Stefani Tadio Fairport NYI barely remember life before needlework. My mother Norma started my sister Gretchen and me on pulling thick yarn through cardboard pictures. As young teens, we needle pointed the backgrounds on canvases pre-stitched with birds — a cardinal for me, a bluebird for Gretchen. Sounds simple – pulling one color in the same stitch over and over but I loved the precision and identical slant of each stitch.

Over the years, I grew into many kinds of needlework. Both of my grandmothers were quilters so I grew up sleeping under the simple beauty of their quilts. I loved the repeating patterns and the way the colors folded into one another. As adults, Gretchen and I made quilts for our parents using the traditional method of piecing by hand and hand-quilting, never by machine.

I took up cross stitch, continuously reaching for more complex patterns on smaller gauge fabric. I also loved paper, so I tried rubber stamping because I can’t draw a darn thing. Then a turning point: I saw a book about paper embroidery by Erica Fortgens. Even though it was in Dutch, I understood the technique and I was in awe of what could be done with paper and thread.

My mind works one way: symmetrical, balanced, organized. Initially, I created patterns by folding circles in half, half again, then half again. Using a compass for placement, I punched holes on my cardstock circles with a push pin. It was tedious and hard on the fingers but it worked.

Then one glorious day, the Klic-n-Kut Groove-E (by Accugraphic) came into my life. This computerized cutting machine works exactly the way my brain thinks. It has such a tiny blade that I can cut tiny circular holes just .02” in diameter. So much better than one big poke with a pushpin! And now I’ve gone one better: a local laser cutting company produces my kits so they are absolutely accurate all the time.

Even though the details have changed, I’m still doing the same thing my mother taught us: thread the needle, pull it through the holes, create beauty. It’s my life.