Friday, July 1, 2011

San Francisco's Glorious Telegraph Hill and a Tale of New Life in Stitchery

Looking down from Telegraph Hill toward the Golden Gate.  The bridge is off in that cloud bank, upper right.

Linda Mendenhall, of Old World Designs in Menlo Park, California, arranged for a group of her stitchery customers--and who am I to pass up a chance to go to SF and not have to drive!--to take a field trip to San Francisco on Thursday.  It was all so we could meet Maggie Thompson and Gail Downing, two entrepreneurs who shared friendship, loss, and a happy new direction when they started a needlepoint business together.

I think Dashiell Hammett must have once lived right around the corner ...

Maggie lives in an amazing townhouse in San Francisco's Telegraph Hill neighborhood, where we gathered to see her latest canvases.  It is the kind of place lots of us dream about living, with its views of San Francisco Bay and its cozy rooms--just the thing for cocooning on The City's foggy nights.

Better yet, since it wasn't foggy but fine, it has a sunny garden--a secret feature of many San Francisco townhouses--where we could lunch and look at Maggie and Gail's latest canvases, in what is known in the trade as a trunk show.

Designer Maggie Thompson, at right, with her cool banana necklace and her Bakelite bracelets, smiling as her customers look through her latest designs.

Sitting in the sun, looking at needlepoint and dreaming of new projects.

This old San Francisco garden has room for an ancient lemon tree and a more modern gas grill.  It also has a bougainvillea almost as big as your house, all invisible from the street.

Maggie and Gail are both widowed, and when Maggie was laid off from her job of more than thirty years, she made the decision to do something very American.  She decided to try to make a living at something she loved. Together, the two women went in search of interesting designs for hand painted needlepoint canvases--a hot trend in the U.S.  With the help of Linda, the retailer who owns Old World Designs, they learned the ins and outs of licensing, found a company to do their production, and invented their new careers.

Here's one of their canvases, called "Ruthie"© from the artist Frank Bielec.

Their Web Site (at the end of this piece) is the place to learn more about their products, any of which can be ordered from a needlepoint or stitchery store near you. I enjoyed the other stitchers on the bus trip--from the one who judges cat shows (and has her own "stitchery room" eh gad!) to the one who is a fanatic about cupcake bakeries, to the math professor with the son who composes music for Disney movies.  What an interesting, intelligent bunch!

But most of all it seemed to me a story about renewal. How two friends made it through great loss--which life gives us all--and came out the other end with new lives and new strength in a business they loved.  Their work makes others happy too--count me among them.

If I had been wearing a hat, I would have taken it off to them.

A Maggie Co. needlepoint canvas "Fun in the Sun"© from the artist Renie Britenbucher. Cheers!

Maggie Co. Needlepoint Designs

Linda's Old World Needlepoint Store

Add to 
Google Reader or Homepage
Subscribe to Robin Chapman News


peretzklein said...

I went to Frisco with my wife Patty in the 90's. She passed away 11 years ago, but the picture brings back memories of the smell of the bay, and the sumptuous taste of fresh crab. Wish I had a time machine....

Robin Chapman said...

I believe this is how we travel through time--in our memories. You'll be home soon!