Canvas Conversations: Frances Abel

Frances Abel just *knew* that she was meant to be a needlepointer.  Her grandmother needlepointed a full set of dining chairs and many other things, but it took until 2020 for Frances to get started.  In London, and with the pandemic slowing down mail across the Atlantic, she began designing and painting her own canvases.  

Frances’s designs focus on the joy of everyday life.  She celebrates her children’s milestones, family vacations and their adventures in London and beyond.  Living down the road from the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, there is serious tennis love in her work as well!

Frances grew up in Cincinnati and now lives in leafy SW London with her husband, two children and pup.  She met her English boyfriend (now husband) while in Grad School in the British capital and has bounced back and forth across the pond since then, including five years in NYC.  One of her favorite things about needlepoint is the community – needlepoint keeps her tied to the US while helping run London’s stitch club, The Cheeky Stitchers (@cheekystitchers), allows her meet stitchers closer to her new home too.

Continue reading for my 20 questions with Frances below. And you can shop Frances designs in my shop here.

Favorite needlepoint project. My favorite project ever was this huge 18 mesh canvas I painted of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  It was inspired by our family’s visit there a few summers ago.  That combined with our whole house being obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack when I was stitching it, and I had a very American history themed summer.

On your needlepoint Wishlist. I LOVE the Thorn Alexander Scallop shell – an everyday item translated beautifully into needlepoint in fabulous colors and bold scale - my dream stitch.

I need to stitch the SLS Needlepoint ‘No Dogs on this Sofa’ canvas because Kent Butterbeans, a cavapoo, owns every chair and sofa in our house.

Dream stitching spot. The Parker Palm Springs with my family and my best friend’s crew too.  My BFF and I would stitch and sip lemonade while the kids (and husbands!) play in the pool.

13 or 18 Mesh Canvas. This is like picking a favorite child!  Depends on the project, I’m recently much less scared of 18 mesh as I have delved into the world of decorative stitches which can make size 18 canvases go MUCH quicker.

Last book you read and liked. I adore Clover Stroud’s books, I just reread The Wild Other.  

Favorite flower. Purple poppies -   my daughter’s name is Poppy and purple is her favorite color so we grow them from seed every year.

Guilty pleasure. Sticky Toffee Pudding. If you haven’t tried it what are you waiting for?  Warm with a scoop of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream.  Pure bliss.

On your nightstand. A palm tree lamp found in a flea market in NYC when we were living there and a pile of books that haven’t been read yet (stitching always wins).

Currently listening to. Brandi Carlile - I went to college in Nashville and so country/folk music has a special place in my heart.  I’m also a huge podcast fan, Happier with Gretchen Rubin has been a favorite of mine for years.

Currently watching. I listen to movies sometimes while I paint and I just revisited the 1994 version of Little Women.  What a gem.

If there were more hours in the day I would. Our corner of London has the most wonderful parks so I would definitely be outside more - playing tennis, running and walking our dog.

Favorite Instagram follows. @melissasmrekar @landontalks @palmbeachlately @jessicatongel (for needlepoint and the memes) @pencilandpaperco 

Can’t leave the house without. My giant (and now very raggedy) LL Bean boat and tote.  It is usually full of kid things but I can fit a project bag in there too.  I can and will stitch anywhere.

Coffee or tea. Both?  I’ve taken to English tea drinking but a coffee when I start my workday is my favorite ritual.

Favorite holiday to celebrate. Thanksgiving.  You may think it’s not a big deal on this side of the Atlantic but my corner of London is full of Americans so we invite Americans and lots of other friends too to our Thanksgiving dinner.  Our cozy Edwardian row house is always full to the gills with all our friends and bonus – I get to cook and prepare in quiet because the kids are in school that day!

Wardrobe staples. Barbour coat (works 9 months of the year here), my Greystone NDLPT Ellsworth & Ivy sweater, Sweaty Betty leggings, and Nikes for the school run.

Creative inspiration. Inspiration is positively everywhere if you look for it.  My family, this fantastic city I live in, travel, the Preppy Handbook (of course!).

Best piece of advice. Anne Lamott’s concept of Bird by Bird - taking (anything) one step at a time.  

Life mantra. Jenny Komenda, interior designer, blogger and owner of Juniper studio, talks about focusing on what is unique about whichever season you are in and finding the happiness there.  This applies to my work as a needlepoint designer, motherhood and life overall.

Favorite Season. I love them all.  I miss the 4 true seasons that I had growing up in Cincinnati,  summer doesn’t always show up properly here!  

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