As a child I had learned to cross stitch in wool on linen as was customary in Transylvania and many years later I inherited a collection of Transylvanian cross stitched pieces as well as a folder of patterns. As you may know, Transylvania was invaded over many centuries by Mongols and Turks and it is interesting to me how Transylvania-Saxon peasant women adapted their design motifs from carpets and textiles into their own work. I used some of those patterns in my designs but gave them a new twist by using different colors and filling in the background. Typically, Saxons used only one or two colors as in the example below.
I suppose you might say I was destined to become a designer as I have been designing one thing or another all my life. As a child, growing up in Austria, we had intense art classes in school and I soon discovered that drawing and working with color gave me great pleasure. So when I graduated from basic schooling, my first “job” was as a ceramic apprentice with one of the oldest ceramic firms in Gmunden, Upper Austria. My Dad was manager on a big estate and as children we were exposed to oriental rugs, Limoges china, fine antiques as well as visiting artists who decorated furniture and applied artful stucco to ceilings. Some of this no doubt rubbed off and became part of my appreciation of the arts in general and interior decorating more specifically.
After my family immigrated to the USA I could not find a job as a ceramic painter. Eventually, after college – with a major not art related – I went to New York to the New York School of Interior Design. I worked as an interior designer for several years until I met my future husband. He was anxious to start a wallpaper company so I quit my job and designed wallpapers and fabrics for the next eight years.
How cross-point came about
The big change came when I went back to Ohio State to study Landscape Architecture. Designing gardens and landscapes became my third career and is something I still do today. Sometime in the mid 90’s we had unending snow and cold weather in New Jersey and none of my clients were willing to talk “gardens”. To find something to do during those long evenings, I decided to cross stitch a pillow but could not find anything in needlework stores that appealed to me. I wanted to stitch one of the patterns from the Saxon pattern folder I had inherited and to use a technique with which I was familiar, that is “wool thread on linen”. A linen coarse enough to stitch with wool appeared to be unavailable but my search eventually led me to jute. An interesting aside is that during my research for a fabric I came across several references in old English pattern books that mentioned “sacking” as a base material for stitched pillows. I stitched several pillows from those Saxon Transylvanian sources but with one major difference: I changed the patterns from one or two colors to many colors and filled the background completely. Suddenly, the folk art style of the original patterns changed to appear more elegant and sophisticated to my eyes.
At right, photo of the Carnation Pillow in the cross-point™ Collection.
Friends who were stitchers liked what I was doing and urged me to create a line of patterns I could share with others and cross-point was born. At wholesale trade shows where I first introduced my collection, needlepoint shop owners were drawn to my booth because they thought my pieces were needlepoint and were surprised to find it to be cross stitch. The combination of easy cross stitch with the appearance of needlepoint led to naming the technique cross-point. Since then I have designed 100’s of patterns based on the many craft traditions from different cultures. I have become fascinated by the universality of design elements around the World and by how just minor changes in colors or details can result in a completely different look. Studying textile arts, whether at museums or on travels, has broadened my own ability to visualize a pattern translated to needle and thread. Designing for my cross-point™ Collection has become a passion more than an avocation – I truly love it!