Thea Dueck’s Victoria Sampler is a giant in the needlework universe

Company offers 350 unique designs and kits

  • Oct. 14, 2019 7:00 a.m.

– Story by Han Tammemagi Photography by Don Denton

One of life’s little pleasures is being initiated to something new. Last week, I felt a frisson of excitement as I entered the very-new-to-me world of needle art.

North Saanich’s Thea Dueck introduced me to a specialized form of needlework or stitching that produces beautiful art called samplers. Okay, I’m male and this activity, which requires considerable patience and talent using needle and coloured thread, is practised primarily by females. But I was drawn in, fascinated.

This form of needlework has a large, dedicated and ardent — almost fanatical — group of followers spread across the world. There are YouTube videos, Facebook and Instagram pages, specialized craft stores, online chat groups where designs and tips are shared, and much more.

Thea is a giant in this universe of needlework with an enormous following. One of the top designers in Canada, she works with four employees and supplies sampler kits and supplies to enthusiasts all over the world, although the bulk of her customers live in the United States.

Her firm, Victoria Sampler, offers about 350 unique designs made by Thea, a package of the necessary threads and explanatory instructions. Most importantly, the kit includes detailed charts and instructions showing how to stitch the scene. To my unpracticed eye, a chart looks like a complex array of hieroglyphics laid out on graph paper.

Thea’s home is decorated with numerous framed “samplers.” A sampler, I discovered, is needleworker jargon for a piece of cloth on which a scene is stitched, often including a poem or saying. I was impressed by the variety of natural landscapes, animals such as dogs and sheep, and people in various activities, as well as by the harmony of the design patterns.

Thea’s samplers were also inspirational and thoughtful, reflecting her warm, friendly and intelligent personality. I was drawn to a vertical sampler in a brown frame that reads:

Sweet gentle eyes,

a cold wet nose

and silken velvet ears

a heart as big as all outdoors

best friends

throughout the years

I LOVE MY DOG

Six smiling dogs of different breeds sit near the top of the sampler with geometric designs and scenes of dogs playing with people interspersed among the lines of text and special stitches. What a wonderful sampler for anyone who cherishes their dog.

Three-dimensional art is also possible. Embroidered pin cushions and pillows, for example, are common items. Thea makes “gingerbread” houses for Christmas décor with cloth walls that are decorated with stitched seasonal scenes.

Looking closer, I saw that stitching with coloured threads, also called floss, onto cloth to form patterns, scenes and script is painstakingly intricate work.

“It takes about 20 hours over a few weeks to stitch one like this,” Thea said, showing a framed sampler about 20-by-12 inches with an Easter scene. “Most stitchers follow a design. More difficult and time consuming, is designing a sampler, and then transferring the scene onto a chart.”

This is done using graph paper or a special computer program.

A significant part of Thea’s time is devoted to interacting with the needlework community. Fortunately, she has a very friendly, outgoing personality. Furthermore, she is computer-savvy and adept with social media. She has a website, a Facebook page and is constantly making YouTube and instructional videos. Thea also runs a chat room and recently started the online Victoria Sampler Academy with the goal of teaching advanced stitches (beyond the popular cross stitch). The annual VS Retreat where attendees stitch together with Thea is always sold out months in advance.

Born in Holland, Thea was introduced to stitching by her mother and grandmother. Moving to Victoria at age nine, she enjoyed music and art and was naturally creative. In 1988, at age 40, she discovered she had a knack for not only doing needlework but also for the painstaking job of drawing charts so others could make similar samplers.

“I do more than just stitching; I look for meaning and try to place immense detail in a small space.”

She started Lampost Designs to sell her kits, which focused on Victoria tourism; for example, a typical sampler featured the BC Legislative buildings. The Victoria Sampler company was born in 1993. Thea began to travel and teach more frequently and went to a few trade shows in the US.

“It was a wonderful time of discovery, learning the business and learning new stitches,” she enthused.

I was impressed that she had the skill and drive to transform her hobby into a paying business, since nothing beats earning a living from doing what you love. Fortunately, Thea’s partner, Richard, provided unstinting support and knowledge in marketing and business. Now an international business connected to the world through the internet, Victoria Sampler operates from her home on the Peninsula. Thea lives upstairs and downstairs are offices, storage rooms, video setups and more.

What a wonderful world I’d discovered. Thea and her creative, efficient and successful business, I thought, were a perfect subject for a sampler.

You can check out Thea’s website here.

Lifestyle

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria council recommends prioritizing housing for people in the area for at least a year

The motion passed unanimously during committee of the whole meeting

Sooke Bluffs staircase closed due to rot

District to consider replacement for ‘high risk’ staircase in fall

Vancouver Island MLA says too much on shoulders of RCMP

Reformed Police Act could look at spreading responsibility to other responders

Greater Victoria non-profit advocates for the use of psilocybin for terminal patients

North Saanich psychotherapist pushes for alternative treatment

Deal Street artist to host front yard art show this weekend

Ojibwe artist inspired by West Coast features and landscapes

STANDING TALL: Forestry workers meet the challenges, remain hopeful

A look at the forest sector in B.C. – and those hoping for the best – amid mill curtailments

Missed rent payments ‘cause of COVID-19? You have until July 2021 to pay up

Each monthly instalment must be paid on the same date the rent is due.

U.S.-Canada pandemic border restrictions extended into September

‘We will continue to keep our communities safe,’ says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

WE Charity registers as lobbyist, lays off staff, looking to sell real estate

WE Charity said its financial position has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Captive fawn seized from Island home

Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Bamfield residents, visitors pressure province as anniversary of fatal crash approaches

Letter-writing campaign makes ‘heartfelt, emotional pleas’ to improve road conditions

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Most Read