How Has Your Stitching Changed?

Because I’ve embraced Finish It in ’14, I’m pulling some UFBPs (UnFinished Blog Posts) from my stash and either pitching or finishing. This one is from September, when I decided to move Funk & Weber Designs to the front burner again and turn up the heat.

My stitching interests have changed. This is no surprise—change is the only constant in life and all that rot. I’m coming back to embroidery now after taking some time off, and I’m wondering where I’d like to go with it. To get a handle on what might lie ahead, I’m looking back to see where I’ve been.

My family was crafty, and I was a crafty kid. I wasn’t committed to any one craft, but I did a fair amount of sewing, from Barbie clothes to my own clothes. I enjoyed macrame and made roughly 8,000,000 friendship bracelets.

When I moved from the east coast to the west coast after college, I took my heavy, metal Sears Kenmore sewing machine with me on the plane.

Jen stitching in winter coat, hat, and boots.

We are not making this up. This is in the arctic. Our heater was broken. It was fifty below outside. While I waited to see if we’d successfully fixed the heater, I stitched. What else was I going to do? Mike thought it was funny. It was only this cold inside for a couple of days. We fixed the heater.

Then came the caretaking years. Mike and I spent months on end in remote locations with nothing and no one to entertain us but ourselves. That’s when embroidery surfaced as the craft of choice, not because it was my all-time favorite thing to do but because it was most convenient.

To get to the remote lodges, we had to fly, usually on small Bush planes with space and weight limits. We actually hauled my sewing machine to the arctic so we could piece a quilt top, but that meant sacrifices elsewhere. Now and then, I’d pack a big box of yarn for knitting projects, but yarn takes up a good bit of space. I always packed embroidery. I’d plan my projects and take just the fabrics and fibers I needed. They didn’t weigh much or take up much space. And embroidery is slow work, so a few projects would keep me busy all winter. For winter caretaking, embroidery topped the list.

Initially, I sought patterns to stitch. The year we went to Stony River, however, I took a complete set of DMC floss, some images of Mike’s that I’d had blown up and printed, graph paper, and colored pencils. That was the year I decided I’d make my own patterns based on Mike’s photos.

That was the year Mike thought I was nuts.

That was the year Mike decided I might be on to something.

That was the year Mike picked up the graph paper and designed something else for me to stitch.

Photo and embroidery of Mt. McKinley.

Termination Dust was the first pattern I designed from one of Mike’s photos. That’s Denali, the highest mountain in North America, and Wonder Lake. I had no intention of selling the pattern; this was just winter fun.

A few years later, I decided to sell our patterns. I had no clue how to do this, but I stumbled along and found mentors willing to help. I spent ten years selling wholesale, attending and teaching at trade shows, supporting and promoting independent shops, and going with the industry flow.

So, essentially, I wound up with a career in embroidery because needlework packs up small and doesn’t weigh much. But that’s how life works, isn’t it? I mean, I came to Alaska on a whim.

Cross stitching The Great Outdoors.

Stitching Mike’s second design, The Great Outdoors. He designed the sheep in The Wild Life first. This was my stitching spot (a hard, wood bench) because of the window and a propane light above my head. The frame was made on site from scrap lumber.

Now, I’m ready for the next embroidery thing. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but here are some things that will shape it.

It needs to fit my changeable, mobile, seasonal lifestyle. Hooray for the Internet!

I want to push past what I’ve already done and try new things.

I want to bring embroidery into other aspects of my life, or incorporate it more completely in my life. I don’t want it to be just a job, and I don’t want it to be just on my walls; I want it to be more thoroughly integrated into my life, if that makes sense. Our tagline here is “Embellish Your Life.” I want to take that as far as it can go.

I want to combine it with other things—other crafts, other industries, other materials, other ideas and interests.

I want to have fun—heaps of fun, mountains of fun. I want to be inspired, dazzled, intrigued, surprised, and challenged.

What has your embroidery path looked like? Where have you been and where would you like to go?

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