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Annemiek Koning inherited her talent for handwork from both her parents, Henk and Reina. Reina is an accomplished seamstress, who sewed her daughter's clothes. She also taught Annemiek how to knit, crochet and make bobbin lace. When her parents moved to their current home, they spent 15 years remodeling their small farmhouse themselves. Annemiek reports, "The house in incredible now; it is hard to believe that the first winter we lived there, the roof was so bad that we had snow in the attic."
She inherited from them as well her intense drive for perfection. Annemiek relates, "I used to knit one sweater each summer and winter. My mom would encourage me to do it as perfectly as possible. When we were on vacation I was crocheting a sweater. When I was almost done with one part, it turned out to be too small. My mom left it up to me to decide what to do, but I couldn't imagine working on something that wouldn't fit in the end. So I ripped the part I had worked on and she rewound the cotton. I still want my projects to be as perfect as possible."
An early childhood memory of Annemiek's is an amusing one, "One of the things I remember clearly was that I got a little poodle when I was 4. It was so small that people thought I was walking a toy instead of a real dog!" She was born in Rotterdam, a port city of Holland. Until 5 years of age she lived with her parents and a brother, 3 years older, in a small village nearby.
The family then moved to the northern part of the Netherlands. It was there that Annemiek began to discover all kinds of crafts. She explains, "My mom taught me how to stitch and my first project was a bookmark on Aida with a running stitch. After that I moved on to stitching little designs for Christmas cards on Aida. My fascination for Christmas has never ended and even now when I look at what I have stitched most, it's either Christmas or winter designs."
When Annemiek's mother's 50th birthday was approaching, she wanted to make her a special gift. She selected a sampler from a book and went to the needlework shop to select fabric and floss, where she decided on antique rose colors, as they were a favorite of Reina's. The linen she used is called "kaaslinnen" (cheese linen) since it was originally used in the process of making cheese. Annemiek worked on the sampler for almost 5 months. Every day after school while she pretended to be doing her homework, she was actually working on the sampler. Her mother never had a clue about what she was up to. On her mother's birthday she presented the finished sampler and they still laugh about her mother's initial thought, "Oh, what if she selected a painting I don't like?" Luckily it wasn't a painting and the sampler has been hanging in the kitchen/living room area of their home ever since.
Designed by Margit Reij
and Stitched by Annemiek
for her Mother's 50th Birthday
That sampler hooked Annemiek for good on cross-stitching. She states, "I started stitching more and more, neglecting my other crafts. I moved from Aida to Jobelan and the linen we had available in the Netherlands." It was while Annemiek was still in college that she became a member of the Dutch Sampler Guild and was introduced to samplers. She reminisces, "When I came back from one of their annual meetings I was so inspired by all that I had seen, that I started a sampler right away. It is still one of my favorites and it has a nice spot in the living room."
Once Annemiek acquired a computer and had access to the Internet, a whole new world opened up. She had no idea that there were so many overdyed threads, such different patterns, so many colors of fabric or that you could even add beads or charms to your stitching. She says, "Let's say I was very happy to have a credit card and be able to order materials on line! Apart from the materials that were now available to me, the Internet also introduced me to some wonderful friends. I have been lucky enough to have met quite a few of them, even more than once. It is amazing how stitchers all around the world, speak the same language."
Before venturing into the design business, Annemiek had been designing parts for round robins and had already designed an occasional sampler. So she decided to give designing a serious try a little over two years ago. A shop owner in TN organized a retreat that summer and asked Annemiek if she would design something for the occasion. That's when The Needle's Content was officially born.
Of her designs Annemiek says, "They reflect the past and represent the present in order to leave a legacy for the future." She aims for her designs to have a modern look, while being inspired by antique samplers. Annemiek believes strongly in the importance of preserving handwork projects for the future. She continues, "Samplers have been part of our history for so long that we need to make sure that future generations can enjoy them as well as the projects we stitch during our lifetime."
Apart from Annemiek's "sampler style" designs, she also creates more whimsical ones. The 2002 Scissors Fob Collection is a good example. For each month of the year she has designed a different scissosr fob that is quick to stitch and easy to finish. This year Annemiek is designing a different tin cover for each month.
Annemiek also relishes experimenting with different ways of finishing the projects. She clarifies, "I really enjoy designing stitching smalls, accessories that you can use for your stitching supplies. Or even functional designs like the pillowcase, which is one of the latest releases or The Stitcher's Travel Pouch. I always try to include clear instructions in the leaflets so that stitchers can do the finishing themselves. It is sometimes a challenge, but luckily my mother is more than happy to lend a hand."
Annemiek was introduced to the Caron threads in the mid 90's.
It was the first time she had even heard of overdyed threads
and barely any shops had them in stock. Whenever she was near
one she would stop in and pick up a new color. She adds, "What
I really like is the variety in threads. You can use the Watercolours
on low counts, the Wildflowers on 28 counts and the Waterlilies
on the high counts."
Annemiek's Online Class for her Spanish Geometrical Tin Cover this month uses Soie Cristale threads. She says, "I must admit this was the first time I used them, but it will definitely not be the last. The solid silks are so wonderful to stitch with and they're the exact same thickness as the Waterlilies. Personally, I think they make a great combination with the Waterlilies and the beads." The tin cover is inspired by the layout of Spanish samplers, in which the bands keep growing and growing. If you like this design, be sure to check out Annemiek's Charlotte 2003 release of a Spanish Geometrical Sampler.
Annemiek's design inspiration comes in various ways and forms. She explains, "It is sometimes hard to say where I got the idea for a certain design. The Tulips and Birds design was the result of a course I had to do for my work. We were staying in a conference room that had some really neat artwork on the wall. One of them had the lay out of Tulips and Birds, a center square, a band around it and another band that was divided into little parts. I really liked how the layout looked and made a sketch of it. Seven months later Tulips and Birds was released."
Annemiek's designs are available directly from her or through her distributor, Norden Crafts. Currently, she is working on some ideas for trunk shows. As it is difficult to ship framed pieces across the ocean, she is working on alternatives. This year Annemiek will be teaching at Charlotte for the first time. One class is on finishing small designs, the other about darning. She adds, "I am really excited about this. Other class projects are on the drawing board, but haven't been finished yet."
Apart from designing, Annemiek also runs a needlework mail order business and a part-time retail needlework shop located in her parents' home. She is still also employed as head of the Communications department for the Faculty of Economics in Groningen. She confesses, "It is sometimes a bit hectic, but my parents are always willing to help out. And fortunately I have model stitchers who do an incredible job, thus freeing me to come up with new ideas. And Miss Murphy, her cat, oversees all activities, quite literally."
Annemiek's designs are also available from Norden Crafts
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