19 July 2008

Trad Needlepoint Belts



Following up on the Southern Trad post...I am a big fan of the needlepoint belt. I see it a lot in the south and have noticed it more and more in New York City. But there is a difference.

When I was in college, a small liberal arts college somewhere in the south, my southern girlfriend made a belt for me. It was pink and green needlepoint with my initials. She glued some sort of fabric as a backing and took it to a cobbler to add the bridle and buckle. I was so happy.

Flash forward some years and my new wife finds this belt stuck in the back of my closet. It's back there because I'm no longer a 30" waist but can't bear to part with it. I mean, it's hand made! By someone I knew. Very well I might add. "What's this?" The wife asks. I don't know why she asks because I can tell she already knows. So, out with it. "It's a belt that was made for me by my girlfriend when I was in college." She turns the belt over and squints at the glued backing. "Not a very good job is it?"

I'll spare the you the rest. You should know what happened to the belt. It was thrown away. I still have a thing for needlepoint belts. You can buy them easily enough and considering the work and hours that go into them - - $150 and up are a small price to pay. The picture on the top is a J. McLaughlin signal flag belt I own. I purchased it at their store in NYC on Madison between 92nd & 93rd. The middle picture is J Mac as well.

A word of advice. If you're in the neighborhood please stop by The Blue Tree on Madison just a block south between 91st and 92nd. Great stuff including the hard to find Santa Maria shaving cream and even better stuff is the owner, Phoebe Cates. You may even get to meet her...like I did. One of the most beautiful women ever. Well, in all honesty we didn't exactly meet. She gave me directions to McLaughlins but hoo-boy... Kevin Kline is one lucky mother fuuu...

McLaughlin sells their belts for $195 and that ain't cheap (unless you throw in a sighting of Phoebe to go along with it). But there's great quality here. The bridle and buckle are thick and solid. Check out the border of the top belt with the nautical line stitching. Great details. The bottom picture is a Smather's and Branson needlepoint. Both J Mac and S&B go to Vietnam for the needle pointing. But the J Mac excels over S&B's cheap and thin bridle. I'm not a fan of their buckle either. I think S&B runs around $165 if you're interested.

But the true Trad needlepoint is the one made for you with a pattern made for you. That's what I've been seeing in NYC. Bespoke needlepoint and is it beautiful in it's originality. The houses you've lived in. The boats you've owned. A time line of your life. Your marriages and divorces. I mean the ideas are endless. Profanity in signal flags is something I've been toying with.

9 comments:

Heavy Tweed Jacket said...

Too bad about that old belt going into the bin. I've always secretly wanted a needlepoint belt, but about the only person with the commensurate needlepointing skill that I know is my mother. I've even asked her. She never gets around to it. Maybe this Christmas, if I'm a good boy.

Death Bredon said...

In my patch, the more was that a man only wore a needlepoint belt if it had been made by his girlfriend. And if he wore it, it was just short of engagement.

Now, some 30 years later, the belts are being revived by a few excellent commercial suppliers with more generic motifs.

Personally, since I never had a girlfriend that like me enough to needlepoint (not surprisingly), I went ahead an bought a nautical flag motif belt for vacations only so as not to imply anything false locally.

porter hovey said...

I agree! How sad that the belt went into the trash. You must have been a great boyfriend to get such a fabulous gift.

Our mom made our whole family needle point stocking for Christmas with felt backs -- they're still fabulous and something that we cherish.

tintin said...

A nice lady who owns a needlepoint shop in St Simons suggested one of her ladies might do a custom job for me. All in, with materials, etc and about 40 hours of work, I estimate I'm pushing $300.

So, I'm contemplating something serious. Haven't fixed on it yet but it has to be unique before I throw that kinda money at a belt. But the thinking about it is the fun part.

Reggie said...

Hullo,
I also have a belt that my college girlfriend needlepointed for me with both my initials and hers on it, also my various affiliations of undergraduate sports team (rowing), interests, etc. Still have it, but it sits unused in a drawer because I no longer have anything near the 32 inch waist I did when I was in college. Can't/won't get rid of it.

Anonymous said...

Crocagator tab? It's amazing what some services charge for adding mediocre bridle tabs. Commission Hermie's?

tintin said...

You mean Hermie Shitzenberger in Biloxi? I heard he went outta business after Katrina. A shame he didn't have insurance. He couldn't get it. Too many claims. Poor, Hermie. He knew how to start a fire but not a flood.

Enzo AGC said...

I designed some needlepoints for vineyard vines while I was working there that should hit the stores at the end of the summer. I believe they'll be priced around the same as S&B and will have the same leather that they use on their dress belts.

Anonymous said...

Also Check out www.tuckerblair.com. They have a line of needlepoint belts that look pretty good.