Alexandra Keleti grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City. When she was a child, her family fostered in her a love for classical music. While her hobbies have evolved from playing musical instruments as a child to needlework crafts as an adult, Alexandra has always understood that having hobbies enhances personal well-being. She also has had a lifelong practice of making time to give back to society. She spent many hours volunteering at the Johnson County Public Libraries with her best friends as a child. It was a meaningful way to help the community while also giving her a chance to peruse some newly released books. Alexandra attended the University of Kansas and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2020. During her undergraduate years, she spent the summer of 2019 interning at the Sprint headquarters as the telecommunications company was preparing for a merger with T-Mobile. This internship was a pivotal moment in Alexandra’s educational experience, as learning about the different careers within finance helped her decide that she wanted to pursue a Master of Accounting. She starts KU’s Master of Accounting program in June and plans to focus on Assurance.
What is your hobby?
I have become passionate about doing all types of needlework, especially embroidery and sewing clothing.
How did you get started with this hobby?
Soon after getting accepted to graduate school, my best friend from childhood sent me a congratulatory gift: an embroidery she had made. I was touched by her heartwarming gift, and just like when we were young, I wanted to connect with her by having a shared hobby. I was also reminded that for the three generations before me, needlework was a cherished pastime for the women on my maternal side of the family. My mom spent countless evenings doing bead embroidery, my grandmother sewed couture clothes, and my great-grandmother made Flemish lace. I could not help but want to learn this skill that the women in my family cared so much about.
Tell us what you love about your hobby.
I love that embroideries are artsy and whimsical, and the finished product can have interesting textures created by the French knots and other 3-D features. The repetitive nature of stitching makes it relaxing. Sewing garments from patterns is challenging for me, and I love that I am constantly improving as I learn from past mistakes. I also find it appealing that I can customize the garment the way I want by choosing the fabric and fitting it to size. Looking through mountains of clothes at a store can be frustrating when the clothes you pick out are attractive but do not quite match your unique style.
What types of things/equipment have you spent money on for your hobby?
For making embroideries, I started by purchasing embroidery kits from Amazon. These kits can include all the material you need. I have also used patterns I found on the DMC website. For sewing clothes, I use a Singer Heavy Duty 4423. This machine is known for being a little difficult to control the speed, as it tends to sew too fast to have adequate control over your work. However, it can sew through heavyweight and lightweight fabric, and it has many settings for different types of stitches. For sewing garments I also bought Vogue and Simplicity patterns, fabrics, and notions (i.e., buttons and zippers).
What are some of your favorite places to shop for your hobby?
JoAnn’s sells a good variety of DMC embroidery threads, and Amazon is my preferred place to shop for embroidery kits. While Etsy has unique designs, I find Amazon to be more cost-effective. For sewing supplies, I tend to buy fabrics from small businesses that sell recycled materials. They have a more limited supply compared to JoAnn’s, but I tend to like what I find at recycled fabric stores more. I buy all my patterns and notions new from JoAnn’s.
How much money have you invested into this? How much would a beginner have to invest to get started?
Embroidery can be a very inexpensive hobby. Kits on Amazon can be purchased for less than $10 per kit. One of my favorite embroidery kits is the peacock pattern I bought for around $8. Sewing materials are more expensive than they used to be. Fabric can be costly, but I recommend going too small fabric vendors to compare prices. Most of my homemade garments cost about $30-$40 for all the materials.
Are there any good books for beginners?
Yes, for sure! I have frequently checked out books from my local library that have given me many ideas for sewing clothes and embroidering. The last book that caught my eye was “Mindful Embroidery” by Charles Henry and Elin Petronella. This couple has their own YouTube channel dedicated to showing their unique style of architectural and scenic embroidering. For beginners, “The Sewing Book” by Alison Smith is wonderful. It teaches readers about different types of fabrics, hand stitches, and different techniques for machine sewing. There are many other books on sewing that have unique patterns included for various projects. There are a multitude of reasons why the library is one of my most frequented spots in my area.
Are there any online videos you recommend to help beginners?
For embroidery, YouTube has a plethora of resources. There are videos of how to do each type of stitch and tips for framing your finished product. As I mentioned earlier, Charles and Elin have fantastic videos showing them making embroideries of beautiful architecture. (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq95FJ-yR9ERKdMZwnDhAEQ)
There are also many videos of talented sewists. April’s channel “Coolirpa” has a video detailing how she made her stunning dress for the Mulan premier. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfvH7UX7nzI&t=187s)
How has your hobby changed your life?
Personally, embroidery has made me realize that I do have previously undiscovered artistic talent! It has also strengthened my friendships with people who appreciate needlework or simply have an affinity for arts and crafts. I feel like I have an understanding now of why the women on the maternal side of my family love creating needle art.
What advice do you have for others starting out with this hobby?
Enjoy your needlework project and learn not to let the little aggravations that pop up, like knotted embroidery thread or sewing machine errors frustrate you! Have the patience to complete your projects, and I recommend that you take breaks in between larger projects, so you do not get burned out—view needlework crafts as a form of relaxation and creative outlet.
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