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A common thread sparks global interest

Karen+%28left%29+and+Brandon+Kirk+%28right%29+are+the+owners+of+Linen+and+Threads%2C+a+Wentworth+Falls%2C+Australia-based+cross+stitch%2C+embroidery+and+needlework+store.
Karen (left) and Brandon Kirk (right) are the owners of Linen and Threads, a Wentworth Falls, Australia-based cross stitch, embroidery and needlework store.

Karen (left) and Brandon Kirk (right) are the owners of Linen and Threads, a Wentworth Falls, Australia-based cross stitch, embroidery and needlework store.

Photo by Brendon Kirk

Photo by Brendon Kirk

Karen (left) and Brandon Kirk (right) are the owners of Linen and Threads, a Wentworth Falls, Australia-based cross stitch, embroidery and needlework store.

Deborah Chaddock Brown, Staff Writer, Puma Press

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Brendon Kirk, designer of reproduction-inspired cross stitch designs, created a free 12-part mystery cross stitch sampler as a way to say thank-you to the regular customers of Linen and Threads; however, within a month of publishing online, over 6,000 people worldwide had downloaded the pattern.

“I never imagined this project would garner global interest,” said Kirk. “When Karen (his wife) and I decided to do this, we thought maybe 10 or 20 people would join us. Instead, to date, the (Facebook) group has over 3,000 members and Part One has been downloaded 7,500 times, with Part Two catching up quickly at 4,000 downloads.”

Brendon and his wife Karen are the owners of Linen and Threads, a Wentworth Falls, Australia-based cross stitch, embroidery and needlework store, established originally as an online retail shop in 2001. Brendon’s idea for the Mystery SAL (stitch-a-long) project came from his personal research.

“The design for the Stitch-A-Long was actually started on the train to work about a year ago,” said Kirk. “I found some antique pattern books and one band really stood out; it became the first row in the sampler. From there, I spent the next couple of days adapting and designing other bands, arriving at a sampler which would have been almost six-feet long. In November, I got out the pattern and edited it down to the sampler that it is now.”

Each month, Brendon will post another portion of the year-long project for crafters to download for free. After publishing the initial pattern, Karen created a closed Facebook group and invited stitchers to join and post images of their fabric and thread choices. Within days of establishing the private group, hundreds of stitchers from around the world had joined the community and began sharing pictures of their WIP (work in progress).
Photo by Karen Kirk


The Same But Different

The original pattern called for the use of 40 Count Natural Linen, which is an off white fabric with 40 holes per inch and a solid burgundy thread. Karen Kirk is stitching the model and posting pictures on the website and Facebook to demonstrate the pattern. However, crafters from around the globe are using their imagination to bring this project to new heights.
Donna Del Cueto, in Thorold, Ontario, combined aqua, purple, gold and red to create a colorful version of the project.
Photo by Donna Del Cueto

“This is my first SAL (stitch-a-long and my first band sampler,” said Del Cueto. “I am always on the lookout for free charts, and when I saw this one in my Facebook cross stitch group, it had such interesting shapes and patterns that I thought I would try it. I loved the complexities within simplicities of intricate but repeating patterns, and I really enjoyed selecting colors to do them with. I like the freedom of making my stitching unique to me, which is a pleasantly creative process. I am looking forward to seeing what the months ahead bring.”
Kellie Bowen, in Pennsylvania, has opted for white thread on turquoise fabric while Francoise Rosier‎, in France, is working on red fabric with purple, pink and green threads.

Some stitchers, like Maria Fanelli from Italy, are creating smaller versions of the project while others are adding embellishments such as specialty stitches and beading. In every case, fellow crafters are oohing and ahhing over the different interpretations, offering encouragement, support and love.

Bringing the World Together One Stitch at a Time

According to Americans for the Arts, the first National Arts Policy Roundtable was held in 2006, joining representatives from the Americans for the Arts in partnership with the Sundance Preserve.

“Our goal was to identify actionable strategies that will help bring us closer to realizing deeper and more positive global relationships, in and through the arts,” said Robert Redford, Founder, Redford Center in the opening statement of the 2009 Report on the Proceedings. “We chose this topic because we believe in the unique ability of the arts to open new dialogues—often in places where common ground has been hard to find. We believe the voice of the artist can stimulate ideas and create new opportunities for expression that lead to a deeper understanding of our global connectivity. We believe this because we have seen the transformative power of the arts firsthand.”

In the United States, people seem divided along political party lines. Perry Bacon Jr., reporter for NBC News summarized the issue in his article, “How the 2016 Election Exposed America’s Racial and Cultural Divides.”

He wrote, “The 2016 election exposed an America of deep divides over race, ethnicity and culture — a nation carved into two large coalitions, roughly equal in size but radically different in demographics and desires.”

“The biggest challenge is how do we get everybody back together?” asked Tom Brokaw recently on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. “There is a lot of uneasiness and the only way to work through it is to listen to both sides and say how do we find common ground? I wish we’d see more of that.”

According to the 2009 National Arts Policy Roundtable the National Arts committee believes that art is that common ground; “We believe the voice of the artist can stimulate ideas and create new opportunities for expression that lead to a deeper understanding of our global connectivity.”

The Mystery SAL is one example of that global connectivity. “The response has been amazing,” said Kirk. “We track some basic statistics for the charts and we have had downloads from 76 different countries. The United Nations recognizes 195 countries in the world, so we have a few still to join us, but to think that a least one person from 39 percent of the countries in the world as part of our little SAL is amazing.”

Nia McMartin, associate of Linen and Threads, has been tracking those participating in the projects who have shared their location. The United States and Australia have the most participants; however, there are also men and women from the Netherlands, England, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Scotland, New Zealand and France.

“We even had downloads from countries you don’t associate with needlework, including Saudi Arabia, UAE and China,” said Kirk. “We even have some men who are participating. It’s nice to know I am not the only man in the world who loves stitching.”

Facebook offers a translation component which has minimized language barriers from keeping the conversation going. Novice stitchers are asking questions about thread selection, needle sizes, and even basic how-to concerns and within minutes more experienced crafters reply with helpful answers and a word of encouragement.

Along with pictures of the actual project, some have shared images of their home, their pets and even one picture of a newly broken wrist which will halt the immediate participation for one stitcher. Hundreds of people around the world shared thoughtful comments or used the Facebook emoji’s to offer their support.

People from around the world are drawn to the positive nature of this project. “The response to this SAL has been phenomenal,” said Lesley Frost, from Australia. “I love the interaction with so many people from different countries. Thank you Brendon and Karen. I have never done anything like this before and look forward to it every day.”

“Best part of my day (is) to visit (the Facebook group), except for the actual stitching, which is a joy,” said Joanne Ross, from Canada. “Thanks for providing a positive place.”

“The world’s love has lost its views, but here (Facebook mystery stitching group) it gives love and a sense of peace,” said Cheryl Lechnyr, from Michigan.

“I was nervous about this SAL at first because I am generally not a person to join SALs, but this one called to me and has allowed me to go through my DMC threads and use those I have in abundance,” said Suzy McClung from California. “I really am enjoying the surprise aspect of the piece.”

Although this is the first 12-month project that Linen and Threads has offered, Brendon has already started designing the pattern for 2018. “We will definitely have another free 12-month Mystery Sampler,” said Kirk. “The design I am currently working on is called Menagerie. Again I am designing this as a monochromatic sampler, and the theme will be a medieval zoo.”

“The arts can play a pivotal role in moderating the complexities of globalization,” Redford said in the report from the 2009 proceedings of the National Arts Policy Roundtable. “We have seen the ability of the arts to act as a conduit for strengthening transnational community connections. The arts can open dialogue among diverse groups by creating safe spaces for engagement, thus allowing new relationships to take root. They help us understand and bridge cultural distinctions. They contribute to economic opportunity and community vitality. They enhance our quality of life. Through their multiple means of expression, the arts help give voice where once there was only silence,” stated at America For the Arts.

To learn more about the Mystery SAL visit Linen and Threads.

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “A common thread sparks global interest”

  1. brandice harr on April 3rd, 2017 6:23 pm

    I am so happy that I stumbled upon this SAL. I love that we are all working on the same thing yet every single final outcome will be different. Extremely excited for another one in 2018.

    [Reply]

  2. Nia on April 4th, 2017 5:54 am

    Beautiful article Deborah. I do believe the gentle arts…embroidety, quilting, knitting, weaving etc are really building strong and wide bridges between communities… it’s been ebbing and flowing for decades, but i feel a peculiar strength in the bonds over the past couple of years. It feels good.

    Thank you for writing this piece.

    Nia

    [Reply]

  3. Cheryl. Lechnyr on April 6th, 2017 9:44 am

    Love,love,love Apsalutley every single stitch.
    And the most wounderful people from all around.
    Such a blessing .

    I am from Michigan. I see it’s saying Tennessee.
    I’m hopeing to have that changed ..;)…:)

    [Reply]

    Kaylynn Wohl Reply:

    Thank you so much for letting us know! We changed it immediately!

    [Reply]

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A common thread sparks global interest