Hand-crafted items hold a special appeal to folks. There is something magical about creating something from a ball of yarn or a spool of thread. Like Spongebob Squarepants always said about sweaters knitted by his grandma, “There’s love in every stitch.”
This simple truth applies easily to Rachel D’Ambra, a Hicksville High School alum and current student at Molloy University whose side hustle of embroidery has brought her multiple benefits. Aside from the monetary compensation, embroidery offers Rachel a way to relax, especially as she enters her second year in a dual degree program to become a Registered Nurse Practitioner in the age of COVID. This hard-working woman is currently earning her second degree; she will receive her bachelor’s in nursing in August 2021 and will continue her education to obtain her master’s degree in nursing as an adult nurse practitioner. Rachel also holds a B.S. in Health Sciences, which she obtained from Stony Brook University in 2017.
Rachel learned at a young age the lost art of embroidery from her grandmother, who was an avid crafter. Rachel’s grandmother Florence, who visited the family from New Jersey, was taught by her own mother in the art of crocheting, knitting, sewing, needlepoint and embroidery. She crafted clothing for Rachel’s mother and later, for Rachel and her sister. Florence also made Halloween costumes, which delighted both the girls and those who witnessed her handiwork.
Because Rachel showed more of an interest in crafting then her sister did, Florence patiently instructed her on every visit. Not only did Florence instruct, but she lovingly took Rachel’s hand to guide it around the needle or hook to ensure that Rachel learned the crafts properly. Rachel remarked, “My grandmother had so much patience.”
When her grandmother passed away four years ago, Rachel inherited her grandmother’s antique black floral Singer sewing machine, which was kept in pristine condition. “I remember playing with it when I was a little girl,” Rachel mused. “I hadn’t seen it in over 10 years, so when my mom gave it to me, I was so happy. I couldn’t believe how beautifully it had been kept. It’s my intention to keep it in the family and pass it down to my children one day.”
Rachel remarked that embroidery is one of those arts that has been lost over the years, especially when she mentions it to her friends. “Unless I show them a picture, I don’t think they can really understand what the craft really is about.” Depending on how intricate the design, each handcrafted hoop could take anywhere from a few hours to several days, although on average it takes Rachel about six hours to complete a piece without stopping.
One of Rachel’s favorite parts of designing a hoop for a customer is the reaction she gets when someone receives one of her beautiful pieces of artwork. “I love to see the designs as they are created, whether I create it or it is created by the customer. I really enjoy watching the piece come together, but the best part is the reaction to the hoop, the look on the customer’s face when they say, ‘This is exactly what I was looking for. This will mean so much.’” At the end of the day, it is all about making others happy for Rachel.
The biggest hit that Rachel’s Instagram page has seen at present is her Keepsake Wedding Hoop. “I follow a lot of embroidery pages on Instagram,” she remarked. “It’s helping me to find my own niche.” Although she cannot see herself doing embroidered hoops full-time because of her desire to become a nurse practitioner, she mentioned that she will continue to fulfill orders. “Embroidery helps me to relax, especially with all the studying that I do for school. I will commit 100 percent to do what is needed for timely order fulfillment while still practicing nursing.”
Tradition has always been an important part of Rachel’s life, especially as it relates to embroidery. “My grandmother used to needlepoint stockings by Bucilla. It’s an old-style needlepoint stocking from the 1990s and Grandma made one for my grandfather, for my mom, for my sister, for me and even for my dog. They don’t make them anymore, so my mom looked on Ebay and found one for my Christmas 2019 gift. I decided to make it for my boyfriend, who really loves the big Santa stocking. It’s a tradition that I would like to do for my own children one day.” Bucilla no longer makes needle point stockings but uses felt that is sewn together instead of doing needle point work.
Rachel, who is a perfectionist at heart, explained the process of creating a hoop for a customer. “I use an app on my iPad called Pro Create. I ask the customer what they are looking for and I send them a design that I created on the Pro Create app. Sometimes they send me a design that they would like. Once we agree on a design, I send it back to them for approval. There may be a tweak here or there and then I send it again. I want to get it exactly how they would like it to look. We discuss hoop colors, thread colors and final designs. When I get the final design drawn, I send it back to the customer for them to either accept or decline. When I see the look on their face when they see the completed project, it makes it worth it to me.” The importance of keeping in touch with her customers until completion of the project cannot be understated to Rachel. “Things can sometimes get lost in translation. I want the design to be perfect for that person.”
If you are interested in ordering something from Rachel, she is presently working on Christmas ornaments as well. Please visit her on Instagram at www.instagram.com/notyourgrannysembroidery or www.facebook.com/notyourgrannysembroidery on Facebook. Visit www.etsy.com/shop/Noturgrannys to see her Etsy page. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to also reach Rachel.
Rachel does lovely work, as manifested by the beautiful photos that accompany this column. Please help support this wonderful young woman, who aspires to become an adult care nurse practitioner within the next few years. Although embroidery may seem to be a lost art, there is a phrase about everything old becoming new again. Thanks to Rachel, embroidery has been offered a beautiful life line.
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.