Interview Series: Shannon Zimolong, Greystone Needlepoint Founder

INTERVIEW SERIES | Shannon Zimolong, Greystone Needlepoint Founder

Liz and Lizzy sat down with their friend Shannon Zimolong, Founder of Greystone Needlepoint, to talk about how a little idea at 5am turned into a bona fide business and beloved community hub.

Shannon we’ve been friends since preschool (!!), which is hard to fathom, but we’ve seen it all with each other, through High School years, off to college, career pursuits that brought us together at points (we ran a company together for a few years!) and then back apart. Your path wavered between creative pursuits and more corporate environments until you decided to focus on your kids when your eldest was born ten years ago. You were a fulltime mom to three when you founded your online needlepoint store, Greystone Needlepoint. What inspired you to start it?

During the Covid-19 lockdowns, I was searching for a new needlepoint project and struggled to find one place that had everything I was looking for. I did discover a (huge) needlepoint community already online and looking for the same things I was. I think we were all searching for a calming respite amidst the uncertainty of the time. So I made an Instagram account and began building out a website.

How did you manage it with three kids ??

My role as a mother comes first and foremost for me. In the beginning, it was really difficult to juggle the demands of day-to-day life with three children coupled with those of starting a business. I would wake up before the rest of the house to work and then would double back after everyone was asleep. Although not a sustainable long-term approach, the passion I felt for this craft really fueled me forward.

How old were you when you started needlepointing and what drew you to it?

I started needlepointing in college. I wanted to learn how to knit and needlepoint, and I liked the outcome of needlepoint better. Have you ever seen a needlepoint belt on someone? A true work of art and a labor of love! I love Christmastime, so seeing beautifully stitched ornaments adorning someone’s tree made me want to stitch ones of my own – ones that held a special meaning to me and my family. Or, as we like to say #canvastokeepsake.  I also absolutely love the exquisite process of finishing (when your stitched canvas becomes an actual item ex: an ornament). The possibilities are endless and the creativity is contagious.

Needlepointing always seemed so specific to me, but you’ve opened my eyes to the fact that there is a HUGE needlepointing world, and it’s a craft that really creates community. What do you think it is about needlepointing that does that?

The needlepoint community is so strong and really filled with fun people up for anything. Stitchers love to share colors, fiber, stitch choices and the story behind what it is they are stitching. Needlepoint is also much easier to pick up than many think.

What’s the most gratifying part of looking back over the past few years of your store ? You run a lot of community events (stitching, book club, even workouts!). What told you that these things should be a part of the Greystone world ?

We like to say “needlepoint is the new book club” but why not merge both!? For me, true relaxation comes from listening to a book or podcast and stitching at the same time. I love to read, so Stitches & Stories felt like a natural extension. It has been a really fun way to connect with others within the community. Since starting this business, I have really learned to listen to and trust my instinct, especially when it comes to ideas. Looking back, I think “wow this little idea I had at 5 AM in bed one morning became a reality.” A little creative thinking begets more! 

A couple of years ago, we started making custom zip pouches for your brand. What inspired you to want to carry these? How do you use them and how do your customers use them ?

The Lewis zip pouches are literally the perfect needlepoint pouch and at Greystone Needlepoint, we cannot get enough of them. They are the perfect size and expand to hold everything from your needlepoint canvas, to fiber (threads) and scissors, all while looking super chic. I have multiple project bags that I put inside my Lewis bag(s) so it even acts like a big carrier. The custom Greystone x Lewis print is consistently a top seller for us!

We love seeing the ways our zip pouch sets get used. What do you like using them ?

Not only do I use the zip pouches for Needlepoint, I use them in my everyday life. I bring them to the pool to organize sunscreens. I use them as an activity bag and have Uno cards and crayons for my kids to play on-demand. I bring them on girls’ trips as safekeeping for my makeup. I even carry them as a clutch out to dinner. I especially love the pink scallop pattern – it’s already one of my summer staples!

You’re still a full-time mom to three kids, and you also have this growing business with a whole community of people gathering around you + your brand. How do you take time for yourself?

I know this is going to sound cliche, but honestly, I make the time for myself to needlepoint at night because it’s so relaxing.  I always say “busy hands, quiet mind.” Needlepoint is such a wonderful creative outlet and a way for me to intentionally stop thinking about my to-do list and just really focus on being present while unwinding.

We’ve all heard the age-old advice, Follow your passion! But there’s been some chatter lately about how that’s misguided, that making your passion your job will kill the joy it brings you. You are obviously very passionate about needlepointing. How has it been making this joyful part of your life also your work?

Now that I run my own business, I might stitch a little bit less than I would like, but it has been super fun to stitch along with our community through things like Greystone’s stitch along #greystonestitchalong.  I also love finding and curating the best canvases out there. I get so excited when I find them. 

When I reflect on the years I have spent needlepointing thus far, I brim with joy. Needlepoint is so rhythmic and meditative for me, and every project I have done has been stitched with love. To be able to help others cultivate that is something I do not take for granted, and strive to spread.