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Engaging a New Generation of Stitchers

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, August 10, 2017
Updated: Thursday, August 10, 2017

Engaging a New Generation of Stitchers

 By Beth Woolbright

A significant part of our mission at San Francisco School of Needlework and Design (SNAD) is to ensure hand embroidery’s future, which logically includes attracting new generations to this heritage craft.  Some people are under the impression that embroidery is old-fashioned, but one merely needs to look at fashion trends to see that stitch embellishment is en trend, and on a resurgence.  DIY-ers may start with YouTube videos; they often yearn to learn more.

Since SNAD opened its doors to the public last year, we have had some success in reaching younger adult audiences outside the traditional needlework world.  We use Facebook and Instagram often, as well as online community calendars and vibrant needlework examples on our website to generate excitement.  

For the students new to embroidery, we offer a three-hour Bite-size Embroidery for Beginner class with a choice of eight patterns, including a cat, cactus, sugar skull or owl.  To target the young and hip for these classes, SNAD CEO Ellice Sperber says, we have “simple silhouettes and shapes that fit into today’s social context.”  Studen
ts are given freedom to stitch however they like with the basic stitches they learn in the class.  As Ellice puts it, these fun, modern designs “give them the confidence to take the daylong classes in SNAD’s introductory series,” where they have a choice of a traditional or a contemporary pattern on a particular subject.  (SNAD’s contemporary giraffe design has over 800 followers on Facebook!)

Bringing guest instructors from the fashion industry is also a draw.  Our evening classes with Brooklyn-based artist Marie-Sophie Lockhart sold out.  For these events, the mostly millennial students sipped wine and stitched denim patches—or their own jeans—with her straightforward yet spirited—even tattoo-influenced—designs.  On her next visit, students can design with her to embellish other pieces of their wardrobe such as a hat or sneakers. 

We also take projects into the community as well as host community events here at the school.  For World Embroidery Day, on July 30, local park visitors were encouraged to celebrate by adding their own vibe to a giant 10 x 10 foot peace symbol, constructed entirely from repurposed jean pant legs. SNAD staff and volunteers were around to hand out needles, colored thread and applique shapes as well as to share embroidery wisdom.  Delighting us all, many young girls and boys were particularly smitten with adding their stitching to the project.  After learning a few basics, like running stitch and back stitch, they were thrilled to be able to add to their own designs.  

We regularly stay engaged with our audience on social media and with our students who come into SNAD. Building relationships and learning what matters to our community helps drive the programs we develop to offer content that appeals to students both new to the needle and experienced with the needle, as well as creating a context that is ageless for a time-honored craft.


About SNAD

San Francisco School of Needlework and Design was founded in 2015 by passionate embroiderers, Lucy Barter and Ellice Sperber. Ms. Barter was trained as an apprentice at the Royal School of Needlework in England and ran their courses in the United States for eight years. Ms. Sperber earned her Diploma at the Royal School of Needlework. The two met during the US-based courses and began envisioning a school of needlework that was not only based in the United States, but would bring a fresh and modern creativity to the art form.

The organization's goal is to inspire the next generation of hand-embroidery artisans, building on traditional knowledge with updated skill sets, expanded technical abilities and a fluent understanding of the vast methods.

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