Maria Stechschulte was born and raised in the Philippines, and now lives in Washington, DC. She is an accountant by profession, and a knit and crochet designer by choice! Her story below is an interesting look into the career of a long-time artist. Be sure to visit her Etsy Shop to view more of her unique, beautiful creations.
The History of a Fiber Artist
I am an avid gardener and a consummate gourmet cook. I delved into gourmet eggrolls and have trained chefs, sous chefs, mothers, and professionals in making the most delicious and scrumptious eggrolls you could ever have. I conducted cooking classes in my kitchen and taught at the Chevy Chase Community Center.
My parents were in the movie industry, and the women in my family are all into handicrafts. My late mother sewed beautifully and did fine embroideries just like my grandmother. On my father’s side, they were a family of weavers. They used plant fibers to create mats with amazing designs in vibrant colors. I remember my Aunt who had a long bamboo pole suspended in the ceiling of her hut, fibers jutting out of it for her to weave everyday. She was self-taught like just like everyone else in the rural area by the world famous “Hundred Islands”. The women in my family were my very early inspiration into handmades. I loved their craft but I was never really interested in learning except for some embroidering.
I attended a Catholic prep school and I had a great mentor, Sister Marcela. From her I learned the art of crocheting. At first I made baby jackets, then I graduated to making doilies, runners, table linens and bedspreads. I crocheted for fun and really enjoyed the craft. When I came to America to do graduate school in San Antonio, Texas I crocheted doilies as gifts since I had very limited resources as a student. As a young mother of 2 little girls, I delved into crocheting their outfits which caught the attention of a boutique owner. She encouraged me to market my work. As a stay-at-home Mom I thought it was a great idea. I did not know anyone and I thought of writing celebrities: Carol Burnett and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb who both have 2 little girls like mine. I did not hear from Carol Burnett, but the late President’s daughter wrote me a beautiful letter of encouragement which I treasure.
Since I could not go out much (no car) I delved into writing….Neiman Marcus in Texas, department stores in DC, VA and MD. I heard from all of them and I sold little girl’s “granny square vests.” That was the start of a career in wearables and accessories. I designed the first hand knitted Christmas Stockings sold in Washington, DC-MD-VA during the time when all that was available were “felt christmas stockings”. My inspiration came from a photograph of First Lady Pat Nixon in the Washington Post. She was holding the stockings of Trisha and Julie Nixon by the White House fireplace mantle.
Then I discontinued children’s wear and went into women’s wear….wool, mohair, and alpaca sweaters and hats for women in winter; Parisian Cotton women’s camisoles for Spring-Summer. I sold my work in New York, Carmel, Ca., Wisconsin, and Boston, MA in boutiques and wearable galleries.
I went on hiatus to practice my profession…I worked at American University and the National Academy of Sciences as a senior accountant. I retired in 2009 and wondered if I should revive my Crochet/Knit passion which was very successful before. My niece, an Etsy enthusiast encouraged me to do so. I registered with Etsy in 2009 but I did not post anything until the Fall of 2010. At that time, there were not many hand knit Christmas stockings. I thought I would do something unique, thus the Avant Garde Christmas Stockings were born!