Accessible Paper Embroidery with Maydel

Perhaps you might recall Joone, creator of high quality craft kits, as I featured the small business a few times here on All Things Paper. Its paper stitching, paper collage, and paper cutting kits were fresh and appealing, and I was sorry when the company closed.


Lauren Venell, one of Joone's original owners, recently contacted me to say she has founded Maydel (rhymes with ladle), a new needlework supply company in Chicago that pairs ethically sourced supplies with inspiring projects from around the world. It focuses on crafts that are frequently overlooked in mainstream needlework, including paper embroidery, and it offers an innovative business model.

geometric pinecone paper embroidery on two notebook covers, one white, one kraft paper


Wanting to learn more about what sets the company apart (there are major differences), I invited Lauren to introduce herself and Maydel:

First off, tell us about your connection to needlework and especially to paper stitching.


I've always had a love for craft, but not much money for supplies, so I've naturally gravitated toward paper crafts and embroidery because they are the most accessible in terms of cost. One day I saw a greeting card that someone had stitched with a sewing machine and my mind was blown!

Despite the existence of things like (ahem) books, it had never occurred to me that you could sew through anything other than fabric. That spark led me to follow paper embroidery artists like Karen Barbé, Natalie Ciccoricco, and Han Cao.

Karen's work was a popular feature on this blog in 2020. I remember you helped to develop some of those projects.  


Yes, I was head of design at Joone Creative in 2019 when we reached out to Karen about creating the Leaf Stitch kits. It was a funny coincidence because I didn't realize Karen was in the process of moving from Santiago, Chile to Chicago where I'm based. We ended up being able to collaborate very closely. When Joone closed its doors, Karen and I updated the project and re-released it at Maydel. Hopefully your readers will be pleased to know that this project is no longer discontinued.


leaf stitch paper embroidery on black notebook cover alongside skeins of embroidery floss

Leaf Stitch embroidered notebooks by Karen Barbé



Is Karen's Leaf Stitch project the only paper embroidery pattern available at Maydel?   


Not at all! For the past year I've also been partnering with Yuka Hoshino of Mayuka Fiber Art to create two full sets of paper embroidery projects.


One set depicts fall motifs in Yuka's signature style combining geometric and botanical forms, and the other depicts the symbols and constellations of the Western zodiac. You can make things like notebooks, greeting cards, and gift tags with the designs. They're all fun to do and they teach paper embroidery in really innovative ways.

three astrology signs embroidered, one each on black notebook covers

Really? How so?


In the case of Yuka's fall designs, we experimented with different ways to help crafters see exactly where to stitch each color when the threads were similar shades. Using symbols or different line styles actually made the patterns more visually complicated, but we also didn't want to confuse people by using colors that weren't actually in the designs.


Finally we came up with the idea of separating the colors and putting each one on its own page with the other stitches shown in gray in the background. That turned out to be the perfect solution and I've since incorporated color separations into our cross-stitch patterns as well. 


paper embroidery fall foliage design on white folded greeting card

two autumn leaves color separations paper embroidery pattern
The zodiac designs are completely different - they use mostly metallic and glow-in-the-dark threads in just one or two colors, but those have their own challenges. To help, Yuka made a step-by-step video tutorial of the entire project that includes lots of tips for working with these unusual threads, which can be applied to all sorts of other projects.


twelve black paper embroidery zodiac gift tags arranged in circle


Tell us about Maydel - what made you want to start your own company?


When I was working at Joone, what made our kits different was how comprehensive they were. They were fantastic for beginners. But as someone who already owns a lot of craft supplies, I've always felt a bit in a bind whenever I wanted to try a new craft. I either had to hunt down all the individual supplies myself or purchase a pre-boxed kit, which usually meant wasting money (and materials) when I already owned half of what was inside. There didn't seem to be any middle ground.


Then in March of 2020 when we all went on lockdown, I suddenly had time to build the solution I'd been dreaming of - a shop where the kits are totally customizable. At Maydel we call them bundles rather than kits because you can change or delete every single item.


Want a nickel-free, hypoallergenic needle instead of a standard one? No problem! Want to stitch six greeting cards instead of one? The sky's the limit! Already own half the floss colors listed? Set the quantity for those colors to zero! You can tweak anything and everything before adding the bundle to your cart with a single click. You never have to worry about missing a crucial item or paying for things you don't need.


palestinian embroidery sampler with floss skeins, needles, and scissors



It's kind of crazy to me that even though craft is one of the worlds best stress relievers, getting the supplies is often a stressful process. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for folks to get their supplies by eliminating the most common hurdles.


I've personally researched and tested every single item I sell, both for quality and for ethical/sustainable manufacturing so you don't have to worry that a tool won't work or that your crafting harms people or the planet.


Then I made those high-quality supplies affordable by selling them like bulk goods. You can buy a single needle, a single sheet of paper, or fabric by the square inch, so you often end up getting beautiful materials for less money than the cheap stuff at your local big box store. I also try to stock things that make crafts more accessible like hypoallergenic needles, push-button threaders, and squeezable snips.


craft supplies including instruction sheet, embroidery hoop, reverse scissors, and needles

It certainly sounds like you've given this a lot of thought. What's next for you and Maydel?


I believe in helping artists get paid fairly for their work, which is why I collaborate with so many artist partners for the projects at Maydel. This year I'm hoping to take that a step further by opening up bundles to any artist in the world. I've already built a tool for the job and I'm currently testing it with a few new artists who want an easy way for their customers and students to get the supplies for their patterns.


Hats off to you for creating what sounds to be a solid business model, Lauren. I wish you and Maydel much success! 


Visit the Maydel website, see all of the paper embroidery designs, including new ones for the holidays, and follow along on Instagram, @maydelcraft

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Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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