for teaching purposes.   In the mid 1980’s  (I’ve been designing for a long time!), I converted many of the needlepoint designs to cross stitch, and have never looked back.  I had no idea that my early designs would lead to the company that I have today.  It has been a wonderful journey.

What are a few of your favorite themes when designing a pattern?
I think that a designer’s works evolves throughout the years.  In the beginning, I loved the graphic quality and designs of quilts, and so many of my early patterns were quilt themes.  The first cross stitch pattern which was printed as a full sized leaflet was called Quilts Are Love in 1983 . 
 I’ve always loved  the elements of antique samplers: alphabets, floral borders, small motifs, etc. and have tried to design pieces which incorporated those elements into an elegant format.  Favorite themes are :  Christmas , other  holidays and designs for the home and family . 

 I went through one phase of hiding the alphabet in the design, and that series included Home At Last, To The Sea, Baby Announcement, Five Little Pumpkins and The Reindeer Sampler. 

Judy's Design Studio
 About five years ago, I began putting  antique sampler motifs into one design and that is how the  French Country  line began.   I can’t tell you how much fun they are to design.  I begin with a list of all the motifs which would pertain the theme,  sketch  the design, and  then begin charting on the computer.  It is similar to assembling  a puzzle and if you study them closely, you’ll see that vines, leaves and hearts are the motifs which help tie them all together.

Do you stitch your own models? 

Yes, because I make so many changes in the charts and the colors as I’m stitching.  Each time something is altered, I go back to the computer to enter the changes into a corrected version.  Sometimes there will be 10 - 15 revisions of one design.  Once the final version is completed, I sometimes have a model stitcher do a second model in another color family or over one thread.

Do you have any advice for aspiring designers out there?
Judy's Design Studio
The cross stitch field has so many outstanding designers, that I’m sure it must be intimidating for  new designers to  enter the field.  But don’t forget, we all began with just one design - and our collections gradually grew so that we had enough to begin displaying and selling at the wholesale shows.  I would advise an aspiring designer to find a look that is unique ,  take her designs to as many  needlework shops as possible to see if there is potential in the marketplace and I would encourage them  to contact the needlework distributors  to receive feedback.

Loaning the models to a shop for a trunk show would also be a great way to sell the designs - as we all know that seeing the models in person can be the key to selling.  There are many great designers who began just like we all did  - on a small scale .  It does take awhile to get name recognition for your company so select your company name carefully.  I’m not sure if I ever analyzed whether JBW Designs would fit  into that category,  but somehow it has worked!

Have you ever exhibited at or attended a TNNA trade show, and if so what are your thoughts on it?
I’ve been exhibiting at the wholesale trade shows  for almost 25 years and I think it is one of the keys to success . You and your company have to be visible to  needlework shop owners.  When I first began, I didn’t have a large enough line to exhibit on my own, and so I worked with another company  who exhibited at the trade shows.   Norden Crafts often exhibits  for designer’s  who are unable to attend the market.   I love going to the shows as it gives me the chance to reconnect with shop owners, meet new people, and network with other vendors in our industry.   I come home from the shows with new ideas , new products and  more enthusiasm for the year ahead. 

Let's Learn a Bit About Judy

1. Besides stitching and designing, what are a few things you enjoy in your free time?
Reading is high on the list of favorite activities.  I organized a book club with friends about ten years ago. and it has certainly  expanded my reading  tastes, plus we have  have a great time together.

  I also take a hand painted furniture class once a week .We find old pieces of furniture, base coat them with white, and then paint designs on the pieces with the help of our very talented instructor.    I’ve painted tables, bowls, trays, pepper mills, frames, waste baskets , bird feeders , bulletin boards, chairs, etc.  I also enjoy antiquing and have many collections:  antique red samplers, linens, Chintz ware , tole trays,  silhouettes and blue and white china.

2. What are your three favorite books? 
It’s so hard to choose but here are three I really enjoyed and would recommend.
No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin  ( about the Roosevelt years)
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Vreeland  ( about Renoir’s painting of that name.)
Peace Like a River by Enger.  (His writing style is so lyrical.)

What kind of music do you listen to? 
I like classical, but also listen to Josh Groban, Susan Boyle, Andrea Boccelli,  and soundtracks from favorite movies.

Would you like to share a little about your family?
Mr. & Mrs Whitman on vacation last year.
My husband and I have been married for 48 years, and have two adult children - Mark and Kris and 6 grandchildren.   Mark and his wife Brenda have 5 :  Wyatt is 15, Ashton is 12, Cody is 8, Tristan is 5 and Ellie is 3.  Kris and her husband Andy have one son Liam who is 8.    When we're all together it is 'crazy' but so much fun.   Our two oldest grandchildren are avid baseball players and play on travel teams so we  attend as many of their games as possible.  We also enjoy  boating ,  picnics, and traveling together.  We are so lucky to have them living nearby. 

Would you like to share a favorite recipe?  
Since I always bake cookies for the shop owners in Nashville, its only appropriate to include one of my favorite cookie recipes.
Oatmeal Cookies
1/2# butter
2  C. sugar
2 eggs
1  teaspoon vanilla
2 C. oatmeal
2  1/2 C. flour
1  teaspoon baking soda
1  teaspoon salt
1  C. chopped walnuts
1  C. raisins

1.  Cream together butter and sugar.
2. Add eggs and vanilla
3. Mix in oatmeal.
4. Mix  flour with baking soda and sale 
and add to butter mixture.
5. Beat until well blended.
The batter will be quite thick.
6. Stir in nuts and raisins.
7. Heat over to 350 degrees.
8. Bake 8 - 10 minutes until
lightly browned.  

Judy wanted to say thank you for all of your support over the years - so she designed this adorable FREEBIE for you!  Happy Stitching!

Fabric - 30ct Northern Cross Linen - Off White
Fibers - Sampler Threads
Size 38W x 35H
Finished Size on #30 fabric: 2.53" W x 2.3" H
Color Code
Symbol - Color - Sampler Thread
< - Green - Avocado
L - Dark Rose - Cherry Wine
1 - Pale Pink - Sweet Petunia
K - Med. Pink - Victorian Pink
J - Med Dark Rose - Holly Berry

Featured Shop -

How long have you been a stitcher and where did you first learn?
I have always done things with my hands, mostly machine sewing. I am really a misplaced fashion designer. That was my dream. didn't make that turn in the road. My mom was a hand smocker, my great aunt a seamstress and my godmother a milliner.
I am left handed and some of the hand mediums were more difficult to my brain. I started in 1975 with stamped and crewel kits. moved to counted work in early eighties.
We lived in the metropolitan DC area where my husband was in law enforcement, and I found a couple of shops that had some wonderful stitching, but became close friends with the shop in Laurel Md. Michelle sold me the rights to the name of her shop (for a $1.00) and when we moved to Florida I was going to open Stitching Pretty South.
There was a bend in that road and I ended up buying the Golden Needle in 1994 ( a machine embroidery business) and in 1995 when we expanded my husband thought I should bring the cross stitch in and I never looked back.
We have been in our existing shop for 13 years and have increased our inventory at least 100 times over. We have 2 floors though you can't tell from the front and we carry all kinds of counted cross stitch.

How do you compare the products that are available in today's market to 10 years ago, and how has that changed your business over time?
We have come along way from Aida cloth and DMC floss. There are so many innovative people out that have changed our industry so. The overdyed fabrics and flosses, the silks and metallic's that are now available can make a real impact in what you are doing. I am a famous one to try a different fabric or thread to give the design a different look. My customers know that and many aren't afraid to try.
What are some of the biggest changes in the industry you've seen since you've been in business?
I really think the internet, and social media have greatly affected our industry. both good and bad.
I have a website and it is still general and it gets people here if they are in the area.
It is hard to compete with something that is open 24/7 though many of my customers will check with me first before ordering on line, which is nice.
Who are some your personal favorite designers?
I have always been a big fan of Shepherds Bush. It seems if I am struggling with something their colors and designs always put me at peace. I love Erica Michaels silk gauze pieces and have done several of them. Even though they are sometimes a struggle on the eyes. a little magnification goes a long way.
I also like some different designers, they are smaller companies but have some really nice pieces. Michelle Ink Designs, and Jardin Parvie are 2.

Is there an event or promotion that you offer that you feel is incredibly successful that you'd like to share?
We always have a huge success with our Super Bowl Sale, I include a sidewalk sale along with my SB Sale and everyone looks for those deals. I had an old boss up North who didn't feel old merchandise should spend too much time in the store and moved it just for the room. I have taken that concept and used it here, with great success.
We also have a Stitch Marathon about 4 times a year. I rent our Habitat community Center for the day, and take up to 50 people to come and stitch and share new friends. We cook dinner for everyone, have a few demos, and have a great time. The fee they pay goes back to Habitat for the joy of sharing their place. Lots of work but a worthwhile event.

A Bit About Cathy - 

Books. I think reading has a close second to stitching. I go through fazes on reading. I like the "and they lived happily ever after" type. One of my most favorite books is Rainwater by Sandra Brown. She is generally a very edgy more graphic writer, but she wrote this without anyone knowing and it was a truly wonderful book
I think my greatest strength is I remember alot. I can tell you what people bought and are working on from years ago.
My biggest weakness is I'm too nice. I will tell you I am a bad boss because I would never call you on something and that gets me in trouble or really frustrated. I try to be tough, but everybody knows it is a facade!!
My Family,
My husband is Bruce, we have 2 kids a boy, Trace and a girl, Kim. and 3 grandsons, plus a 4th on their way. and a beagle, Buddy.
    I think one of my biggest dreams was to own my own business, and I'm still here after 17 years. We have had some challenges in our journey, but I still love what I do and enjoy meeting my customers and my friends when I go to the shows. I've seen alot over the years in the industry, but wouldn't have it any other way!


  1. Love JBW Designs and love seeing her studio. Thank you Judy for the adorable freebie. After I printed it I noticed that there isn't a color listed for 2. Can we please find out what that color should be? Thanks!

  2. Dear Julie,
    Let me try again to answer your question. The background color was left out by mistake and the symbol is a '2' and the color is DMC ecru. I just sent Katy of Norden Crrafts a picture of the finished model , so I'm hoping she will post it for all to see.
    Judy Whitman
    JBW Designs