Her grandparents owned an upholstery shop, and her mother sews and embroiders, so Natalie Richards grew up watching things be made by hand. She taught herself how to embroider at age 10, came up with her own designs at 12, and got a degree in fine arts... then another in environmental science.
“A few years later, I was furniture shopping,” Natalie says, when she came upon an Arts & Crafts-era bookcase: “I’d never followed trendy decorating, but this was love at first sight.” She immersed herself in Arts & Crafts history and design, gravitating toward textiles. Soon she was designing and sewing table linens and runners, curtains, pillows, and bedspreads to furnish her own bungalow and friends’ homes. With her husband’s encouragement, she listed placemats on an auction site, and soon got all sorts of requests for custom work and consignments.
“I use design principles from the Arts & Crafts movement,” she says, along with period-appropriate embroidery stitches, hand stenciling, appliques—all in high-quality materials including Belgian linen and hand-dyed silk threads. Natalie’s inspirations come from nature—her koi pond, the trees and wildlife of California—and from travel, music, and artists of the original period.
Her company, Paint By Threads, makes hand-embroidered pillows, table linens, curtains, portieres, coverlets, and bedspreads. Complete embroidery kits with materials, instructions, and color photos are offered as well. All linens may be urchased by the yard. “I specialize in custom textile design,” Natalie says, “so that customers can match or complement existing china, upholstery, or wallpaper, at a reasonable price.”
Her recent work also includes landscapes, botanical studies, and unique, framed needle art incorporating such media as acrylic paint, appliqué, hand embroidery, needle lace, stump work, and beadwork. Her beautifully sewn fabrics are popular across the country, and Richards is honored to have been judged a Roycroft Renaissance Artisan. “The organization promotes craftsmanship in the tradition of the Roycrofters of 100 years ago,” she says. “I continue to work toward mastery of embroidery and the study of Arts & Crafts forms.”
Paint By Threads
San Bernardino, Calif.