Following our tribute to "Men who Stitch" we'd like to present...
by Rita Vainius
His current avocation as needlepoint designer would have been hard to predict given David McCaskill's previous careers as motivational speaker, business consultant, interior designer, high-end caterer for dinner parties, and throw in a stint in the army to boot! Except for the army, all were entrepreneurial pursuits, which attest to his "can do" personality. (Shown on the left, David's FREE pattern for a scissor case. Click on the picture for diagrams and instructions.)
While searching for a special gift for his daughter in 1984, David spied a pillow in a needlework shop window that fit the bill. An hour later he emerged from the store with a crewel kit in hand, and the mantra "of course I can do this" in his head. To his astonishment, he completed the pillow, thoroughly enjoying himself in the process. But he did not then plan to pursue this pastime further. Almost 5 years later, after moving to northern California and exploring his new surroundings, he chanced upon an ad for a local EGA Needleart Show. Out of curiosity and because of his initial success with the pillow, he attended and was overwhelmed by the talent and diversity he encountered there. This not only renewed his interest, but sparked a latent design talent ready to be unleashed.
David's earliest design attempts were with crewel work. He then decided to make chair covers in needlepoint. When the first, (and alas, the only), chair was done, his local needlework shop was so impressed with the result, that they urged him to paint canvas. He followed up on this suggestion, and the shop purchased his subsequent designs. This escalated to orders from other shops. Much to his surprise, he now found himself in a new career as needlepoint designer, without having had any formal art training since grade school. But, I'll bet that his mother must have read him "The Little Engine That Could" as a child, for whenever David begins a new endeavor, he is a quick study and his positive attitude assures its success.
Ideas for David's designs come from his own environment, peoples' comments and other patterns. Once he realized his stitching skill and design ability, he viewed everything around him as a source of inspiration. An early pattern depicting a black and white cowhide background superimposed by a single red rose was envisioned as a result of a day trip through the hills of Sonoma County, with its pastures of grazing cattle and wild roses growing in profusion. (David's Cowhide and Rose, design shown top right) David conceives the entire design in his head, even down to the stitches, before proceeding to draw on the canvas. It is the visual artistic equivalent of a musician composing a melody in his mind prior to setting the notes to paper. And once a theme is established, David's creative juices flow abundantly. (David's Antique Treasures, shown above.)
Early on, in this new enterprise, he was apt to compare his work to that of more experienced and established designers, feeling somewhat intimidated as a result. But nothing ventured, nothing gained so he stuck it out and over time his own style emerged, he became comfortable with it and found that needleworkers responded enthusiastically. All of his recent work is comprised of large spaces of color with the pattern and texture defined by the threads and stitches employed. In his own words, "my style has evolved to blocks of color because I love the negative space for stitches".
Rose and Lace
David met Lois Caron at a wholesale trade show where they were fellow exhibitors. He instantly responded to her softness of speech and manner, and was impressed by her obvious talent without trace of arrogance. She offered to send him some samples of the Caron Collection, which he was able to immediately visualize in his designs. David finds the Caron textures and color palettes extremely versatile to work with. His personal favorite fibers are the Impressions which he describes as a treat for the hands. The overdyes are especially preferred because he feels they give "movement" to a stitch. In designing with them, he uses the Waterlilies and Wildflowers in tandem with a solid color to soften the streaking effect produced. The inherent nature of the overdyes also gives stitchers the opportunity to create a unique and personal project even when using the same pattern. When used properly, one can impart a sense of depth, lightness, movement and mood with the threads alone.
As a design strategy, David cuts colors to shade with and eliminates colors that he does not choose to work with, which can be used in other parts of the design. An example of this is the "Patchwork Christmas Tree Ornament" which is worked with only Far Horizons Watercolours in concert with metallics, with each color family cut out to give the feeling of five distinctive colors. The Needlework Tool Box is also Far Horizons in the tassel with two of the colors eliminated.
David's most recent accomplishment involves opening his own shop which he labels a country club for stitchers with the moniker "Club Stitch". You won't be transported to the Caribbean, but it's certainly a getaway for senses and soul! The club has a membership program with special privileges and discounts, as well as a full retail shop of threads, needlepoint, charted work, linen, accessories and gifts. Because of the increasing popularity of David's own designs, they are an exclusive and only available through Club Stitch. Kits for all the designs shown include stitch guides and Caron Collection threads. Especially eagerly awaited is David's 1998 ornament series entitled "The 12 Days of a Stitcher's Christmas". If you start soon, you could have the whole set ready to hang on next year's tree.
For more information on David McCaskill Designs contact him at: