Jan Hicks is on the move. She’s stitching and driving her way across vast distances of the United States with her husband Mike and cat Nina, having traded in their house and a settled address, for a life on the road. We hope one day they may feel called across the ocean to visit us here at Cottage Garden Threads. We first met Jan in 2022 and we instantly felt like old friends. Her first piece using Cottage Garden Threads ‘Palace of the winds’ showcases her artistry and particular skill of “painting” with variegated thread. When others may shy away from a wildly variegated thread (floss), Jan sees an entire palette in one skein.
When we catch up with her, she and Mike have settled in for the evening at a campground in the Shenandoah Valley National Park in Virginia surrounded by what she calls “peak fall colour”.
“We’re so blessed to be able to do this” she says.
They’ve mapped their journey around what Jan calls her “needlework stops”: through Colorado’s Grand and Black Canyons and on to Missouri for September’s Needlework Galleria. Then Chicago, Illinois and Michigan, before touching down across the Canadian border in Ontario to join the Jacob Palooza Stitchers Retreat. After that Mike turned the car south again and they dipped down to New York State, then looped further down to Virginia, enroute to North Carolina to Sassy Jacks Stitchery in Woodfin North Carolina. Later in November she and Mike will be pointing their car west towards Phoenix Arizona, via Albuquerque New Mexico for family Thanksgiving celebrations. That’s thousands of kilometres. And all the while, moving down whatever highway she’s on, you can be sure that Jan Hicks will be stitching and designing. Maintaining her stitchery business on the road can be challenging she says. “There’s not a lot of room in our RV and connectivity can be challenging in some of the remoter areas”, she says.
But lucky traveller that she is, no amount of stitching in a moving vehicle apparently makes her car sick. According to Mike, who revels in his position behind the steering wheel, occasional heartfelt “cussing” is the only sign that things may not be going according to plan in the front passenger seat.
Jan came to cross stitch as a teenager in high school, and then after a career in federal government, she ended up working for a digital scrapbooking company and was mentored by a graphic designer in colour theory and layout. “I think learning those building blocks of colour theory and placement really helped me to come full circle back to cross stitch,” she says now.
The world of Jan Hicks is a generous one. She delights in stitching others’ designs as much as creating her own, and she’s passionate about teaching and encouraging her fellow cross stitchers. Her celebration of colour and the process of painting in thread (floss) particularly variegated takes the traditional practice of cross stitch outside the box. One of her favourite sayings is “you won’t know if you don’t try”.
It was a long-held passion for India and a handful of CGT threads in shades of burgundy and rose that inspired Jan to create her design Palace of the Winds in 2022 as a study in variegated thread. The result was so effective that she created a Teal/Green version as well. The inspiration for naming her design Palace of the Winds came from Jan’s fascination for India – a place she’s visited a few times. And especially her fascination for the celebrated 18th century palace in the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan: the Hawa Mahal – 5 floors of intricately latticed windowed rooms carved from radiant pink and red sandstone.
The Hawa Mahal has come to be known as the Palace of the Winds because its latticework window design harnesses the venturi effect to create breezes that flow through the interior of the building, cooling it even in the hottest season. And its ornate latticework exterior also allowed the women of the Maharaja’s royal court to observe the life of the streets below the palace without being seen.
Jan also selected a Green (leaning towards teal) colourway. Thread packs for both the Green and Burgundy colourways are available in 2 different packs depending on the count of linen or Aida cloth.
We've loved following along with @katharinastickt on Instagram as she stitched Palace of the Winds in a Blue colourway using 413 Sail Away, 415 Bonnie Brook, 418 Blue Heaven. If you are inspired to stitch Palace of the Winds in this colourway, keep reading for a conversion chart.
Here are some other suggested colourways. Click here for a Conversion chart including how many skeins of each colour you will need to complete Palace of the Winds. If you would like to choose your own colourway, the chart includes a ‘tone’ column so you know how many skeins of light, medium and dark toned colours you will need.
When we ask Jan to tell us her favourite colour – she says aqua turquoise – “although pretty much any blue calls me. I think it’s because one of my most favourite places to be is on a beach looking out over turquoise ocean.
Turquoise features in a prayer flag that Jan has recently added to her on-line shop featuring CGT threads – this one a prayer for Peace that we think is much needed in times when our newsfeeds are filled with the horrors of war.
Speaking of looking out over a beautiful turquoise ocean, Jan’s first 2024 adventure will be on sea not highways, as she joins a Jean Farish cruise departing Florida for a couple of weeks in the Caribbean with a hundred or so committed stitchers on board for a stitching retreat. True to form, Jan’s tutoring subjects will include ‘painting’ with variegated thread - demonstrated beautifully in Jan's latest designs shown below ‘Florigraphica 2’. The Florigraphica series is designed to be completed either individually or together in the one piece. Jan will be releasing another 2 in the Florigraphica series in 2024.
Check out one of the free designs Jan offers on her website. ‘This is Home’ is very fitting to Jan's travels and the idea that home is wherever you make it. We think it would be amazing stitched with threads from the Blue or Dark Neutrals curated collections listed below.
Download free chart here
Reflecting on her stitching journey since she’s hit the road, Jan’s optimism is striking. “You just don’t know what the future holds” she says, “So, if you have a dream you need to get out there and do it. We know so many people whose health has been irrevocably changed by the COVID pandemic and since we’ve sold our home and gone on the road, I’ve had so many stitchers in my community contact me to say that they have the same dream. For some, their partners are the one’s that need convincing to get out there and for others, sadly, they’re people who have lost their partners before they got out on the road, and they write to me to say that they love being able to experience travelling vicariously – those things that they’ll never get to do themselves.
As our call to Shenandoah National Park winds up and Jan and Mike prepare to bunk down for the night in their trailer – it’s quietly spoken Mike who gets the last word.
“Do as much as possible” he says, “while you still can”. We couldn’t agree more. Thank you Jan Hicks for being such an inspiration.
Follow Jan Hicks here: