Q. When did you begin cross stitching?
A. I began cross stitching after I began designing because my model stitcher and good friend said, “De, my cross stitch won't do what you're telling me to do.” As for designing, I went to a craft trade show with my husband, Greg, who was a sales manager for a large wholesaler, and was fascinated by what I thought people were calling “county cross stitch.” The book buyer for his employer knew I was an artist. He said that if I designed some patterns, he'd buy them. With that, Hickory Hollow was born. “Hickory Nut” was my father-in-law's CB handle, and we had just moved to Lexington from a part of Eastern Kentucky that had many hollows. Q. When did you begin designing cross stitch?
A. Our son, Zach, was a toddler when I began, and he is now 35, so it was a lifetime ago. It was at the height of the resurrection of what was then called “The Danish Stitch.” I've also designed and taught silk ribbon embroidery, created quilt patterns, and introduced duplicate stitch to an unsuspecting cross-stitch industry. I've taught weaving and vegetable dyeing, but I do not knit or crochet. I would love to. Maybe in my next life! Q. How did you learn to stitch?
A. While model stitching, friends taught me the basics of counted cross stitch. I had been embroidering and working with textiles for years. As a public-school art teacher, I always tried to do a needlework project with my students and found that my middle-school guys fared better with the mechanics and the gals enjoyed color and design a bit more. My mother made doll clothes for me each Christmas and taught me
to sew. She and my grandmother were great quilters. Q. How did you learn to design?
A. I learned with graph paper, a sharpened pencil and a DMC color board. I love DMC, and they cemented that love with a lovely trip to their factory in France. The designers in the group became fast friends, and those friendships have stood the test of time. Q. What was the first thing you designed?
A. My first two publications were for evenweave baskets! I remember that encouraging buyer who worked for a wholesale craft company. When the basket trend came and quickly went, I designed a leaflet of cow designs. I didn't like being known at the next trade show as the “Cow Lady,” so I designed a series of angels called “Angels Descending.” “Angel Lady” was much preferred. Soon after, Just CrossStitch magazine interviewed me for an early issue. In the following years, I designed over 100 titles, manufactured accessories and garments, and freelanced for manufacturers. My husband had the opportunity to manage a factory in Wales for his employer, so I sold Hickory Hollow and turned to freelance full-time. I worked for Better Homes and Gardens, Leisure Arts, and The American School of Needlework, and I even designed Christmas sweaters for Lands' End. The thing about cross-stitch designers I have loved best is that competition comes after friendship. We saw each other only a few times a year, but the bond was tight. One of those designing friends, Donna Gallagher Saiia, went on to work for the Longaberger Company. When The Homestead, the company's retail location, came about, she and I designed the needlework department. That was
fun. Basket collectors are committed! As are cross stitchers. Q. What is your favorite type of design to create?
A. Needlework has evolved. I used to enjoy designing for a specific product, such as towels, bibs or afghans. The development of personal computers and software has made our job as designers easier (as opposed to hand-drawing symbols), but it killed our businesses. After spending hundreds of hours designing, stitching and producing titles of counted cross-stitch designs, it took only a handful of unscrupulous stitchers to scan designs and share them with a few thousand of their dearest friends. Sales plummeted, companies died. Now, my passion is painting, so I love to convert my original works of art into designs for Just CrossStitch. Q. What are your favorite colors to use?
A. All of them! I recently did two paintings for Brian Patrick Flynn, the designer who does the Urban Oasis giveaway homes for HGTV. He gave me the Sherwin–Williams paint colors of the master bedroom and the dining room, and a rough idea of what he wanted. I rarely paint “to spec,” and it was nice to have a paying collector up front! You can see these paintings on my website https://www.dselby.com/ about-cjg9. Q. Who or what inspires you?
A. At present, it's painters. From Degas, Bonnard and Matisse to current painters, I strive to improve my skills every day. I have a studio right in the center of downtown Lexington that is a cooperative of about 20 painters called Artists' Attic. The organization
will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year at its current location, the actual attic of former furniture stores converted in the 1980s into an urban retail and restaurant destination. We gather for lunch in the common gallery at noon each day and talk about what we're working on. It's a different mix of member artists each day, but we respect and learn from each other. The gallery area is also a great location for classes. I'm currently teaching a one-day Expressionist Painting for Beginners class each month and a class on gouache. Once a teacher, always a teacher. I truly enjoyed teaching in various cities for Spirit of Cross Stitch and Heart of Cross Stitch Festivals. The same students came back annually, so the anticipation for each city grew each year. Q. What is your idea of a perfect crossstitch/design day?
A. A perfect day is one when I can focus, uninterrupted by my own ideas! The only person I know more easily distracted is my daughter, Carey. She is the embodiment of “Ooh! A squirrel! Is someone making coffee? Look at this cat on YouTube!” She is an art director working as Celery Jones, and has some prints available on Wayfair.com. Q. What is your favorite snack while designing? A. Coffee, coffee, and—OK, I confess— leftover Halloween candy. Q. What do you do when you aren’t designing or stitching?
A. I'm an avid reader of fiction, preferably WWII era. Anything on PBS Masterpiece Theater is fine with me. On Sunday nights, the remote is mine. If I'm streaming, it's BritBox or Acorn—although The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu made me sit up and get scared. Q. If you couldn’t cross stitch or design, what would you do?
A. I would walk more with our dog, a rescue chocolate caramel-and-coffee (what else) cocker spaniel named Bud Brown. He rescued us. My husband, Greg, is battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and he needed a chemo buddy before his stem-cell transplant three years ago. Cancer has returned, and he goes to Boston for a clinical trial soon. We are feeling so fortunate to have another opportunity for a cure. Our 50th anniversary is in four years, and by golly, he plans to be present at the party! f
Stitch De's fresh-assummer Daisy! Find chart and instructions on pages 46 and 47.