Hello crafty friends. My name is Kristi Bernstein and my needlework company is Salty Stitcher Designs. My YouTube channel name is also Salty Stitcher Designs. This site, blog, and YouTube channel will be about my journey in stitching cross stitch projects, cross stitch design, and the interesting people I come across in my journey to take photos worthy of cross stitch patterns. Here is my story:
I am a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and have spent six years at sea aboard Coast Guard Cutters and twenty years leading young men and women who conduct at-sea searches and rescues, inspect containers and gas ships, investigate at-sea boating accidents, and our law enforcement officers who keep us safe at sea and protect our living marine resources. You may be familiar with the term “Salty Dog” or “Old Salt” which, in this context, refers to an experienced sailor. As I advance in years in the service, not only am I a bit older but also a bit saltier. While it is true that I am an experienced sailor, I am also an experienced stitcher and loved the play on words. Hence the name Salty Stitcher.
I grew up in Miami and come from a multi-racial traditional family who dabbled in all manners of arts and crafts to include quilling, macramé, crochet, latch hook, string art, and cross stitch. My mom taught me to cross stitch when I was 16 and my first project still hangs in my family home. I loved the idea of starting a daunting project and the satisfaction of completing it. Fast forward 22 years, a few cross stitch kits completed, and many stressful tours of duty behind me, I found that I was like many hard working American’s moving from job-to-job, task-to-task, and going to bed at night wondering exactly what I had accomplished. I had very little time to be present, very little time to slow down, and my health suffered. There had to be a better way.
In May 2018, I was on an Oceania Cruise ship off the Australian coast and decided to attend a group stitching event coordinated by the cruise ship staff. I arrived at the Horizon’s Bar at the appointed time with my Aunt Judy who is an avid quilter and found the loveliest group of women, which included beginning stitchers and experienced needlework artists. A member of the Oceania entertainment staff offered me a free project kit that created a change purse. I found it charming, doable and, after some instruction and conversation from Aunt Judy on the finer points of continental and basket weave stitching, I furiously got to work on it by the pool. One day later, it was complete and I carved out time to go back to the daily stitching event with Aunt Judy in tow, and proudly showed off my work. The Oceanian staff member smiled and handed me another one. This time it was a sunglasses case. The same thing happened three days in a row until she eased me into an iPad case that took the remainder of the cruise to complete. When I started the first project, the gateway drug to stitching, I found myself “in the zone,” and obsessed with completing the project. The repetitive motion calmed my mind and slowed everything down. When I was finished with a block of stitching, I could re-enter the world with a new and calm perspective. I met several new people who stopped by the pool to see what I was working on and I learned about the incredible community of needlework artists that are out there.
Following the cruise, I went back to my high tempo job and sprinted through life counting the days to the next vacation. In January 2019, Aunt Judy and I were on another cruise off the coast of South Africa and ran into the same crew member who organized the stitching gatherings the previous year. I proudly showed her all of my finishes and along with my first Horizon’s Kit that I brought along for the cruise. Again, I was hooked. My needlepoint project stayed in my beach bag and went everywhere with me. During this cruise, it dawned on me that there may be an iOS application that would convert my travel photographs into cross stitch patterns. Indeed there was and I asked my husband, Brandon, if there was a photo that he would like me to stitch for him. He picked the most detailed picture from our recent safari. After downloading the application somewhere off the coast of Namibia, I started my first cross stitch photo conversion and design.
Ok, so ignorance is bliss right? Well, let me tell you, I am still working on this full coverage project two years later. TWO fracking years later….. There are so many errors. The picture is blurry since I used a free application. The back is at least ¼ inch thick of running stitches across pages and the 14-count Aida fabric, which I thought was the only fabric available, is way too small. Who knew you had to leave room to frame the darn thing. I left it in the hoop for months at a time so it is going to take an industrial strength press to get the wrinkles out. Brandon loves the piece so I soldier on with a goal of finishing it this year. It will forever be my first full coverage piece. However, there had to be a better way. It turns out, there is a whole community of hilarious floss tubers, brilliant designers, and fabulous needle work shops who are more than willing to offer tutorials, inspire with amazing designs, and share a genuine piece of their world that can sometimes be happy, sad, messy, and just life. We are not alone in our endeavor to navigate the world and the stitching community has been that constant reminder especially during the pandemic. Soon, one work in progress (WIP) turned into two, then three, then four, and if you are still hear reading this blog, I am in good company and feel comfortable telling you that, at my last count, there are seven WIPs. There are also a handful of fully finished objects (FFOs). Now I know that two years for a full coverage piece is the norm.
I started Salty Stitcher Designs in 2019 to share my photos and cross stitch designs derived from these photos with the community that has supported me so much and gave me a creative outlet from a high stress job. By no means am I a trained photographer or a high-end graphic designer. It is just me and my iPhone and over 1000 pictures from bucket list trips. All of my photos are my own and there are zero copyright concerns associated with them. I hope they inspire you as much as they did me.
Ok. I think now is a great time to tell you that I have a fear of cameras and speaking on camera, which has ranged from never turning a camera on while in a zoom meeting to running from an early family camcorder. My job as a Coast Guard Officer, media training, and a national pandemic has certainly helped me allay this fear but I believe the final frontier is to create my own content. For me, this is the equivalent to curing a fear of heights by skydiving. In order to expand my reach, I plan to overcome. I hope you can join me in this journey. To make things more enjoyable for you, I have asked my sister, Angelina, to join me. She owns her own homemade jewelry company, AshleyJaneMilan, and has graciously agreed to join for one or several episodes.
There are a hundred more tag questions that I can answer but I think that I will close this month’s blog with some of the Floss Tube creators that have inspired me over the last few years. I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks for being genuine and for being you. This list is not all encompassing as, like me, your subscription list probably well exceeds the time you have in a day to watch. Here it goes, in order of discovery:
- Stitching Jules – Your list of floss tube content creators and needlework shops is fantastic and perfect for a beginning stitcher. I also look forward to the bee updates each year.
- Just Keep Stitchin – Pam and Steph: I always learn something new about the stitching community and love your enthusiasm. I hope to join you at a stitchcon someday.
- Snug Harbor Crafts – I am reminded of the great interactions with my family and your videos bring me right back to the kitchen counter where the women in my family engage each other.
- Sunshine Stitchers – Shelia, EJ & Ron: I will take that cruise with you someday and will pay a visit to Gary and Ron’s LNS during my next visit home to South Florida
- Jan Hicks Creates –Jan: I am sorry we never got to meet in Hawaii. I love your creativity and use of color in your patterns.
- Teresa Little Stitcher – the patterns you choose are exquisite and I loved your multi-part tutorial episodes. You enabled me with the Chatelaine designs.
- Married with Stitches – You guys make my fortnight.
- Georgia Girl Stitching: Keep up the great work in medical school! We have the love for the ocean in common.
If this blog inspired you, please show your support by signing up for a monthly post on my website and while you are under no obligation, consider leaving a tiny gift via: www.buymeacoffee.com/SaltyStitcherD/. All proceeds will be funneled back into the business to create more content like this one. Time is your most valuable asset and I am honored that you took the time to spend it with me. Until next time.
 The views and opinions included in this blog belong to their author and do not mirror the views and opinions of the U.S. Coast Guard. If you are interested in joining the Coast Guard, visit: GoCoastGuard.com