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Welcome Stitchery welcomes two Italians


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Isabella Abbiati, right, and Elisabetta Borgomainerio, left, from Italy, were visiting Blue Earth for several days, and led a class at Welcome Stitchery on March 8 and 9.

Justine Hougen, owner/operator of Blue Earth’s Welcome Stitchery, explains the cross stitch community is a ‘close-knit’ group.

So close-knit, in fact, that the threads that bind them span oceans.

Recently, Hougen’s connection with an Italian cross stitch designer, Isabella Abbiati, resulted in the stitching celebrity’s arrival in Blue Earth.

Abbiati’s company, The Primitive Hare, is a well-known name in the world of cross stitching. So, it was an exciting development when Abbiati lead a class at Welcome Stitchery on Friday and Saturday, March 8-9, with the help of model stitcher Elisabetta Borgomainerio.

The pair’s native country is Italy, but they are quite accustomed to traveling to the United States.

“She (Abbiati) has been to more states than I have,” Hougen laughs.

In fact, Hougen met Abbiati and Borgomainerio at a cross stitch market in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hougen attends the Nashville Needlework Market every year. It is a large affair during which talented cross stitch designers flood four floors of an Embassy Suites.

Hougen typically visits the market to connect with designers and find new patterns to order for Welcome Stitchery.

“Designers will show what they’ve been doing the past three years or so, and you can do pre-orders,” she explains.

Hougen met Abbiati and Borgomainerio at the market in 2023, and the trio struck up a conversation about collaborating on a design for Welcome Stitchery.

“She (Abbiati) wanted to do something Minnesota,” Hougen recalls.

Eventually, Abbiati designed a pattern that was, truly, everything Minnesota. The state’s founding date, 1858, spans the top of the design, surrounded by a cluster of stars. The motto ‘L’Etoile du Nord’ is set just below.

The remainder of the canvas is filled with other Minnesota symbols such as the state butterfly, the Monarch, and the pink and white lady slipper, the state’s flower.

Impressed, Hougen inquired about a loon-inspired design, as multiple clients had entered her shop looking for something featuring Minnesota’s state bird.

“She did it, and it’s beautiful,” Hougen says, gesturing to a large, intricate pattern with a loon shown in profile.

Both the loon and the Minnesota design will be offered exclusively at Welcome Stitchery starting in May.

“They will be exclusive to us forever,” Hougen adds.

And, when Abbiati and Borgomainerio visited Welcome Stitchery at the beginning of March, class attendees were gifted complimentary patterns of both designs ahead of the public.

The students were also able to ask Abbiati and Borgomainerio questions about the patterns at the class. However, they were most curious about the Italian duo’s life in Italy.

“We wanted to know the differences between the United States and Italy in the cross stitch world,” Hougen explains.

Abbiati told the class that cross stitch is much more popular in the United States than it is in Italy. In fact, The Primitive Hare has a larger client base in America than it does in Abbiati’s home country.

“A person who’s been cross stitching for a long time knows The Primitive Hare,” Hougen confirms.

She explains that The Primitive Hare’s designs frequently incorporate old-fashioned features, like intricate calligraphy. Animals also feature prominently in many of the patterns.

Welcome Stitchery will continue to collaborate with Abbiati through a quarterly needle book club which will be starting at the end of March.

Abbiati has several needle book designs which the club can try their needles at, and she has also offered to design a special needle book pattern for the club.

“She’s going to design one for the end of December that we’re all going to vote on,” Hougen says. “That was decided in the class on Friday because she has so many wonderful needle books – we all like something new.”

Hougen says she enjoys inviting guest artists to Welcome Stitchery. Indeed, she has a beginning Hardanger class and a vintage sampler Hardanger class scheduled with Julie Norton on April 13 and April 27.

Cathy Lounsbury will also be visiting on May 17-18 to teach an embroidery class, and Mary McGuire will instruct a two-day needlepoint class on June 28-29.

Hougen says Norton and Lounsbury might be familiar names to stitchers who are involved in the online cross stitch community.

“Both Julie and Cathy have YouTube channels,” she explains.

According to Hougen, the cross stitch community’s online presence has boomed over the past few decades.

“It’s a whole new world than it was 20 or 30 years ago,” she observes. “The YouTube Flosstube community is huge, and that’s where we get to meet a lot of people.”

‘Flosstube’ is a community of creators on YouTube who post videos about stitching. Hougen herself is a member – she regularly posts on YouTube via her own Flosstube channel, ‘Welcome to Wips & Sips.’

Hougen’s online presence creates opportunities for more collaborations with designers, such as Abbiati.

Welcome Stitchery’s upcoming collaborations include a special design by Ink Circles for the store’s open house in July, and an exclusive holiday ornament pattern which will debut at Welcome Stitchery during the Holiday Sampler.

“This year, Hello from Liz Mathews will release that one,” Hougen says.

She figures the more collaborations Welcome Stitchery can arrange, the better.

“We learn something new from everybody,” Hougen explains. “It’s fun to get with your stitching family.”

For more information about Welcome Stitchery’s upcoming events and classes, visit the store’s website at welcomestitchery.com, or call 507-426-2006.

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