Kate Stewart’s family tradition becomes her flourishing decor company
Buckhead resident Kate Stewart grew up watching her mom receive the final gift under the tree on Christmas morning. Each year, the family placed a gift, often a piece of jewelry, in her mother’s petite, needlepoint stocking, dubbed her “bauble stocking.” Stewart came to understand that inside the small, silk-threaded ornament, the best gift of the morning would be found.
Fast forward to Stewart’s adulthood. After stumping her husband on their first married Christmas by asking, “Where’s my bauble stocking?” she realized this tradition was unique to her family, and she wanted to share it. Today, Stewart is the visionary behind Bauble Stockings, a needlepoint stocking business that gives back. Each $85, 6-by-4.25-inch velvet-backed stocking is hand-stitched by one of 107 women in Haiti who, because of the company, have full-time jobs. With a passion for tradition and a heart for charity, Stewart helms a holiday company that brings joy year-round.
How did you connect with the women in Haiti?
After a failed attempt to work with a factory in China, I was about to give up my search for making this passion project happen. My husband suggested I Google “needlepoint belts” one more time. Sure enough, Good Threads Needlepoint in Haiti showed up right there on the page. I emailed and within 15 minutes heard back from them saying they needed the work. I jumped on a plane with my photographer and a videographer to meet the women, see their working conditions and ask about their experiences. Confident in moving our production to Haiti, we launched in July of 2018 at America’s Mart on the High Design floor.
How many designs did you start with?
We launched with 14. We now have 51, and next year we will debut 20 more. We have one full-time designer, Sarah Watson, who lives in Fairhope, Alabama and is a SCAD graduate. We also have guest artists who design for us. Instead of paying our guest artists, we ask them to select a charity to receive 10% of the profits for their stocking sales. For example, designer Holly Hollon’s charity, The Well House in Birmingham, Alabama, will receive more than $5,000 this year from the sale of her Beverly Hills Nutcracker stocking.
Beyond the international connection with Haiti, you live and are headquartered in Buckhead. Tell us more about your local connections.
Lucy’s Market puts our stockings right at check-out. Chaffee Heilman, owner of Baby Braithwaite, is a huge believer in and supporter of Bauble Stockings. Our graphic designer is a Westminster alumni. There are so many connections!
What are other ways people use their stocking throughout the holiday season and beyond?
I have one client who gives them as hostess gifts. At her holiday dinner, your silverware goes into your stocking at your place setting, and you get your Bauble Stocking for the year. We’ve also replaced a ton of white envelopes from grandparents. Now, cash for grandchildren goes into Bauble Stockings. They also work really well for Mother’s Day.
What started your appreciation for needlepoint? Are we seeing a resurgence in needlepoint in home decor?
My mom is the needlepointer and has needlepointed every family member’s Christmas stocking. They get fancier and fancier every year because she’s always learning new stitches and techniques. I think people appreciate quality. My dad used to say, “We’re too poor to buy cheap stuff; buy it right the first time.” People really want high-quality pieces they can keep forever. Needlepoint is something that will last forever because the designs and handiwork are timeless.
What’s next for Bauble Stockings?
Do you have any plans to expand to other products? We’re launching full-size, personalizable stockings that are our number one request. In spring 2021, we will launch 11 new designs and a line of pillows.
Wellness columnist at Simply Buckhead and dog columnist at Atlanta Pet Life. Lifestyle writer specializing in women's interests, travel, people and interiors.