Designer Q&A Belinda Karls-Nace
Q. When did you begin cross stitching?
A. Like many needleworkers, I was introduced to a needle and thread at a very early age. I would watch my grandmother do crewel embroidery and crochet. My family always encouraged my creativity, and I remember doing many craft and needlework projects as a child. I have vivid memories of working my first crewel embroidery and stamped cross stitch at the age of 6.
Q. When did you begin designing cross stitch?
A. I started creating my own designs in the late 1990s and Blue Ribbon Designs was born in early 2004. I was working full-time at a mortgage company and designing in the evenings and on weekends.
In mid-2004, the company I worked for was sold, and many of the employees were out of work—myself included. With my design business already underway and my first eight original designs ready for release, I decided to jump in and try to make Blue Ribbon Designs my career.
Q. How did you learn to design?
A. I was never formally trained in design. I have taken quite a few art classes (painting, watercolors, drawing, etc.) and well over 100 needlework classes, but I did not go to school for design. During my childhood and teen years, I was artistic, but needlework was not my focus. After graduating, I started doing cross-stitch kits—mostly as gifts for family and friends.
As time passed, I began trying more stitches and techniques, working with various types of fabrics and threads. I became entranced with all different types/styles of needlework and mediums. I started attending as many classes and retreats as I could fit in my schedule, soaking in as much knowledge of handwork as possible.
I found I needed a creative outlet and I wanted to share my passion with fellow stitchers. I am a self-motivated, analytical person and enjoy problemsolving, along with working on the computer, so designing my own projects seemed like the next logical step.
Q. What was the first thing you stitched?
A. It was a large crewel embroidery design that I worked on as a young girl. It said “Eat Your Vegetables” in the center and had various produce around the perimeter. I can distinctly remember studying the included stitch diagrams to learn how to make French knots for the broccoli and celery, and the stem stitch for the carrots. Over the years, I have wondered whatever happened to that masterpiece!
Q. What was the first thing you designed?
A. My first original published design was a sampler titled “Never Stop Growing.” It is a monochromatic, sampler-style design and is still one of my favorites.
Q. What is your favorite type of design to create?
A. I love early/antique needlework and historical samplers. My designs tend to combine the concept of historical samplers with the styles and colors of today. My favorite designs to create are larger pieces made up of smaller sections that can be used for needlework smalls.
Q. How do you begin a design?
A. Once I have an idea or inspiration, I grab my sketchbook and pen, and get a couple basic drawings on paper. I then head to my computer and start the charting process. Once an idea is born, it usually takes me (on average) a couple days to chart it on the computer to my satisfaction. Once the charting is ready to print, my last step is to pick the fabric and threads.
Q. Who or what inspires you?
A. For me, inspiration is found everywhere. I keep a sketchbook and a camera handy at all times. I often write down ideas and sketch motifs, objects and lines. My friends will tell you, I am ALWAYS taking photographs. I get a lot of inspiration outdoors when hiking, boating, walking my dogs and working in my yard.
I also find inspiration and creative spark when pursuing my quilting hobby. Several years into my cross-stitch design career, I found I really needed a creative outlet that wasn’t part of my needlework business. With my love for fabric and threads, sewing and quilting was the logical leap.
Whenever I need a little break from handwork, I spend an afternoon in my sewing studio. I feel completely at home and relaxed there. I truly embrace the entire process of sewing and quilting. I feel very comfortable and content in my sewing studio, and the time I spend in my sewing room truly brings out more of my creative side for my cross-stitch design business.
Q. Are you a morning, midday or night designer?
A. I am a night owl, through and through. I like to design, stitch and sew into the wee hours!
Q. What do you do when you aren’t designing or stitching?
A. I am an outdoor girl and fitness enthusiast. I like to lift weights, take long walks and hike with our two German Shepherds, plus spend time on a bass boat with my husband. I enjoy taking care of my home and yard, cooking, sketching, quilting, and reading about historical needlework, antiques and textiles. I also like to do girlie things with my friends like shopping or having tea.
Q. If you were to give someone cross-stitch advice, what would it be?
A. Love every stitch! Don’t be worried about the rules or the “cross-stitch police.” You should enjoy your hobby. I always tell my students: “There is no right way or wrong way, only YOUR way.” Choose materials, tools and supplies that match your personality and style and that work best for you. Cross stitch should make you happy!
Q. What’s the best thing about having your own cross-stitch design business? And the worst?
A. The best: I get to be creative daily! I have a fabulous home-based office (a loft) where I work during the day. This is where I do design charting, com- puter work, marketing, bagging charts, research, shipping, etc.
I also have a storage room that I lovingly refer to as “the warehouse” that houses all my printed designs, so all my work is done from the comfort of my own home. I don’t have to venture out into inclement weather and I can work in my pajamas when the mood strikes me.
I have a “stitching nest” in our living room where I work in the evenings/ nights on model stitching. I do most of my stitching in this chair, so I can work near my husband when he is home. I enjoy being my own boss and controlling my own destiny. Oh, and I can’t forget that I LOVE traveling and teaching. One of the best things is meeting fellow needleworkers that share my passion and teaching them my tips, tricks and techniques!
The worst: Being self-employed, I must be very self-disciplined. I have a schedule I try to stick to every day with an extensive to-do list. It is not always easy to schedule “me time.” I am a onewoman show, and I know my success depends on my own hard work and business decisions.
I find many friends and family think because I work from home I am enjoying lazy afternoons and just “playing,” when (in reality), I work harder at my design business then I ever did at my corporate job.