New book shows you how to make glamorous needlepoint

10 questions with designer, teacher and writer June McKnight

She has owned needlework stores, published 15 books, exhibited at needlework trade shows, and taught all over the country: June McKnight sounds like an expert to us.  We knew we could learn a thing or two about threads and stitching techniques, especially after her latest book "Bling, Glitz and Glamour for Needlepoint" was published. As Amy Bunger once said, "June answers your questions before you know what to ask." Read on to learn from one of needlework's best, June McKnight.

Q: How long have you been involved in the needlework industry? How long have you been stitching?
A: The answer to both sides of this question is the same...decades. I was born the eldest child to a Polish family in Detroit, Michigan. My Mom, aunts and grandmothers lived in close proximity so evenings were often spent stitching together. My Mom took pride in the fact that she had me embroidering by the time I was four years old.

After ten years of teaching in a secondary school in Farmington, Michigan, I decided to make my avocation my vocation and opened my first needlework store in Troy Michigan. It was called The Black Sheep and it opened in 1977 in a tiny strip mall. It was a comprehensive store including knitting, crochet, needlepoint and embroidery. When my television executive husband accepted a post at KGO‐TV in San Francisco we moved to Walnut Creek. I sold Black Sheep and later that year purchased The Golden Needle in Danville California. This shop was exclusively needlepoint. When we moved to the central coast in 1990, I sold The Golden Needle and I began a new shop in the historical Cannery Row in Monterey. This shop was cleverly known as Stitches by June McKnight.

In 1985, I got a taste of the wholesale side of our business assisting Design One, owned by Carol and Hal Shirley and later Erico with Peter and Lydia Truce. Early in 1994, I introduced my first book, Christmas Stitches to the wholesale market with the help of Erico. I have since been exhibiting at TNNA under my own banner, JUNE MCKNIGHT BOOKS. Today, I have 15 books in print. Five of them, Best Bargello, Bling, Colorful Stitches, Spooky Stitches and Christmas Medallions, are printed in full color. And I am proud to add, they are printed in the USA. The distinctive flip book format is my brand.

Q: Where did you get the idea for your newest book, "Bling, Glitz and Glamour for Needlepoint"?
A: There is a maxim in the home decorating industry that what women wear, influences how they decorate. This transition from apparel to decorating generally takes about 18 months. Early in 2011, I had the pleasure of viewing the Balenciaga exhibit at the de Young Fine Art Museum in San Francisco. At every turn the designer’s Basque heritage was evident in the elaborate braids, embroidery and beads that embellished coats, capes, dresses, hats and shoes. It was awe‐inspiring.

But glitter was also coming on strong in the everyday wear in my own community. Sequins, paillettes, jewels, rhinestones, pearls, and beads were glamorizing everything from headbands to shoes and everything in between. The world seemed ready for a little glamour on needlepoint. I was eager to speed this transition from clothing to needlepoint.

The real turning point came for me when I observed that glittery items were becoming available at our TNNA trade show in the summer of 2011. It would make no sense to encourage our customers to bling up their canvases if the glittery materials were not available. Adding to such long time exhibitors like Mill Hill and Sundance, suddenly Beadsmith, the collection and Embellishments made dye cut sequins, rhinestones, pearls, and bugle beads easily accessible. Tools and supplies that usually were available only to jewelry designers were now part of the TNNA wholesale market. The timing seemed right to launch BLING, GLITZ AND GLAMOUR FOR NEEDLEPOINT. The record breaking sales on this little book has proven my theory to be correct. Best of all, Bling has brought younger people to our retail stores and given a fresh and youthful perspective to needlepoint. It is truly not your grandmother’s needlepoint any longer.

Q: Is it a book of projects, or more of a how-to, stitch-illustration book?
A: Amy Bunger once commented about my books. “June answers your questions even before you know what to ask.” I like that quotation and it is really true. Since my formal training is as an academic, I approach every topic with a need to know every detail. I learn so much from the research I give every subject. My books are not just a study of stitches. They are a glimpse into the products and techniques that will guarantee success to any stitcher of any level of experience. I hold the hand of the beginner and I challenge the most experienced. No, these are not project books, rather they are colorful user friendly inspirations for any painted canvas that is sold on the wholesale floor.

Q: What is “bling” in needlework?
A: Bling in needlepoint is merely the substitution of a glittery product such as a bead, sequin, rhinestone or jewel for a needlepoint stitch. The embellishment can be added on top of an already stitched area or it can substitute for a needlepoint stitch. In this way, the design can come to life with more glitter and sparkle.

Q: How are Kreinik threads used in the book?
A: Kreinik Metallic threads are the perfect companion to anything glittery. There are many stitches in the book that combine both.

Q: Do you have a favorite Kreinik thread?
A: What is my favorite Kreinik Thread? That is like asking a Mother who is her favorite child. You must know that I began using Kreinik materials so long ago that it was still called Balger. In fact, I can recall the days when a designer could call out a custom blend of the filaments to make up the #8 or #16 braid! I cannot imagine a canvas that cannot be improved with a little bit of Kreinik glamour. Kreinik Manufacturing is probably one of the most outstanding wholesalers in our needlepoint industry. Their products are without a doubt of consistent quality and well worth the investment of money and stitching time. OK, enough hesitation. If you forced me to choose only one product line, it would probably be the Kreinik #8. It is so versatile. I can withdraw a single filament to create a strong couching thread. I can double it to cover a 13 mesh canvas. It is the perfect choice to create a myriad of cross stitches on petit point. Yes, if I had to choose, I probably would grab my #8 Kreinik collection first. Second choice would be the ribbon threads because they create satin and long stitches like no other product. Finally I am dazzled by the immense collection of colors that Kreinik continues to bring to market. (I am so glad that you did not ask me for my favorite color because I could not choose.)

Q: Are the techniques in the book for beginners, advanced stitchers, or all levels?
A: My books are for all. Beginners get some gentle hand holding and the more advanced are challenged to become all that they can be.

Q: What is one main tip or suggestion for someone who may be hesitant to try bling on their needlework?
A: If you have ever worn an earring, a bracelet or a necklace, you already know the power of bling. A little dash of sparkle can greatly enhance any canvas. If a person is hesitant, there are less glittery alternatives. A seed pearl can add a touch of elegance. Re‐purpose a family keepsake broach to the top of the Christmas tree on baby’s stocking and suddenly the project becomes an heirloom. Add a tiny Czech glass bead to the center of a flower to resemble a splash of dew. Remember, all things in moderation. A little twinkle can go a long way. On the other hand, consider the advice often given by Miss Piggy...”More is definitely more!”


Q: Will you be teaching some of these techniques or any designs in the near future?
A: Yes, I have been teaching the Bling techniques in California at Old World Designs in Menlo Park, Monarch Knitting in Pacific Grove and several other locations. A Bling class was offered to retailers, teachers and designers at TNNA – Columbus. Melissa Shirley and I are currently collaborating on a Bling Kitty to match our Boo Kitty. If all goes as planned, Bling Kitty will be taught in the summer trade show, 2013.


Q: Where can stitchers get more information about your books or purchase them?
A: Thought you would never ask. If you are a retailer, my books are available to the trade at www.junemcknight.com or at Unicorn Books. If you are a retail customer, check with your local needlepoint store for a copy of your favorite June McKnight book. My web site lists the retail shops that support my endeavors. Alas, I do not sell directly to retail customers because I want to support small businesses in any way I can.

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