Needlepoint is such a fun and relaxing hobby, and it has provided a wonderful outlet for many during Covid. It has been fascinating to watch the industry transform over the last five years and then skyrocket during the pandemic. However, the known health benefits of needlework are not new. Studies have shown that it reduces stress, depression, and blood pressure, and I was fascinated to learn that needlework was even used as a form of therapy for WWI veterans suffering from shell shock!
Recently I started a separate Instagram account so that I could keep up with the goings on within the needlepoint community. There is such a warm and welcoming network of canvas designers, needlepoint shop owners, and individual stitchers online eager to offer advice and inspiration. Two ladies I have enjoyed “meeting” are Carol Crowe and Polly Kramer, co-owners of KC Needlepoint. While physically located in Kansas City, they offer free shipping throughout the US and a range of invaluable online resources. Today, I am delighted to welcome Polly and Carol to discuss the booming needlepoint industry along with some exciting new ways they are catering to the rapidly growing number of needlepointers…. and those who want to learn! Welcome Polly and Carol!
Q: Please tell me a little about KC Needlepoint… How you got started, your mission, and what makes you stand apart.
A: We met coming up on 7 years ago. Although we lived 2 blocks apart and had children similar ages we had never met. We each emailed Julie, the manager at Sign of the Arrow in St. Louis, asking for advice about opening a needlepoint shop in Kansas City. She responded by asking if she could share our information with the other and here we are.
We went to lunch and talked about our ideas for a shop. We decided to go to a TNNA [The National NeedleArts Association] show in January to see if we really wanted to do it. At first we had a hard time getting in because if you didn’t have a shop you couldn’t go, but our friend Madonna Lewis from Cabbage Row in Charleston, SC brought us with her. We were there for 2 days and decided on the plane ride home we would do it. We opened our shop on June 12, 2015
Our goal is to share our joy of needlepoint with others. We have both been needlepointing since we were young girls. It has brought us years of joy and we want others to experience that too.
Q: How have you seen the needlepoint change over the last few years, particularly through Covid and the Grandmillennial movement?
A: Since we have only been in the industry a short time compared to other shops we don’t have a lot to compare it to until COVID arrived. When we had to close the shop to walk in customers we pivoted like many shops to on-line sales. With so many people stuck at home, stitchers started working through their stashes and lapsed stitchers found that project that they hadn’t seen in years and started stitching again. Once they had finished those projects they needed new projects and we were able to send out new canvases and threads.
Q: Thanks to technology, customers can shop your store nationwide. How do you work with needlepointers who may not have a local shop, or are looking for something more?
A: We have been spoiled to have always lived in a city with needlepoint shops. Our goal is provide those without a shop an easy way to shop for new needlepoint projects and a place to send their completed items to be finished. Our entire shop is available online through our website, www.kcneedlepoint.com. We spend a lot of time on the phone and through email with customers, sharing photos of fibers, helping them pick the perfect threads for their projects.
Q: What is your advice for someone who has never needlepointed before but wants to get started?
A: We have a beginner kit in our Happy Stitching line, the Alphabet Beginner Kit. This canvas fits a lot of the things we look for when helping a customer choose their first canvas. First, pick a canvas you love that’s not too big so you can keep your interest and will be more likely to finish it. We also suggest a square 13 mesh canvas so the holes are easier to see and you don’t have to tackle too many curves. Finally, a canvas that does not have a lot of detail so you aren’t constantly changing colors and you have an area large enough to learn how to basketweave, which is the basic needlepoint stitch. We believe these will help beginners have an enjoyable first experience and want to continue stitching.
Q: I was so excited to learn Jinny Barney McAuliffe from @stitchstyleblog has joined your team! Jinny is an amazing teacher. What are some of the ventures you will be working on, including Needlepoint Tutorials and The Stitch Vault?
A: We were thrilled to add Jinny to our team. Her experience is invaluable and she has certainly added a lot to our shop. Jinny has allowed us to expand what we offer to customers in the shop and online. The Stitch Vault has been a fun project to work on. We wanted to make stitches available to anyone at any time. With people on the move so much you may not always have the stitch book you need when you need it and this way you just need to log onto our website to find what you need. Jinny came up with the idea for the Doodle Canvas Kit which is a great kit that will allow you to practice stitches with a variety of threads.
We recently launched a collaboration with Bauble Stockings to bring their designs to canvas. We currently have 10 Bauble Stocking designs available and Jinny has created amazing stitch guides for each of them.
We are planning for 2022 so be on the look out for a new 22 in 22 project, new additions to the Stitch Vault and so much more.
Q: What other resources do you offer for those looking to advance their skills?
A: We are fortunate to have a gifted teacher in our shop, Lale Verhulst. Lale has been with us for 6 years and she is responsible for all of our in shop classes. Lale has a full schedule of classes each year and in 2022 we plan on bringing some of those classes online. We want to give those living outside of Kansas City the opportunity to learn from Lale and create some of the beautiful pieces she has taught.
One of the consistently popular classes she has taught is our Brick Class. This is the perfect class for the beginner stitcher who wants to move on from basketweave to decorative stitches. During the 5 week class Lale teaches 15 different stitches using a variety of threads. We started the class in 2016 and since then Lale has taught the class to over 100 people.
Q: Please tell me more about your Needlepoint Kits and other offers and exclusives you provide?
A: We have worked this year to increase the number of canvases we offer as kits. Again, we realize that not everyone has a shop close by and to be able to buy a complete kit makes their access to needlepoint that much easier. In 2021 we also started an exclusive line of needlepoint kits called Happy Stitching. These designs are all from the artists we represent through our wholesale business, KCN Designers. The kits range from a single letter canvas for the beginner stitcher to simple ornaments to larger detailed pillows. The kits come complete with the canvas, threads and instructions in a beautiful box. The idea for the box was in the hope that needlepointers may give them as a gift to friends who needlepoint or friends they want to start needlepointing. We named the company Happy Stitching because we always say that to customers when they leave the store or in the note we write to on-line customers. Let’s face it, needlepointing should bring you happiness. We also have a few accessories in our Happy Stitching line including project bags and Happy Stitching Tervis Tumblers.
Q: Where do you see KC Needlepoint over the next five years?
A: We hope our shop continues to grow and the love of needlepoint continues to spread. It is such a creative outlet for people. It is wonderful to see daughters beginning to needlepoint as their mothers and grandmothers have. There are so many new, young needlepoint artists that are sharing their fresh, fabulous designs that it’s not your grandmother’s needlepoint anymore.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: We love all of the people we have met in the shop, online and throughout the industry.
Thank you so much Carol and Polly for joining us today! I am so excited about all of your new resources! To learn more, please visit KC Needlepoint and follow @kcneedlepoint on Instagram. Happy stitching!