After years of shopping in France for beautiful needlework kits, patterns, fabrics, and accessories to nurture her love of embroidery, Lisa Dugua established a business that allows others to share a bountiful supply of elegant materials.
Leaving a career as a professional photographer to establish a mail-order and web-based needlework import business might give some women pause, but not Lisa Dugua, owner of The French Needle—a boutique stocked with all the treasures she and her clients adore, collect, and stitch. Over the past nine years, Lisa has scouted her husband’s native country for the stitchery she enjoys, and has discovered sources for specialty items not typically found in Stateside shops.
“French women are as busy as American women, but they make time for stitching. It is one of the soothing things we can do. In France, women use embroidery to add embellishments to small things used in daily life, such as tea towels, baby bibs, and tea cozies,” Lisa observes. “I think American women tend to stitch more things, such as samplers, for decorating the walls of their homes.” Her continued success in providing surface-stitch embroidery kits, as well as French books, fabrics, charts, cross-stitch kits, and fibers, attests to a strong American market. Among the sought-after items in Lisa’s boutique are limited-edition scissors made by a 74-year-old artisan, one of the last makers of handcrafted scissors in France. “He works alone, and it takes days and days to make them,” Lisa notes.
To provide her clientele with contemporary and traditional French stitchery, Lisa travels to France four times a year and attends wholesale and retail shows. She keeps in touch with shop owners in Paris and suppliers all over France. Her interaction with customers is conducted via the postal service or the Internet, as well as at retail shows such as Celebrations of Needlework and Stitching Jubilee.
Above all else, The French Needle is a service-oriented business. “I take care of customs, currency, and language differences. Elegant supplies for heirloom embroidery are shipped by first-class mail from within the United States. If there is a concern, the customer has someone to speak with in English,” says Lisa. Her mission is to supply the finest-quality French materials worthy of the stitcher’s investment of time and talent.
“Embroidery is such a counterpoint to all our electronic gadgets. It is one of the easiest things to teach yourself,” she asserts. “There is infinite variety, and needlework is instantly gratifying. People say they don’t have time to stitch, but if it is important to you, you will make the time.” Lisa follows her own directive and has supplied her household with wall art, Christmas stockings, tablecloths, and dish towels her family of five uses regularly. For personalized gifts, she often stitches monograms on the velvet-lined linen pouches she sells. “I am crazy about textiles,” says Lisa. “This is my business for bliss.”
Text Barbara Cockerham
Styling Mary Leigh Fitts
To learn more about The French Needle, read “Threads of Success: The French Needle” on page 62 of the July/August 2010 issue of Victoria.