Tuesday, March 2, 2010

30 Seconds of Fame

 In the mid 90s I had another needlework design company called Victoria's Needle. I published mainly heirloom quality designs that reflected my own tastes (post to come on that!) I still love Amish quilts and folk art, but have abandoned more complex designs for my new business. Like many Chicks who are time challenged, I prefer works I can complete in a few nights or weeks, versus the Magnum Opus designs of those years.

Anyhoo, back to the 90's and my 30 seconds of fame. My husband Mark works for a production company that makes commercials and marketing videos. Plug here for Synergetic Productions. Nepotism aside, Mark’s company made really terrific commercials for a regional drug store chain, Kinney Drugs. Kinney started with a single store in 1903 in a small upstate town, Gouverneur New York and grew to over 50 stores in the northeast by 1998. Mark's commercials always centered on the family values Kinney offered their customers. They wanted something special to commemorate their 95th year. So Mark successfully pitched them on the concept of creating their brand in cross stitch as a tribute to their home-centered values. Enter the cross stitch designer—me!

A photo hung in the Kinney president's office of the original headquarters from 19 aught something. Mark asked if I could translate the photo into counted cross stitch and add the current modern color logo. He wanted the piece to look 'historic.'

This was a MAGNUM OPUS. I chose to interpret this as a sepia toned image of the building, people and car done in cross stitch, back stitch and half cross stitch to create dimension and depth. When I took on the challenge, I knew I could do it, but my oh my, the hours it took to make the scale of the building and people work. I scanned the art and imported into my stitching software. Took hours upon hours to convert the image! And then the actual stitching began.

Here’s what I remember most…

……… that damn car near killed me as I charted, stitched, ripped and charted and stitched. The work had to be correct as Mark was shooting it being stitched as a close-up in the commercial. Not to mention the pressure of having to complete the work for the close-ups and have it framed for the closing shot of the commercial to meet their on-air deadlines!

……… an all night stitch-a-thon on the eve of the commercial shoot to get it to the point of semi-completion for the hand model to 'stitch.' I pulled all nighters in college and my early advertising career—but those were nothing compared to making precise stitches on 32 count (over two) fabric with monotone fibers at 3am...5am....7am.... I did pull it off and made it to the studio with just enough time to spare.

……… this was the actual piece that would be finished and framed for the last seconds of the commercial. I'm pretty religious about protecting my work from dirt and disaster when I work, but for this project I took it to new heights.

……… the hand model stitching the work in the commercial isn't really a cross stitcher, so I had to teach her the basics before shooting began. She did a fine job and justice to us Chicks Who Really Stitch.

……… the moment of truth when the executives at Kinney Drugs screened the finished commercial. Mark relayed the story, stretching out the meeting details as I anxiously waited—DID THEY LIKE IT or not! Before I could slug him with my poor knotted fingers still recuperating from marathon stitching, he said, and oh yes, 'They loved it!'


The President proudly hung the framed needlework in his office until retiring a number of years later. The commercial aired for months across many TV markets in New York and New England. My parents saw it repeatedly as they lived in Ogdensburg, a small Upstate New York city a stones’ throw from Kinney’s HQ. They boasted to all their friends that I was the one who made the needlework and their son-in-law made the commercial.

The needlework still hangs in Kinney’s HQ and I have this commercial to remember the grand adventure. Thank you to the folks at Kinney for allowing me to share it with you. It was an honor to become part of your history. And to Mark for choosing me to create the opus.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chicks Who Stitch for Charity

I've had the good fortune in the past few weeks to chat with some Incredible Chicks that stitch for charity. They don't do it for glory or recognition. Rather, it's the chance to share a little piece of themselves to bring joy and comfort into the lives of people they'll never meet.
  • My cousin Margaret crochets chemo caps for adults, preemie caps for the tiniest babies and shoulder throws for elderly nursing home and long-term care patients. She happily whips together colorful caps and throws from her stash, thankful for her own return to good health.
  • Alice Ann knits sweaters, afghans and lap robes for the volunteer center at St. Joseph's hospital in Syracuse, NY. She meets with the Center staff to find out what’s needed most and then goes into high production. Sweaters are her number one request—mainly for newborns and people down on their luck. When I asked her about the work involved in making baby sweaters, she modestly said, “Well it doesn’t take too long to make an infant sweater sleeve.”
  • Beth Caulfield of Sheep Thrills Yarn Company in North Syracuse, NY recently started a Community Knitting Project for her customers and the community, inviting knitters to make scarves for area homeless shelters. Customers contribute yarn scraps which are available for free for all to use. Beth offers new yarn at a discount and a $5 pattern which is redeemable for a $5 coupon for the store when you turn in your completed scarf. Many customers donate the $5 back as Beth gives these proceeds to the shelters too. As of last week, the customers have made over 70 scarves!
So why do we do spend our time stitching and knitting for people we’ll never meet? Because it’s about creation and connection. We Chicks Who Have The Knack for creating handcrafts do it because we love the act of creation. Here’s one of my favorite quotes that sums it up the best from a fellow knitter, designer and author Annie Modesitt.

“We don’t knit to make things. There are cheaper, faster and easier ways to obtain a sweater than to knit it. We knit to make ourselves happy. We are in charge of getting the most joy out of our yarn and stitches.”
The connection and joy parts come from knowing that someone will appreciate the gift of love woven into each stitch. To Annie’s quote I add this thought.

Giving hand-stitched pieces is sharing what you love with someone who needs a little love themselves— scarves are hugs you get each time you wrap them around you. Afghans and crocheted caps are the comfort of knowing someone thinks you deserve to be covered with beauty and warmth.

Cheers to all you generous Chicks Who Stitch for others! Please share your comments about other Chicks Who Stitch for Charity and information on how more Chicks can contribute.