Above: Left to right, Haden Winbourne, Terry Epstein, Pam Cornutt, Anna Mershon, Cheryl Weiss and Mary Ellen Fishburn visit while working on their needlepoint projects at InStitches. All photos by Isadora Pennington
On a drizzly Tuesday afternoon, a cozy Buckhead needlepoint shop buzzes with activity. The phone rings time and again, and every few minutes another customer walks through the door to InStitches, greeting staff members by name.
The shop’s walls are filled with embroidery designs and spools of thread. Laughter and conversation can be heard from a back room, where a group of older adults sit together and work on their projects.
“This isn’t work, it’s pleasure. It’s something that we want to do,” explained Gail Dubler, a crafter who frequents the shop each Tuesday with a group of friends.
The regulars chat and socialize while supporting one another in their creative projects. Discussions span matters ranging from technical assistance to everyday life.
“We make such great friends here,” said Anna Mershon, and the room echoed with affirmation.
“Lifelong friends,” Cheryl Weiss concurred.
“We have a blast,” said Pam Cornutt, “It’s the highlight of my week.”
The workspace is free for the group to use, when not booked for a class or workshop, to get encouragement, support and technical assistance from one another and the shop staff.
Jeanene Weiner, the owner of InStitches, bought the business in 2013. She has crafted with thread since she was a small child. The daughter of a seamstress, Weiner has extensive experience with hand sewing, cross stitch, embroidery and other needlework techniques.
Weiner’s goal is to help stitchers with their needlepoint, and to encourage others to try it for themselves, no matter their experience level.
It’s not unusual to see groups of mostly seniors working on projects at the shop, but Weiner says she’s pleased when younger people come in to learn needlepoint. “We try to encourage young people because we don’t want it to fizzle out,” she said. “We’re always happy to help.”
While newcomers might feel intimidated or worry that their skills aren’t good enough, the staff at InStitches says that anyone can learn how to make works of their own. “You’re never too old to learn,” Weiner continued, “because that’s what keeps you young.”
Needlepoint is considered a ‘heritage craft,’ an activity which requires manual dexterity and skill, as well as the understanding of traditional materials and techniques, to make useful things. In another sense, needlepoint becomes a ‘heritage craft,’ because there are few resources to learn these skills. Many needleworkers learned from their parents and grandparents, and they share a drive to pass along their knowledge to others.
The handmade pieces made by loved ones often become family treasures. As Weiner puts it, “people want to be remembered.” She notes that she has some handmade pillowcases and gifts from her mother that she treasures to this day.
“It’s something that lasts,” crafter Barbara Melich said. Along with Dubler, she’s a new member to the Tuesday group.
“We’re learning so much,” she said. While the two admit they have room to grow in their techniques, they also celebrate the successes of finishing small projects. “When you finish something, it’s awesome,” said Dubler. “It’s such a good feeling.”
In addition to offering supplies and tools, the shop offers important social connections for needlepoint artists. Weiner recalls asking a room full of crafters if any of them had lived through cancer, and nearly all of them raised their hands.
People undergoing cancer treatments often benefit from having something to keep their hands and minds busy.
“They just stitched their way through it,” said Weiner with admiration.
Weiner wants the shop to serve as a resource for everyone who’d like to try or already enjoys the art of needlepoint, and in a larger sense, she hopes to play a part of keeping the craft alive.
“We’re thrilled that Jeanene has given us such a wonderful place to work,” said Cheryl Weiss, looking up briefly from her needlepoint project.
Stitching Is Good for You
It’s common knowledge among needlework enthusiasts that stitching can be very relaxing. Proof of it has been documented by Dr. Herbert Benson, pioneer in a mind/body medicine and author of “The Relaxation Response,” published in 2000. Benson says that the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state, similar to that associated with meditation.
In fact, embroidery and other needlecrafts offer many health benefits. Not only do they provide an outlet for creativity, offer socialization and strengthen hand-eye coordination, they also:
- Lift the spirits, according Barry Jacobs, Ph.D., of Princeton University in his 1998 research on depression;
- Relieve stress, as stated by a 2007 paper by the Programs in Occupational Therapy of Columbia University in New York;
- Protect cognitive function, as suggested by a 2011 Mayo Clinic study;
- And can even reduce the risk of dementia, a result found by a 1995 study conducted in Université de Bordeaux II, France.