Though they lived in the same Kansas City neighborhood and shared a lifelong hobby, Carol Crowe and Polly Kramer didn’t know each other.
However, they did visit the same St. Louis shop for their needlepoint supplies. And both mentioned their entrepreneurial dream to the manager: to open their own shop in Kansas City. Naturally, he introduced them to each other.
Now they are a year into operating KC Needlepoint in Waldo, at 105 E. Gregory Blvd., and are expanding with more Kansas City-themed canvases and employees to hand-paint canvases on-site.
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Needlepoint is not only making a comeback as a hobby, it is becoming fashionable. When designers Dolce & Gabbana introduced it on velvet jackets and coats with matching shoes in their 2013 menswear collection, Vogue called it “adorable granny needlepoint.” Designer Jonathan Adler features a line of needlepoint pillows, including one with the word “lust.”
Dale Lenci is immediate past president of the National NeedleArts Association in Zanesville, Ohio, as well as owner of the Luv2Stitch store in San Mateo, Calif., and a needlepoint design company, DJ Designs. Lenci said the industry is growing as people want a hobby that allows them to unwind, unplug and socialize. Think of the adult coloring book craze.
KC Needlepoint has canvases for stockings and ornaments, pillows and seat covers, belts, luggage bags, jewelry boxes, key fobs, backgammon boards, cummerbunds, handbags, and coasters. The shop also has canvases for Democrats and Republicans, fraternities and sororities, various ZIP codes and religious symbols.
And it is giving needlepoint a Kansas City spin with its “12 Days of Kansas City,” featuring canvases of local landmarks, including Arrowhead Stadium, the Country Club Plaza lights and fountains, and Union Station. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art canvas has been a best-seller.
Christmas ornaments and stockings have been needlepoint staples, but KC Needlepoint didn’t expect such a demand for Halloween canvases in 2015. On average, Americans spent $20.34 on Halloween decorations that year, or a total of $1.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, and Halloween decor sales continue to grow.
“They will make ornaments for Halloween stick trees, stand-ups like a mummy that can stand up on your mantel, and pillows,” Crowe said.
Needlepoint novices can opt for a simple initial on a canvas for an ornament, coaster or miniature pillow. Complex canvases include one of local artist Mike Savage’s brightly colored and highly detailed paintings.
KC Needlepoint also is part of the “100 Jobs for 100 Moms” program and has hired three women from Amethyst Place to hand-paint canvases four days a week. Amethyst Place supports women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and their children.
Hand-painted canvases show the needlepointer exactly where they need to stitch, making for a higher-quality work, Crowe said.
Needlepointers also have come up with creative ways to add dimension to their canvases, making the background recede through stitching techniques or different materials. They have a variety of threads to choose from: wool, rayon, cotton, silk, patent leather, velvet, sparkly or furry, and silk/wool blends.
Several KC Needlepoint customers said they prefer a brick-and-mortar store because they can see the shades and variations in thread colors better than online.
“There are some amazing deals on the internet, but you are not going to get any support there except maybe some YouTube videos,” Lenci said. “The stores have a social aspect and are a place where you can share ideas.”
KC Needlepoint offers classes for beginners and a summer children’s class. Advance classes coming up include a September class to make a needlepoint cover for a brick doorstop. In October, the advance class will make a three-dimensional pumpkin.
As rush hour traffic whizzed by during one recent class and beer enthusiasts could be seen gathering for happy hour across the street at the Bier Station, needlepointers gathered around a large table at KC Needlepoint’s sunny front room, laughing as they tackled everything from first-time projects to advanced techniques. When they leave, instead of goodbyes, they often call out “Happy Stitching.”
“It is a lot harder than I thought it would be, more than a full-time job, and I couldn’t do it without Polly,” Crowe said. “For two strangers to be put together to buy a shop. It is our dream job. It is sheer fun.”
To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at JoyceKC
The store is at 105 E. Gregory Blvd. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. For more information, see kcneedlepoint.com.