I met Jessica about a month ago via Instagram and fell in love with her whimsical Palm Beach style. She was in the process of launching Lycette Designs - a needlepoint design company dedicated to traditional pastimes with a modern, playful elegance - and I was intrigued to learn more. After confessing that I had never tried needlepoint, Jessica offered to teach me. I was a little intimidated, but after just one afternoon together, I am officially hooked! Various studies have suggested the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state like that associated with meditation and yoga. These meditative qualities can lower blood pressure and decrease heart rate. In today's 24/7 digital world, I find it is truly the most relaxing way to unwind and decompress... all while creating a lovely work of art.
"Lycette is the girl who finds humor in every situation, tries to be polished, yet always spills on herself, thinks flaws are endearing, and a smile is contagious. Lycette values homemade gifts over gift certificates, and snail mail over email."
~ Jessica Chaney, founder of Lycette Designs
With a history dating back to 1500 BC, needlepoint has enjoyed a following amongst royalty and First Ladies including Princess Grace, Barbara Bush, Betty Ford, the Duke of Windsor, and Marie Antoinette. Other notable needlepointers include fashion designer Jules Reid, author and design blogger Jennifer Boles, blogger and designer Jenny Schnabl Brewster, and pop singer Taylor Swift. Renowned interior designers and society ladies such as Elsie de Wolfe, Mario Buatta, C.Z. Guest, and Bunny Mellon famously incorporated needlepoint pillows with witty sayings into their classic, old-school interiors. They add a sense of irreverent whimsy and serve as conversation starters.
C.Z. Guest's collection of needlepoint pillows, recently purchased by Madcap Cottage.
Elsie de Wolfe was known for her “bon mots” and she had a penchant for proclaiming them upon needlepoint pillows... via Lynn Byrne.
Determined to ensure this art form - which was passed down to Jessica from her great grandmother, Edyth Lycette, continued to her generation, Lycette Designs was born. "I developed the concept of Lycette by creating a company that reflected the values of my great grandmother, grandmother, and mother. Lycette is a combination of humor, grace, whimsy, intention, sass, and elegance," said Jessica.
A: All sorts of places, Pinterest, classic interior design, and travel are probably the three main places that provide me with my subject matter; however, I also find inspiration in the humor that derives from difficult situations, and difficult people. The best stories, and sayings, come from cringe-worthy situations.
I was also inspired by designer Mario Buatta’s use of sassy needlepoint sayings in almost every room he decorated. Needlepoint accessories (pillows, stools, rugs) are a staple of classic interior decorating. I wanted to create canvases that would hopefully inspire others to use needlepoint in their own interior decoration.
"Not Tonight"... says Mario Buatta.
Mario Buatta, Kips Bay Showhouse – 2006
(On pillow: Missing: Fisherman – Husband and Dog. Reward for Dog)
A: I was 12 when I first began to needlepoint, and it was then that I stitched my favorite project. I competed in show jumping, and the chicest competitors sported needlepoint belts (think Georgina Bloomberg and Jessica Springstein). When their horse glided over the jump, their show jacket would elegantly lift to reveal a colorful needlepoint belt. I was enticed by the glamour of it! Of course, being a preteen and wanting to mimic these elegant women, I immediately bought a belt canvas with a flamingo design. I still have that belt! In fact, I secretly rejoice when I get the stomach flu, because afterwards I can JUST buckle my 13-year-old belt.
Jessica's custom needlepoint belts.
Q: Are there any famous needlepointers (living or deceased) who you admire?
A: There are so many, it’s hard to choose! Having managed a needlepoint shop, and now as a canvas designer, I find that needlepoint and strong women go hand-in-hand. My favorite needlepointer is Princess Grace of Monaco. For me, she is the epitome of demure elegance, classic beauty, and silent strength.
Princess Grace, via Lycette
A: I would love for Lycette to become synonymous with an elegant, cheeky lifestyle. Late night barefoot dinner parties, colorful silk scarves knotted around tan necks, champagne splashing onto an embroidered caftan, and needlepoint pillows that become ratty with love. I hope to bring back pastimes that require devotion of time and intention. Pastimes that show and symbolize love through the final product, whether it is a gracious thank you note, a needlepoint pillow, or a dinner menu reflecting your guests’ favorite foods. More than anything, I want Lycette to encourage other women to start their own businesses embolden by their passions.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in taking up needlepoint for the first time?
A: Patience, a sense of humor, and a glass of white wine (clear liquids won’t stain the canvas)! I would look for a larger mesh canvas (13 is preferable), and little to no shading. As a beginner it is important to remember that perfection is subjective, and mistakes create flaws that are quirky and enduring. Your first piece will not be your most beautifully stitched, but why would you want it to be? That leaves no room for improvement!
Q: Once a needlepoint project is complete, how do you go about turning it into a beautiful pillow, belt, bag, etc.? Any tips?
A: Finishing needlepoint on one’s own is tough! I refuse to attempt it, as I am convinced I will end up with a twitch. However, one’s local needlepoint shop is available to finish all needlepoint projects! For leather goods, I recommend Hilltop Leather. They are fantastic! They create reasonably priced keyfobs, belts, and coasters in a plethora of colors.
via Bunny Mellon's estate
Needlepoint pillows available from Tory Burch, inspired by ones in her childhood home made by her parents.
Q: What are your favorite hobbies outside of needlepointing?
A: Although I am 25, most of my hobbies can be found in the pamphlet of a retirement home. I enjoy painting, horseback riding, croquet, tennis, and decorating. I love basking in the sun, whether it be on a chaise lounge, in the saltwater, or upon the saddle of a horse. However, my absolute favorite hobby is entertaining. I am most radiant when planning a menu, choosing linens, and organizing a vase of fresh flowers.
As you can see, Jessica is an absolute doll, and I am eternally grateful to her for introducing me to needlepoint. It is a delight to meet such a lovely young lady dedicated to maintaining "old fashioned" traditions. I can also attest that Jessica is an excellent cook and writes the most beautiful handwritten notes... in cursive, and on engraved paper. And she is in the process of renovating her first home - an adorable Palm Beach chic pink bungalow! I just love her! Thanks to Jessica, I am nearing completion on my first needlepoint creation, and next on the agenda is a custom belt for my husband and a pillow for my son's nursery.
Hand painted canvases from Lycette Designs are available for purchase through Bloomin' Stitches, Needlepoint.com, and your local needlepoint store. Jessica will reveal additional designs next week, so stay tuned! For daily inspiration, you will want to follow Lycette on Instagram and Pinterest. And you won't want to miss Jessica's blog, which truly showcases her sparkling humor and witty personality.