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Rising Stars: Meet Nancy Greenberg


Today we’d like to introduce you to Nancy Greenberg.

Hi Nancy, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My story started in small-town America in the Midwest, and so many prior experiences have shaped how I created Pickle Barrel Designs and have run with it ever since! Growing up in Canada and then moving to California for a couple of years shaped me into the creative cross-stitch designer I am now. I created Pickle Barrel Designs in late 2003 and have grown the company every year since – taking time out to have two babies, look after a very ill husband, and finally having to be the one completely in charge after he died last year, my cross stitching has provided me the outlet to keep me busy and get more creative as time goes on. My design inspiration can come from just about anywhere or anything.

In my earlier career, I worked for a major market radio station doing online traffic reports and assisting in writing commercials which were then followed by a couple of other career choices that just didn’t make me feel like I was “home” and wanted to spend the rest of my life doing – but what did I want was the question? After moving to and from Northern California, I finally left the rat race. I started up Pickle Barrel Designs which allowed me to combine my love for cross stitch with a more in-depth involvement, such as creating new designs and finding inspiration in so many places that I might never have taken the time to slow down and ENJOY all of the beauty that is around us every single day. This was indeed the beginning of my creative journey and one that makes me smile and enjoy life every single day for so many reasons.

While I started slowly designing, stitching, and publishing my designs, I also raised two kids and built up my visibility in the cross-stitch community. I still encounter people who ask what Pickle Barrel Designs is, and then when I tell them, their response is, “isn’t that an old lady kind of craft?”. No, no, no, and since the Pandemic, so many new people have taken up this wonderful hobby called cross-stitch; it makes my heart sing.

My overall design aesthetic involves whimsy, happy colors, and many great Holidays throughout the year. Christmas in July, you say? In the cross stitch world, you have to be working on design themes months and months before they happen, so I have never argued with pulling out Christmas or Halloween decorations in the Spring so that I can photograph new design models, ho ho ho indeed!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
When I started Pickle Barrel Designs, I knew I needed to work on brand recognition. I started building a substantial network of local shops that became familiar with my work and helped promote it to their customers. Throughout the first several years of designing, I had to try and get my foot in the door with suppliers and thread companies, distributors, and everyone in between. I remember some of the early designs that I was so proud of now look to me like they were designed in an after-school craft class, and my style has grown so much since the early years. Knowing the marketplace and when was the best time of the year to release designs was also an enormous struggle for me because who wants to think about Halloween in June? Involved dedication and a lot of hard work, I feel as though I got there finally, but it was anything but a smooth ride.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I remember designing a 4 part Winter themed series of designs – ski hills, fir trees, ice skating ponds, all of the symbols of winter fun – and I designed one particular pattern that featured a skier going up a ski lift. Have you ever watched the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s”? Well, my skier looked like Bernie – it was bad – oh, it was more than bad, it was hysterically wrong. Do you know what I did with old Bernie? I brought him with me to our annual Nashville Needlework Market to share with all of the attending stores and distributors that design concepts don’t always come easy, and sometimes darn it, they don’t work. The art of designing cross stitch covers a broad spectrum of skills which includes designing, translating an idea into a pattern, choosing the suitable color palettes, and being detail orientated. I lie in bed at night thinking about whether I double proofread a new design release or not – with ideas swimming in my head.

The biggest obstacle I have faced was getting local needlework shops around the country familiar with who I was and creating a buzz that helped me grow both as a designer and a person. Now that I have been established for many years, I pride myself on the relationships and collaborations I have made in this needlework industry. Designing comes naturally to me at this point, and there are times I sit back, look at a model that I have designed, stitched, and finished, and think, “this is good – this is very good!”. Color palettes were also a real education for me. I should have gotten the subtle hint that my colors weren’t good together when I would show a new design and color palette to my sister (who stitches most of my models for me). She would sit there in silence for a moment or three and finally ask if I was tied into using those specific threads colors – “Ummm, well, I was…” – and she would then make suggestions about using different colors and shades of threads. Before I knew it, I had continuity to all my designs and started getting emails saying how much a stitcher loved the color palette on a specific design. I would call that a learning curve followed by eventual success, though, and we should never stop learning. Otherwise, it would be not very interesting if you asked me.

What were you like growing up?
I was born in the US but grew up in Canada along with my sister, raised by our grandparents since our Mom died when I was 1 year old, and our Dad had no idea how to raise two little girls. It was through our Grandma that we had more exposure to crafts, and as we went through our schooling years, learning how to know knit, crochet and, finally, cross-stitch.

Growing up, I was always the outgoing one joining every team and club I could! I loved being busy and learning new sports growing up so that I could have enough exposure to know what I loved doing, and being so busy helped the learning process. During my senior year of high school, I had a little dog named George, that was just as outgoing as I was. I remember one morning walking through the halls of the school and having friends tell me I better go to the school office because they saw George racing through the school hallways looking for me – I guess he missed me when I left for school and somehow slipped out of the house to find me!

Another great event was being elected Co-President of our school Student Council and organizing Canada’s first-ever Student Peace March. I was constantly meeting new people, and I’m sure I gave some of my teachers a run for their money, especially when I came into History class with a whole TV crew that wanted to interview me for the Peace March. All of these experiences through my life so far have helped shape me into the person that I am today and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
I have the rights to all of the photos submitted.

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1 Comment

  1. Cynthia Fuller

    June 18, 2022 at 4:57 pm

    Excellent interview. Pickle Barrel Designs are cute, colorful and inspiring. Thank you for highlighting Nancy.

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