Let's Meet: Jenny Henry Designs

Jenny and her daughter at Bexhill on Sea
Jenny and her daughter in Bexhill on Sea

A little while ago Jenny got in touch asking if I'd like to join a Needlepoint Designers Challenge group. Intrigued I said yes and eagerly awaited more info.

As things unfolded I learned Jenny of Jenny Henry Designs and Brooke of Thorn Alexander have brought together 13 of us to work on a Top Secret Design Challenge!
Don't worry, we'll be sharing what we make with you too...keep your eyes peeled for updates coming soon.

The idea behind the challenge is to bring needlepoint designers together, help us get to know each other and celebrate our passion for stitching. I'm a strong believer in community over competition. There is room for everyone in the sewing room and welcoming newbies to the craft with open arms is the best way to keep the craft we all love alive and thriving.

Over the next few months I'll be introducing you to this group of fantastic  designers so you can get to know this talented group of women who are striving to keep the world of needlepoint relevant and accessible. They'll be sharing insights into their creative processes, their designs and, why needlepoint is their passion!
Kicking off is Jenny of Jenny Henry Designs. Jenny produces beautiful kits for all abilities that have a timeless elegance and combine the natural world with geometric prints. Jenny's kits range from needlepoint cuffs, necklaces to clutch bags and pillows. So pour yourself a cuppa (I'm loving Liquorice and Chai) and settle in for a good dose of stitch-related fun.

Colourful needlepoint canvases Jenny Henry Designs is stitching
Jenny's beautiful works in progress

Can you share a little bit about your passion for needlepoint?

I started out painting needlepoint canvases when I went to work for Needlepoint Inc in San Francisco in 1997. At the time I was 23 and had just driven from our hometown in New York with a friend in the hopes of starting a new adventure.

In need of employment I answered an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle for a Needlepoint Painter and was hired. I started the day after Thanksgiving.

I worked there for the entire time that I lived out West. I learned how to paint canvases there and was responsible for creating designs, doing custom pieces and eventually managing a team of other artists. This was over 20 years ago.

I wasn’t immediately in love with needlepoint but I had studied painting in college and felt I should be grateful to at least be doing something with my skills. At the time I had no idea how lucky I was to be under the leadership of Diane Nerheim, owner of Needlepoint Inc. Her shop is like no other and she has been an innovator in the industry long before I started my stitching journey.

Why I love the craft has more to do with an inherited bent to the needle than it does to my actual education or exposure to it. It might sound a bit romantic but I think I was destined for the trade. I have had a fascination with textiles since I was very little and I think it was more a matter of serendipity that I ended up where I did.

Jenny Henry Designs handpainting seahorse design onto needlepoint canvas
Jenny hand paints the needlepoint canvas for you to stitch
When you started out your aim was to help restyle the world of needlepoint to encourage new stitchers who were put off by dated designs, something I believe you achieve really well. How has your mission evolved over the years?
In 2002 I left San Francisco, got married, moved to Baltimore and started my own line of needlepoint designs, “Jenny Henry Designs”and my main goal was to create designs that were more contemporary and would appeal to a new niche of stitchers. I created a line and attended a few TNNA trade shows and sold to a few shops wholesale all the while still doing custom work and working closely with Needlepoint Inc. as a freelance artist.

I had a strong desire to work to increase accessibility of the craft as well as help to build stronger unity amongst the designers in the trade and I had long believed that my future was going to be in creating kits and selling them to a new audience of stitchers, one that hadn’t really existed before. The British Designers seemed to already be doing that and doing it well and I wanted to meet them and learn more about the market there.

That trip changed everything for me. I was going to keep creating designs that I was excited about and pack them up as kits and eventually I told my husband, this is going to be a thing. I believed that people were going to want to stitch and they were going to want an easy and affordable entry into the craft. I wanted to be one of the ones to help make that happen.

Selection of Jenny Henry Designs Kits including geometric glasses cases, repeat pattern cushions and swans
A selection of kits by Jenny Henry Designs inc. cushions, glasses cases and cuffs

Around the same time I started putting all my energy into kits I signed up for different types of shows like The Bust Craftacular and the Maker Fairs. It became clear that I was going to need to educate my audience about needlepoint or I wasn’t going to make it very far. I tried my hand at beginner workshops and created a local Stitch and B*tch group comprised of mainly friends and neighbors. It started to catch on and last year we were in a feature piece for Baltimore Style Magazine! Read the feature, On Point to find out more.
Needlepointers sat at table working on their sewing projects at a Stich and B*tch group in Baltimore
Sewing in good company at Jenny's Stitch and B*tch group in Baltimore

What shape does your artistic practice take?
I’m currently developing a swallowtail butterfly design for a kit. It started with a cup of tea in my garden this past summer. I love butterflies. I planted loads of butterfly friendly plants and I sit and wait for them to visit. This guy was one of my regular visitors. I painted him this fall. The first draft was too small, so I enlarged it a bit for the version I am stitching. Once I have the sample finished I can launch the new kit design. It will probably be ready in the spring. 
Swallowtail butterfly collage showing the development from photo to idea to finished stitched needlepoint canvas
From sighting to finished design. Swallowtail Butterfly by Jenny Henry Designs

Other designs like the one in the latest X Stitch magazine started with a cicada carcass I found while walking my dog. On a good day, the ideas come to me but it is only when I am alone and it is quiet. I think they are always swimming around in my head but only come out onto canvas when I have perfect solitude. My workspace is in the center of our home so for now I only work while my kids are in school. My training in painting translates well to canvas painting. I can mix colors easily and often freehand it right onto canvas.
Dance of the cicadas needlepoint design by Jenny Henry Designs
Dance of the Cicadas by Jenny Henry Designs for X Stitch Magazine

Do you encourage your customers to put their own spin on your canvases?
Absolutely! I am always happy to change around colors for customers or work with them on a custom piece. There are many talented stitchers that have done amazing things with the canvases I paint. I think of myself as the first stage in a long creative process.

Like me, I know you love vintage pattern books, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt from vintage material?
Yes, I love vintage needlepoint books! It helps remind me that there have been many talented people that went before me and because of them I get to do what I do today. The most valuable lesson I learned from these books is to keep my own work as timeless as possible. Being on trend is not always the best way for needlepoint. These pieces take so long and are so costly to stitch and finish. I want the stitchers to not tire of them too quickly.
Three geometric and insect needlepoint cushions and a mini bee framed pictures by Jenny Henry Designs
Jenny's Top Sellers of 2018
The creative process involves experimentation and not all of our efforts can be hits, have you had any funny fails?
I created a plastic canvas floor poof once. The tutorial is on my blog and it was pretty popular for a bit but then my daughter would drag it up and down the stairs and one day it fell apart. Turns out plastic canvas isn’t that durable, not for floor poofs anyway.

Do you listen to podcasts or follow any YouTube channels?
I like Grace Bonney’s In the Company of Women and While She Naps podcasts. I also like listening to audio books while I work. I am currently listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama.

It’s time to share the love, who are your favourite indie designers?
I really like Molly Hatch, Anna Maria Horner and Kaffe Fassett.
Three floral needlepoint cushions by Kaffe Fassett, red floral cookware by Molly Hatch and bright patterned fabric by Anna Maria Horner
Top - Kaffe Fassett, Middle - Molly Hatch, Bottom - Anna Maria Horner

What sewing tips would you give a complete beginner?
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t worry about how the back looks. Start in the top right corner. Have fun.

I’ve been seeing posts about Stitch Club pop up on your Instagram, what is Stitch Club and how can we get involved?

The Stitch Clubs were started by a group out of Chicago. I don’t know their names but if you contact @stitchclubofficial on Instagram they can give you more information. It is exciting!

I did get in touch and I spoke with Alexandra Martin
who revealed all…over to Alexandra...

Stitch Club started because I noticed that a number of needlepoint "stitch and bitch" groups were popping up all over the country, having a great time needlepointing out and about and was inspired to start one in Chicago. At each meeting, more and more amazing ladies showed up and bonded over needlepoint (and cocktails)!

We were having so much fun, but as I posted about our gatherings I started receiving many messages from other followers asking if I knew of groups in other cities, and how to join or start one. We decided to create a group account for our Stitch Club here in Chicago with an easily replicable format to encourage others to join or start clubs.

I then messaged a couple stitchers in a few other cities to see if they would be interested in doing the same for their groups. Anna of @needlepointjunkie in Charleston, SC was the first to recognize the potential of Stitch Club and signed on to become our second official chapter. It quickly caught fire from there and Stitch Club Official was born. Kate of @kateneedlepoints and Stephanie of @snelsonstitches, both in our local Chicago chapter, joined in to help field the incredible volume of inquiries and create custom logos for each chapter.
Stitch Club Baltimore orange logo with crab

It is now an organization with local chapters all over the world, striving to elevate the needlepoint community as a whole. By creating a structured network of cities that support, welcome, and encourage each other, we believe that this will be a fun way to spread the joy of needlepoint in individual communities all over the world and bring people together.

We hope that by creating an all-inclusive community all will benefit in the long run, and there’s room for all of us at the stitching table!

If you're interested in getting involved, follow @stitchclubofficial on Instagram to see if there is a chapter near you.

If not, simply DM
@stitchclubofficial for more information on your local area and next steps!
Thank you so much Jenny and Alexandra for chatting with me today, it's been a real treat.
Victorian Posy Round Needlepoint Necklace by Jenny Henry Designs
Victorian Posy Pendant Kit by Jenny Henry Designs

I'm going to end this post with my favourite kit that Jenny makes, these beautiful needlepoint pendants. I think these are a great starter project because they're easily achievable and something you can wear everyday to remind yourself of your accomplishment. 

This is a Victorian styled posy but they come in lots of different designs so there's one to suit everyone!

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Jenny as much as I did. Next time we'll be meeting Brooke of Thorn Alexander. Update: Meet Brooke now over at Let's Meet Brooke of Thorn Alexander!

I love hearing from you, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

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Until next time, Happy Stitching!

Shannan, Bobbin and Fred xX

Fred the Goat kindly asking you to share this post with your friends


  1. Lovely interview, I'm looking forward to meeting the other needlepoint designers in Jenny's club 😊 I also strongly believe in community over competition and it's wonderful to read about Stitch Club, which was totally new to me. I haven't done needlepoint in many years and have never worked with a painted canvas, but I love Jenny's Swallowtail Butterfly 🦋

    1. Thank you so much, I'm so pleased you enjoyed getting to know Jenny...and, I'm looking forward to sharing them with you! Stitch Club sounds so good, it'd be fab if there's one local to you :) Oh that's lovely to know, I hope Jenny's Swallowtail lures you back to needlepoint, hehe xo


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