Featured Designer - Modern Needleworks March 01 2015


This month's featured designer is Heather Gray from Modern Needleworks.

I found Modern Needleworks on Etsy and immediately reached out to Heather to see if she’d be willing to partner with me. Needlepoint has always intrigued me, but it was her style that sold me.

Now, let's get to know Heather!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Heather:  I was born and raised Dry Fork, Virginia.  It's an idyllic, rural community near the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Jen:  How did you learn to do needlepoint? Did you stitch as a girl?

Heather:  I stitched my first needlepoint piece in my early twenties (I'm now 42). I have done needlework all of my life but only cross stitch and embroidery up to that point.  I had a boss (a wonderful and generous lady) that was an avid needlepointer, and she introduced me.  I was immediately hooked!  But the real credit goes to my grandmother.  She has always inspired me. She could do/make anything… sewing, quilting, crochet, appliqué… you name it. I spent a lot of time with her when I was young, and I learned so much from her.  She never used a pattern or if she did use a pattern, it was one she developed or made.  She was an artist long before what she was doing was considered art.  

Jen:  Can you talk to us about the difference between Needlepoint and Cross Stitch? 

Heather:  Needlepoint is a diagonal stitch worked (usually with wool or wool blend yarn and a tapestry needle) through a stiff, open-weave canvas. Needlepoint is more labor intensive (than cross stitch) because individual stitches completely cover the canvas.  The designs are created by stitching over the design that has been printed or painted on the canvas with thread matching each color.  Needlepoint can also be created by following color-charted designs, with each square in the chart representing one stitch (just like with counted cross stitch).  Cross stitch is done on aida or linen fabric and is executed by using a chart and counting stitches.  In most cases cross stitch designs are completed with one stitch which looks like an “X” although some designs may call for half stitches or backstitching (outlining).  Most cross stitch designs do not cover the entire piece of fabric, leaving open and negative spaces in the design.   

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not stitching, I am...

Heather:  Spending time with my family or working on my other business, r.e. stowe collars and leads.

Jen:  So, how did Modern Needleworks come to be?

Heather:  Most of the cross stitch and needlepoint designs available did not fit with my personal style so I designed and stitched a few needlepoint pieces for my personal use.  After I completed several projects, friends and family raved.  Modern Needleworks was born.  My professional experience in textiles and product development, my formal education in design, and the guiding hand of a very creative grandmother made the process of starting Modern Needleworks an easy one.  It evolved so naturally, like it was meant to be.  

Jen:  So, How would you describe your design style?

Heather:  My design style is a mix of vintage, modern, industrial, primitive, collected… nothing formal or fussy.  I've tried to take a very fresh approach to traditional needlecraft by using bold graphics and clean lines to create uniquely modern designs. 

Jen:  Tell us about the process for designing your patterns.  What are your inspirations?

Heather:  Designing my patterns is a complex process and much more time consuming than you might think.  It usually starts with a sketch, and then I play around with it in Photoshop until I have a 'rough draft'.  Then I stitch it, making modifications along the way.  Once it is stitched and I am happy with the finished piece, I can convert it to its final form using pattern design software.

I find inspiration everywhere.  Vintage books, my grandmother's linen closet, estate sales, home décor magazines…some things just strike me (a eureka moment), and an idea or concept for a design will pop up in my head.  

Jen:  Any big plans for the year ahead?

Heather:  I always have big plans!  I have so many ideas for Modern Needleworks, but the process is a slow one. Since I stitch a least one sample of every design I offer, it's hard to add new designs and projects as often as I would like.  Right now I am working on some new, fun projects that can be stitch on some unconventional materials.   I'm also working on some smaller designs for beginners or for people who don't have much time to devote to stitching but still want the satisfaction of 'diy'.

I will be stocking Modern Needleworks kits shortly (they will debut in my booth at the Broward Quilt Expo in Fort Lauderdale on March 12th-14th).  In the meantime, check out the collection of Modern Needleworks PDF patterns and kits.