Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Needlework Market

Nashville Needlework Market was fun. But I noticed there were just a few less vendors and a lot fewer shop owners there to buy. There were some beautiful products there, some innovative ones, some clever ones. There were people there to buy, but no crowding, no lines waiting to pay and haul off huge boxes and bags of product. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t sparsely attended, there were people in every shop, it just wasn’t jammed. I think part of the problem is that the market was taken over by a different organization, and there was a rumor that this might be the last Nashville market, so both suppliers and buyers were a little wary about coming. But another problem is the economy. Stitchers, like everyone else, are just buying less right now. I didn’t think that would happen, not because I’m enthusiastic about stitching (though I am!) but because this hobby, by and large, is not an expensive one. You can buy a cross stitch pattern (or a book of patterns) for less than ten dollars (less than five in a bargain bin), a big fistful of floss for five dollars, a piece of fabric for a couple of dollars, a packet of needles for a couple more dollars, and be set for weeks of stitching. The pattern can be used over and over, and you very rarely use an entire skein of floss on one pattern, and of course needles go on and on.

Of course, it’s entirely possible to go into a needlework shop and spend a hundred – two hundred! – dollars on fancy overdyed silks, platinum needles, a dozen patterns, the stretcher frame, and high-end linen fabrics. Plus the several hundred needed later, when the piece is finished, to have it stretched and framed.

Still, it can be an inexpensive hobby, if you’re careful.

I talked with a woman in Nashville who owns a company in Pennsylvania that spins and dyes wool. Fascinating. I am quite sure that I want to write a mystery called Died in the Wool, though it will take a lot of research.

If any of you have read my mystery Crewel Yule, you know what the setting is and what it’s like at the market – except, of course, that no one has ever yet been tossed over an Embassy Suites railing into the courtyard at a market.
One of the patterns I bought there is from the Cross Wing Collection: a pair of loons on dark blue water, one with a baby loon on its back. It’s a very beautiful mood piece that I am afraid to attempt, because it’s stitched on dark blue fabric – which I also bought. So I am thinking of hiring someone to do it for me. I would ask her not to do the reflection-on-water part, so I can at least have some participation in the working of the pattern. I talked with her on the phone and asked how much she charges and it’s a penny a stitch. The thing is 328 stitches long by 82 stitches high – though there are open places in the pattern. Still . . . All of a sudden a penny a stitch doesn't seem much of a bargain. I’m going to ask for an estimate. I feel as if this might be cheating, to hire it done. Possibly it is. But when I think of those evenings at the cabin up north, when the loons start making their eerie cries, the desire to have this piece becomes very strong. Of course, if she gives me an estimate that scares me, then I guess I’ll have to tell her Never Mind, and try to do it myself. One of these days. Sure, one of these days.


Julie (Chloe's mom) said...

Oh, come on! You want to do it yourself! Think of stitching on it while up north listening to the loons. And do that white cloth on the lap thing (a man's handkerchief is big enough and folds up small enough for the stitching bag), or sit in good light. I did Beth Russell's Strawberry Thief on dark blue, and it's not nearly as hard as black. You'll stitch the loon memories right into the piece.

Colleen said...

I have stitched on black and navy blue and it is not as bad as you think...I just had some very good can do it!!!

Kathryn Lilley said...

I think you were observing something about the economy that is playing out across the country, Monica. In my little seaside home town, small storefronts are closing up, one by one. Businesses that have long been getting by on the edge are slipping under. A friend of mine got a message from her auto mechanic that he was closing up shop and would be working on cars by coming to peoples' homes (an odd thought--house-calls by your mechanic). It's sad, but it's happening.

Sheila Connolly said...

My grandmother used to do needlework--only English patterns, only real wool. Of course there were a number of pieces she never finished, and I have inherited them. Maybe in my next lifetime I'll get around to working on them. But good light would be essential! She had a lamp which combined light and a magnifier, on a swivel/hinge--which luckily I also inherited.

Maybe in a struggling economy we will all go back to simple pleasures, like jigsaw puzzles (I'm also well equipped there) and shared crafts. Scrabble and other board games. There must be an upside here somewhere!

Monica Ferris said...

All this encouragement, it warms my heart -- even as it alarms me. I've already sent the piece to the stitcher, but when she calls with an estimate, I can ask for it back, I guess. It would be an accomplishment to stitch it myself ...

It is sad to watch the little shops go under. They go so quietly, no fanfare, no interviews with concerned politician on television, just one day they're gone. Sad.