Cynthia Zittel refers to her home in Steamboat Springs, CO as "a dream come true." She is an avid gardener, but is constrained in her outdoor gardening endeavors by living high up in the mountains. Gardening on her linen imposes no such constraints, offering limitless possibilities.
Cynthia has been designing needlework charts and kits since 1994, specializing in sophisticated, traditional designs that are both fun and challenging to stitch. Her first sale was a Christmas stocking designed for her daughter, Hana, which she took to her local shop. Her motivation was to earn additional money for Christmas gifts. After that, Cynthia says, "I just kept designing and took my work to Charlotte Market in 1995."
Cynthia was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pa. She attended college in Ohio and studied painting, photography, design and art history. After graduating from the Dayton Art Institute, with a BFA in Fine Arts, Cynthia moved to Los Angeles. She was an avid photographer for some time and worked as a photo editor. After that she moved into the graphic design and typography fields for 20 years.
Cynthia's upbringing and education are intricately bound to her evolution into needlework designer. Her mother was an accomplished French hand seamstress, machine sewer and crafter. French Hand sewing entails smocking, applying lace with entredeux, hand-rolled narrow hems, etc. It is generally used for making heirloom garment such as christening gowns. Cynthia's father was a graphic artist and printer. Her own childhood pursuits included drawing, painting and crafts. She learned to sew when she was eleven and has been engaged in needlework of one kind or another ever since.
Cynthia quit graphic design when pregnant with her first child, daughter Hana. Her mother taught her French hand sewing and Cynthia made dresses for Hana until she was five and wouldn't wear them anymore. Looking for a new hobby, Cynthia discovered counted cross-stitch. What fascinated her most were antique samplers. She began doing counted cross-stitch using designs by others but quickly began to incorporate her own ideas and colors. Soon she was designing her own.
Cynthia's design inspirations stem primarily from her love of nature and literature, most especially the romantic English poets. Cynthia adds, " Sometimes a poem will inspire a design, sometimes a design will suggest a versenowadays great inspiration comes from the beautiful environment in which I am so lucky to live. The mountains and wildflowers are a constant source of joy and inspiration." Aside from reading, other favorite pastimes are hiking and gardening
Cynthia's design style is definitely eclectic. She elaborates, "I try to continue to change and grow in my work, constantly being inspired by new things and responding to those things with 'appropriate' designsI try to modify my style to the subject or the inspiration. I feel uncomfortable doing the same things over and over and like to 'move on' as soon as I feel I have accomplished a 'visual' goal." Often Cynthia uses Caron threads in her work. She maintains, "The give me a larger palette and a more manageable one. The threads mimic nature well in their variations. I like to use them for floral motifs, trees, water etc. because they are never the same, much as these elements in nature are never the same." Cynthia continues, "People seem to respond to the colors and textures of the work. They like it that the designs are always fairly traditional...but with a modern twist."
(to be released later this year)
Cynthia has embarked on an ambitious long-term project, one which she is creating just for personal satisfaction. She explains, "I don't think they will be released. They are tiny one-of-a-kind landscapes, intended as 'stand alone' worksThey are very representational, using tent stitch and lots of other stitches, to give color variation and texture. I hope to be able to exhibit them some day, but they are extremely time consuming 'works in progress.' Perhaps when I retire?"
Cynthia has a definite philosophy about teaching needlework. She explains, "I am trying to re-think classes as a way of learning needlework. They are a bit too structured to allow anyone substantial creative involvementMy main goal is to help people understand that needlework has the potential to be a very creative and liberating experience. As an artist/teacher, I would like help people find more creative freedom in this craft, as opposed to just teaching them to stitch the patterns I have designed. I would like to see everyone have the joy and satisfaction that I feel when I am able to express, through my needlework, my vision of the world." The joy Cynthia feels is confirmed buy a close colleague, "When you have conversations with Cynthia and she is on a roll and is working on something that just makes her heart singit is very easy to hear that in her voice."
Cynthia's most recent designs include The Sanctuary, Sampler Game Board and Little Learning Band the Acorn. Elegant Stitch proprietor, Lois, an ardent supporter of The Drawn Thread and designers in general, relates, "When it [The Sanctuary] was released last spring, it was one of those designs that takes your breath awaythe thread packs, linen and of course the chart have become our number one all time best seller." Though Cynthia's designs have always been popular with her customers, Lois admits, "I truly believe that Sanctuary just blew everybody right off the face of the map. I had some inkling that the piece was coming and just from hearing her [Cynthia] talk about it...I knew it had to be beyond spectacular".
Cynthia plans on releasing some new designs in mid-August. A miniature clock, a birth sampler, a needlework notebook and a little blackwork pillow. She is also engaged in preparing a book of stitch diagrams with a sampler to go with Sampler of Stitches. The Drawn Thread office has just completed a move from Denver to Steamboat Springs. Cynthia says excitedly, "I think I've finally found the perfect home for the Drawn Thread. A tiny house with a lovely yard and a stained glass front door, right on Soda Creek." Living in Steamboat Springs is literally Cynthia's "dream come true." She adds, "Hopefully for good. I know I don't ever want to leave."
(to be released later this year)
All of Cynthia's designs are distributed to the trade through her company, The Drawn Thread, and are available to the public through numerous needlework retailers. Cynthia urges stitchers to support their local needlework shops. She stresses, "By supporting your local shop you insure that it will remain a valuable resource, not just for supplies, but for up to date information on the latest products, technical stitching support, creative inspiration and camaraderie."
Cynthia's reaction to her success is exuberant, "I am thrilled at the response to my designs. I never anticipated their popularity. I think people like them because they are different and well thought out. I always try to take a new approach to every design. If I get bored with something, I know my customers will feel likewise, so I know if my interest in a design or technique is high, theirs will be too."
For Cynthia's Teaching and Trunk Show schedule, visit the Drawn Thread Website.
CARON email: firstname.lastname@example.org