The Femme Stories is a blog series celebrating the makers who inspire, empower their communities and continue to gift us with their creativity; these are their stories.

Mary | Canadian Stitchery 

Last year I gifted each of my nieces and nephews a Canadian Stitchery ornament. I stitched them myself and I love that they had my personal touch. These beautiful wooden ornaments come ready for you to cross-stitch your love into each one. Whether you want them for your décor or to give to a loved one, they are such a special and personal gift.
Mary, owner of Canadian Stitchery.
 How did you learn how to cross-stitch?

I grew up in Alberta, on the Prairies where stitching is a really big thing. My mom would sit in front of the TV at night with these massive projects and I was lucky enough to learn by looking over her shoulder, and as I got older, she taught me how to stitch. Then I got started with teaching and my stitching went into a drawer for, you know, 20 years. Eventually, I came back to it as a young professional, for the same reason as my mom stitch —, to have something to do at night to help me unwind. It is very meditative. 

Do you work another job or is Canadian Stitchery your full-time gig?

Well, I have a couple of gigs. I'm a hyperdrive person, so I am a full-time college professor and I also work at CBC as a journalist, doing writing and editing for them. Canadian Stitchery is my creative outlet from all that stress. 

From the start of your company did you always picture being the supplier; having the customer enjoy the experience of cross-stitching or did you stitch and sell to start? 

At the start, I would stitch and sell, but quickly I learned there was a compelling piece that was missing, and that was sharing my love of stitching with others. That is when I added DIY kits to the line and now they’ve become a very large part of my business.

It's easy to teach stitching, especially virtually, so I've done a lot of online classes for private groups and other organizations. I love this aspect when they have the skill, it's empowering them and that is important to me.

The base of your ornaments is wooden, and the pattern is laser cut at the The Maker Bean, another local company. How did you come to work with them?

Well, they have a cafe in the Ontario Science Centre, not far from my house, and I take my kids there all the time. I was already experimenting with laser cutting when I decided to take a workshop at The Maker Bean to learn how to digitize my designs. What I also found was a really good partnership with them. They are such wonderful people and they have the same spirit of empowering others to make their designs, so it's been a very good fit.

We have built a nice creative partnership and I love coming to them with an idea and they can provide input to help take it to that next level that I wouldn't be able to reach on my own.

How do you come up with new designs?

Well, graph paper is a great friend for any cross-stitch designer. I kind of come up with designs in my head, and then sketch them out on graph paper. I also use a program called Stitch Fiddle, which is like a glorified Excel spreadsheet where you can dump colours into different boxes, and it's all sized for cross-stitching. It’s a free application, it does have a paid component if you want to get fancy, but the free one is pretty good. 

Which is your favourite design?

I’m in love with a new one called Monty Moose. My Instagram followers named him. He's on an ugly sweater in a little dress shirt with a red bow tie and red and green suspenders, but he has this adorable hunch to him. I see him as the tired manager at your favourite restaurant or as a butler who's overworked during the Christmas holidays. He's so happy, but also so tired. I can relate to that, you know? 

This year you launched a Spring Line with adorable Easter inspired animals and eggs + a yarn wrapped rainbow, were these already in the works or did this come about because of COVID? 

Exactly, right I had more free time. I thought let's expand the line outside of Christmas, so I did some Valentine’s inspired DIY kits and some Easter kits. I've got some stuff in the works for summer 2022, which is exciting. Moving forward I want Canadian Stitchery to be an all-year pursuit. 

During the holiday season you offer finished ornaments + your DIY kits, do you stitch them yourself or recruit helpers?

They are all 100% stitched by me, usually on my holidays, sitting on a dock. I still have those meditative moments after long days and that's the result is that people can buy them ready to gift.

 What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading a book called The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. It’s about twins who are separated and there is a big racial component to the storyline. It has been good at diving into important issues that we are all talking about. 

I enjoy escaping into a good book. 

I loved talking with Mary from Canadian Stitchery more, she and I chatted virtually last Fall for my Maker Chat OOAK series and I love hearing about that spark that drives makers to put their goods out into the world. I can personally attest to the joy that my nieces and nephews got when they opened their ornaments, and because they know I make things myself that was the first thing they asked, “Did you make these?” What is more beautiful gift to give than one your hands made? Check out Canadian Stitchery’s website to see all her DIY kits and grab one to gift as a kit or make it up yourself to gift something you made!

Written by Carissa McCaig

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