Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wonder from Down Under

Dawn Mae and I have met so many interesting people from all over the world since we launched scarletthread.com. (I can't believe it's been over a year!) One of those people is Carol Young from Australia, who turns out to be a teacher and designer of some pretty exciting and beautiful charted needlepoint. We're very pleased to introduce you to her and offer you the opportunity to purchase one of her designs, "Twisted Threads." More on that later. First, let's get to know a little more about Carol.

Can you provide us a little background on yourself? Where do you live in Australia? Do you have a “day job” or is needlework your vocation?

Australia has five states and territories; I live in South Australia, noted for great wine making and hosting international arts festivals. That is why Australia calls us the “Festival State.” My family migrated to Australia from England in the 1960s when I was a child, so all of us can claim to be well and truly Aussies by now.

Having worked for many years, in 2010 I decided to semi-retire and try my hand at designing needlework as more than just a hobby.

When did you first start stitching? Do you still have your first piece of needlework?

I think the year would be 1990 that I rediscovered stitching. My first piece of stitching from that far back was a counted cross-stitch kit of a bowl of very colorful tulips on aida cloth. I still have the piece hidden away in the back of the cupboard, where I am very sure it will stay with lots of other finished kits to keep it company.

I think we all have some of those hidden away somewhere. How has your stitching changed over the years?

In the 1990s I joined the Embroiderers Guild of South Australia and found a whole new world of stitching other than cross-stitch. I have tried lots of techniques; but every time I tried to create a freehand circle it turned into a square, so counted forms of stitching are my corner of the stitching world.

I have been privileged to be able to teach several forms of counted embroidery for the Guild in South Australia and interstate in techniques including Wessex, Kogin, Blackwork, Assisi, Temari, and Counted Canvas.

Over the years I have also been lucky to have had several of my designs published in the Australian magazine Embroidery and Cross Stitch and in a book produced through the Guild called Lagartera Embroidery and Stitches from Spain, published in 2003.


My good friend Anne (who is also a dedicated needlepointer) introduced me to counted canvaswork several years ago. She had a friend visit from the United States, who had stitched a box top designed by Orna Willis as a present for Anne. It just knocked my socks off, and I was hooked.

When did you first start designing needlework? Do you design only charted needlepoint, or do you also do counted thread or other types of embroidery?

Although I have several stitched pieces, the first chart was a class design in 2009 called "Twisted Threads" (the one shown here). It was a class design and was the first one fully charted, tested, and taught from my little book of ideas and scribbles. The little book is getting very full, and it was encouragement from my friends and family that convinced me to give designing a try.


Currently I have charts for Lagartera, a specialty-stitch stitching caddy, a blackwork square pincushion, and a perforated-paper ornament. So although needlepoint is not the only technique I stitch, it remains my favorite above the rest.

Please describe your design process.

Designing happens in several ways, depending on my mood. I have a love/hate relationship with my computer, having been raised in the pen-and-paper era. Don’t get me wrong, they are a great tool; but there is something about sitting with a piece of blank canvas and a thread and letting the idea grow on the canvas that is very satisfying. So it starts with a general sketch on graph paper, then stitching directly on to the canvas, and then finally charting it on the computer. This seems to work for me. Inspiration comes from many sources too numerous to mention, but colors light my designing flame. The stitches created by Jean Hilton always make an appearance somewhere in my designs. They just simply rock.

What do you like most about charted canvaswork?

Charted canvaswork from the start was a delight. Being able to stitch complex twisting and turning stitches using a variety of different textured threads on a stable background fabric was just right. The amazing range of threads and colors available is just mind blowing, and now companies are producing hand-dyed canvas in a wonderful and exciting range of colors to add to the mix. It will be so exciting to see what needlepoint supplies will be created in the future.


As a stitcher and designer in Australia, do you face any unique challenges?

In Australia counted canvaswork is still an “undiscovered” technique. If you search for needlepoint in Australia, the vast majority will be tapestry stitched with wool. Some of our shops do bring in canvaswork charts from overseas, but we still have to order the threads from overseas as well to complete them. So currently buying charts and having them kitted is the best way to go. The challenge for me and other designers is to source comparable threads made in Australia and work with them and to convince Australian distributors to bring in threads that just can’t be substituted. In the last year I have met some great people in the stitching industry who are willing to help achieve change for Australian stitchers. I am hopeful that with the right encouragement and promotion, things will change and grow.

Do you have any future designs on the drawing board?

There are always designs waiting to be finalized. I recently invested in a charting program for master charts and stitch diagrams, so little by little I am converting them over from hand drawn diagrams to the much clearer computer-produced ones. In all there are about 12 designs in various stages, so lots for the future. [We're showing you tantalizing bits of three that are in progress now.] Most of the current designs are worked on stretchers bars no bigger than 12”, making them easily portable and economic on threads.


What excites you most about needlepoint today?

Just when I think I have seen it all, someone comes up with something completely new. It is sometimes a new way of using an old thread, or adding beads in a different and unusual way, or a technique not used in needlepoint before.

It’s very exciting to see the changes and to be able to be part of it all.

Are you able to make time for personal stitching?

I will always make time for personal stitching. Whether it is stitching a cyber-class project or one of the many kitted charts I fell in love with while taking a break and surfing the Internet, every one of them teaches you something new. Because I am self-taught, ironing out the bad habits by reading and taking online classes helps a vast amount. We never stop learning.

Scarlet Thread is offering "Twisted Threads," a 4.5" x 4.5" design using Caron Collection Watercolours, ThreadworX Overdyed Cotton Floss, DMC #8 Perle Coton, and Kreinik #8 Braid. In addition to the original, Carol offers three other gorgeous colorways stitched by students in her class, Anne, Karen, and Lis, shown below. Get creative and make up your own in using your favorite overdyed Watercolours and ThreadworX!




While you're over at scarletthread.com, check out the other new items we've added.

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