Jody Rice’s love of cross stitch started where you might expect: at her grandmother’s house. The two would spend weekends together when Jody was a child, stitching while watching baseball games. As an adult, Rice found herself once again cross stitching, but this time she meant business.
Launched in 2013, Rice is the face behind Satsuma Street, a cross stitch design company that offers both digital PDFs and printed cross stitch patterns, as well as complete cross stitch kits. Rice’s tag line is “changing people’s minds about cross stitch since 2013,” and if you take a look at her modern colorful designs, you’ll see why!
Like many hobbies, cross stitch faded in and out of Rice’s life. She put her hobby aside for several years as she dabbled in different careers, including a gig as a costume designer in charge of a university costume shop. Needlecrafts were still a big part of her life, but she hadn’t picked up cross stitch since her days stitching with her grandmother.
Cross stitch came back into Rice’s life at a very hectic, unexpected time. She had changed careers again, this time doing visual effects for blockbuster movies including Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Men in Black 3, and many others. She was on track to be a full-time animator, but what looked like a glamorous career from the outside was actually very stressful.
When Rice wasn’t on a months-long hiatus waiting for her next film job, she was working long hours that quickly led to burnout. Stressed by the long hours of the film industry, she decided to cross stitch, both between jobs and during periods of downtime on set, to try and relax.
Her search for cross stitch patterns started in big craft chain stores, but Rice couldn’t find anything that inspired her. “Everything I found there was really outdated and not something I would ever hang in my home,” she admits. Craving creativity and stress relief, Rice decided instead to design her own patterns to stitch.
What started as a need for a creative outlet soon turned into a business idea. “I realized that there had to be other people like me who were looking for something different,” she says. “It’s the old adage you hear that to start a successful business you should identify a need and fill it. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s absolutely true.”
“I realized that there had to be other people like me who were looking for something different.”
Rice started with only five designs in her Etsy shop, but customers were excited and wanted to see new work almost immediately. “I thought it would just be a thing to keep me busy until the next movie, but Satsuma took off so quickly that when the next movie offer came along, I turned it down so I could focus on my business.” Rice said good-bye to the film industry and committed herself full time to Satsuma Street.
Once Rice saw the demand for new cross stitch patterns, she worked for a few years adding as many new designs as quickly as she could to build her catalog. When she had a solid collection, her process became much more organized. “I used to just design whatever I was inspired by at the moment, but after a few years I realized that I couldn’t be that disorganized,” she says.
Now, Rice plans the entire year so that she knows what she’ll be working on and when new patterns will be released. This plan not only makes her more organized, but it also benefits her marketing, making it easier to time holiday releases and make sure there’s always something interesting to post on social media. In 2016, Rice expanded her products, adding printed charts and kits alongside her already-successful PDF patterns. She also started offering wholesale to stores and websites.
She attended TNNA in her startup years, but says it was a lot of work. She’s since decided to focus on growing the retail side of the business instead. While she does offer wholesale, she prefers stores find her via word of mouth.
Cross Stitch’s Bad Rap
For Rice, one possible reason customers responded so well to the designs is that they were so different from what cross stitchers were seeing in most craft stores. “Cross stitch is a hugely popular hobby all over the world, but a lot of people feel a little embarrassed to admit that they love it,” she says. “I think that’s mainly because, for a few decades, many of the designs you saw in cross stitch patterns were kind of all the same and they weren’t exactly hip.”
Satsuma Street set out to change that. “I try to offer something different that will hopefully make people proud of their hobby,” says Rice. “I hear from people every day who tell me that they haven’t cross stitched in years but my designs inspired them to pick it up again, which is really humbling and exciting.”
While Rice admits that cross stitch is not for everyone, she thinks there are plenty of health benefits to consider: “It can be a very meditative experience, and I frequently hear from people who say that cross stitching helps them deal with serious anxiety and other health issues.”
Rice is certainly a part of the movement to grow cross stitching, but she doesn’t take total credit for making it popular again. “I’m certainly not the only designer bringing a contemporary take to cross stitch. There are a ton of new designers out there doing all kinds of interesting work. You just won’t find us in the big-box craft stores.”
The Future of Satsuma Street
As her business continues to grow, Rice would like to branch out into other needlecrafts under the Satsuma Street name, including crewel embroidery, felt crafts, and quilt patterns.
While Rice certainly has an impressive resume, owning her own business is rewarding in a way than none of her other jobs – including the Hollywood-blockbuster jobs – could ever be. “I’ve always had creative jobs, and they were fun and fulfilling in their own ways,” she says. “But there is something really amazing (and terrifying) about making a living entirely from my own ideas. In those other jobs, I used my creative skills to make someone else’s vision a reality. Now it’s all me, and that is the most empowering thing I’ve ever done.”
Ashley Little is a craft writer and editor by day, serial crafter by night. Her blog, TheFeistyRedhead.com, explores knitting, crocheting, sewing, and crafting at large, and includes Ashley’s own original patterns and reviews. She’s also a regular contributing writer for Craftsy.com and the author of Chunky Knits.