Ehrman Tapestry has been creating, “Imaginative and Stylish Needlepoint Kits for Over 30 Years”. Over Easter break while visiting with my folks in Chestertown, Maryland I popped into Ehrman Tapestry’s US business headquarters. This is an office space only and not open to pedestrians so it was an absolute gift to get in and be able to chat with Laura about the business. It is a busy place where they field all US orders and inquiries. The space itself despite being all business and no retail is loaded with beautiful canvases strewn about and pinned to walls all over for reference. I snapped a picture of this tapestry above. The design is by Kaffe Fasset and is of a canal street in Lyon. This lovely wall hanging is part of a limited edition series and is fully stitched and ready to hang on your wall. Buy it here. The creation canvases pinned to the wall below are part of a stunning series by designer Alex Beattie where he interprets each day of creation into a beautiful needlepoint canvas. You can buy these here.
I had a million questions but for the sake of keeping this post readable I am going to stick to the basics. So, how did Hugh Ehrman get drawn into the needlework biz anyway? He responds to this so eloquently via email from his London headquarters.
I worked for a time at Vogue in London where I became interested in British crafts. I had always intended to open a shop and British crafts became the focus. We stocked work by a number of leading designers one of whom was Kaffe Fassett. I met Kaffe when I was at Vogue and he talked us into doing a needlepoint kit. I had never heard of a needlepoint kit but we were looking for a manufactured product to balance the one-off pieces in the shop and Kaffe’s embroidery kit fitted the bill. We marketed it by mail order and it was a great success. The next two were less successful but we stuck with it and after a year the kits settled into a regular business. I ran the company in those days with my brother Richard and we decided to focus on the needlepoint kits for two main reasons. There were never going to be enough needlepoint stitchers to open a chain of shops but Richard realised there were enough up and down the country to support a niche needlework mail order business. We had also discovered that you could sell this product from a picture. That appealed particularly to me as my background was visual and I had been connected with photographers from my time at Vogue. Another successful part of our shop was fashion jewellery and we considered going that route. The fact that we were already producing needlepoint kits was the deciding factor as well as the fact that we enjoyed working with Kaffe – particularly his sense of humour. So that was how I got started in this business and like a lot of start ups it was as much serendipity as careful business planning. Two years later we branched into knitting kits again with Kaffe who had discovered a new yarn company called Rowan who were happy to produce his yarns.
And just who is Kaffe Fassett? When I think of needlepoint icons, a handful of names come to mind and Kaffe is definitely at the top of that list. He has written numerous books on the topics and hosts workshops worldwide. You can learn more about Kaffe here. Meanwhile, here is a close up of one of his rug designs printed onto canvas that measures 8 holes per inch which will stitch up delightfully quick. Kaffe’s work represents its own genre in needlepoint design. He really embraces the graphic elements of a needlepoint canvas so that when his designs are complete they almost seem to shimmer. Each color has been thoughtfully placed with great consideration to color and composition. There is a pleasant timelessness to his work as well as a cohesive thread (pun intended) that ties together his earliest work with his more recent designs.
The process of creating the Ehrman Needlepoint kits themselves is particularly intriguing. In a world where fewer and fewer things are being created by hand it is refreshing to see a company that holds true to the old way of doing things. Canvases are printed through an intensive many stepped process that employs the work of skilled artisans and wools are created by combining wool from two different areas Australia (for smoothness) and the Falkland Islands (for durability). Once the raw wool is gathered and processed it is sent off to Yorkshire England where it is spun and processed some more and then finally dyed into a wide range of colors to match the Ehrman color palette which is extensive. The hand printed canvases are then matched up with their coordinating wool which are cut and bundled by humans (not machines) . All this to create one glorious kit for you to stitch.
Please take some time to peruse their website here. An Ehrman tapestry kit would make a great mother’s day gift!