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We are pleased to present an interview with Canadian Designer
Linda Lachance of Northern Pine Designs
Tell us about yourself.
I started serious stitching in my early twenties and was mostly self-taught. Once I discovered the American Needlepoint Guild, I attended seminars and a huge new world opened up. I’ve taken courses from many well known teachers.
Tell us about your family.
Luckily, I come from a very talented creative family - grandparents who painted, a grandmother who was a dressmaker by trade and who taught my mother knitting, embroidery, sewing; my mother painted watercolours, she was a talented seamstress and tried numerous crafts. My dad loved woodworking and my brother Doug built fishing rods, and can invent or build or repair almost anything. And don’t discount the genetic factor. I am the proud owner of an antique sampler, dated 1802 stitched by my 5th great-aunt, at age 9.
How did you become involved in needlework?
I started embroidering as a small child with the assistance of my grandmother. I started serious needlework in my early twenties and one of my first projects was an aran needlepoint pillow on which I learned a variety of needlepoint stitches. It was the love of texture which drew me to needlepoint. I sought out unique yarns in knitting shops to put in my needlepoint.
Was there anything or anyone -- a person, a shop an experience, or a piece of needlework -- that was instrumental in getting you started professionally?
I started designing small cross-stitch loons, maple leaves, blueberries, things with a northern twist. Then I began selling the designs, through my business, Northern Pine Designs, at the request of a local shop. When I look back at the primitive ways we had of graphing charts by hand, compared to today… I got smart (I thought), and typed the symbols using the typewriter (in each square of the graph paper)...then used letraset...how things have changed. Now I use 2 different design programs to create the stitch diagrams and the graphs, a word processing program for the instructions and Photoshop to design the covers. My girlfriend, a fellow designer and I use a high-end printer which enables us to self-publish our designs. She runs the printer.
If your other hobbies or interests have influenced your craft, do you incorporate or combine these elements in your needlework?
Approximately 30 years ago, I joined the Sudbury Quilting & Stitchery Guild and have been a member ever since. Through the Guild I learned to do counted cross-stitch and every possible type of needlework - hardanger, pulled thread, stumpwork, whitework, blackwork, goldwork, colour and design, and others. This exposure has helped immensely in my designing by allowing me to combine different techniques. Also the strong influences of quilting designs are obvious in my work. I’ve recently taken up beading and bead embroidery and am incorporating some of those techniques into my work.
Where does the inspiration for your work come from?
I am fascinated with the use of colour and while I have my favourites, which I am known for, the psychology and interplay of colour intrigues me. My designs often are inspired by a colour combination and from there I go on to create a design using it.
My designs often have a Canadian or “northern” flavour. I have a passion for the outdoors and this is reflected in my designing. My favourite designs are those containing northern lights, inukshuks, and natural themes such as loons, butterflies, and landscapes. I also enjoy geometric designs, which are influenced by the quilts I see in my Guild. Being left handed has also come in very handy. We lefty’s spend a lot of time “turning things around in our minds” in order to accomplish them. This has enabled me to design and completely stitch a mirror image of a geometric design, without flipping the chart.
One girlfriend says my designs “fall out of my ear, when I’m sleeping”, which isn’t a bad description. Inspiration comes from everywhere - geometric designs in architecture, stained glass windows in churches, quilts, nature, great photographs, wonderful colour schemes, and so on. I’m an intuitive designer - I just pull out threads and play with colours and stitches until I have something I like. Nothing is pre-designed on the computer using a graphing program like many others do. I may have a squiggle of a line drawing, or the barest of an idea or theme I’d like to express. There’s no creative artwork to work from. Hence I’m an expert at reverse stitching (also known as frogging ... rip-it rip-it...)
What has been the biggest influence on your work in the last few years?
The biggest influence has been the introduction of all the wonderful overdyed and textured threads for needlework.
How your work changed since you first got started in needlework?
While I began as a cross-stitch designer, once I started doing canvaswork, I never looked back.
Do you find that the work of other designers or current trends in home design, etc. influences you?
Yes, I follow home design trends, especially color trends.
Do you ever collaborate with other designers or teachers and, if so, what kinds of projects do you work on?
I have recently collaborated on a design with Marnic Designs, called Dark Side of the Sun.
How has modern technology —charting programs, color printers, computers, software programs, and the Internet, etc. impacted your style or your work?
I am able to use a number of computer programs for my charts, including EasyGrapher Pro and Stitch Wiz. The internet, of course, has opened entire new venues for marketing my designs, and they can be viewed around the world.
How would you classify your style?
I would classify my style as modern.
Where do you display your work or exhibit?
I exhibit occasionally if I attend an ANG or EAC needlework seminar, and at local shows.
Where are your designs available or how can consumers purchase them?
Various shops throughout Canada and the U.S., occasional shows, and through my website, www.northernpinedesigns.com
How did you get involved teaching?
Pastel Stars was my first design which was published in Needlepoint News magazine. Over the years a number of other designs have been published, including two designs coming out this year in “Stitch” magazine, which is produced in England. I also began teaching needlework at my local guild, and have taught in the U.S. and across Canada for the American Needlepoint Guild, Embroiderers’ Association of Canada and for individual guilds. For years my Mum and I travelled together to attend the needlework seminars and this took us all over Canada and the U.S., where we learned from the best. My motto is, “Teach Needlework and See the World”.
Where can consumers, shops or guilds find out about your teaching schedule?
Anyone interested in having me teach, can contact me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone (705) 560-2919.
When did you first learn about and begin using The Caron Collection threads?
In the 1990's, a cornucopia of fantastic threads suddenly hit the market - threads which were overdyed so they have numerous colours in them, every type of metallic thread, silks, and so on. I remember the first time I saw Watercolours thread. In the beginning I was so enraptured with them I’d just look at them. I couldn’t bring myself to stitch with them, in case I couldn’t get any more. It took me about 6 months, before I threaded a needle with the new threads.
How have the Caron Collection threads impacted or influenced your designs?
I don’t think I do any design without incorporating hand dyed or overdyed threads. And Caron Collection threads play a huge role in my designs, from helping me select the colour scheme to complementing whatever I am trying to do.
What is your favorite Caron Collection thread?
Watercolours and Waterlilies.
What kind of upcoming projects or plans do you have?
I’m working on several series, including additional designs for the Elements Series. New designs are always percolating in my head.
What goals do you have for the future, personally or professionally?
I would like to do much more teaching.
What has been the most fulfilling aspect for you about designing needlework?
I love to “spread the word” about canvaswork, how satisfying it is, how creative it can be and how simple it is to do. My goal is to convert every stitcher to canvaswork embroidery. At the same time, if I can get stitchers to give up their fear of the D-word, “design”, and try out their own ideas, either while stitching a design created by someone else, or to create their own works of art, I will be satisfied. While humbled, by the success of my needlework business, I feel honoured that stitchers like my designs and are inspired enough to stitch them for themselves.
What would you say is your greatest legacy and how would you most like to be remembered?
My goal has always been to convert stitchers to canvaswork. If I have succeeded, that would be my legacy.
The Internet has changed our entire society. What are the pros and cons of the Internet as it concerns our industry?
The internet has changed how everyone markets their designs and how stitchers buy them. This has impacted the local needlework shop, often negatively, if they haven’t moved with the times as well.
Has your customer base changed over the years?
I occasionally have international customers now which I wouldn’t have had before.
Do you cater to any particular segment of the market?
I really hope to appeal to stitchers who want to experiment and stretch their boundaries. Too many stitchers are locked into a design, with a fear of changing a thread or a colour. I encourage change and experimentation.
Needlework is our passion at the CARON Collection. How can we pass our enthusiasm and skills along to future generations in a way that is appealing and exciting to them?
We need to teach our skills to the youth. We all learned at “grandma’s” knee, and from our mothers. Now mothers are too busy to teach their children. Hopefully we can help bridge that gap.
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