After nearly 40 years in the Sewing, Quilting, and Crafting Industry, innovator and industry icon, Joyce Drexler is retiring. Joyce is widely regarded by her peers as being the driving force in the 80’s and 90’s behind the rise to prominence of all things free-motion, including machine embroidery or ”Thread Painting”, as she was first to dub it in 1980. Indeed, that was the title of her first book in 1981.
I’m sure you remember Joyce authoring the Q&A column for Creative Machine Embroidery for all of 2012. Her expertise helped many a reader navigate through tricky embroidery techniques and projects.
I had the pleasure of spending a week with Joyce in Germany, studying Sulky threads and how they’re made. The experience was one I’ll never forget and I’m forever grateful to Joyce, Fred and the Sulky family for welcoming me on a trip of a lifetime. Not only did I learn all about Sulky thread–a fascinating account explained in the Sept/Oct 2013 issue of CME–but I also saw many tourist attractions, including the Swiss Alps, numerous castles, a textile museum and, of course, beer gardens.
Here are Joyce and Fred on our Germany/Switzerland/Austria trip. Their love is palpable and they’re the most generous, kind and fun people! It’s no wonder they were able to create and build a business together, and that it has been able to last and thrive with Joyce’s talent leading the way. Aren’t they cute?
A bit more about Joyce:
During the 80’s she taught her fast, fun, and easy “Speed Stitch” method of free-motion embroidery in 3-Day Success Seminars and 5-day SMART events in North America to thousands of retailers and their teachers who, in turn, taught it to hundreds of thousands of consumers.
From 1980 to 1987, Joyce created over 200 kits and products that bore the Speed Stitch name. In addition to Embroidery, the kits taught consumers how to do a wide range of creative techniques like Monogramming, Cut Work, Lace Making, Charted Needlework, Applique and much, much more.
Joyce was a pioneer who was significantly responsible for the major shift in focus of the Home Sewing Industry from selling “sewing to save money” to sewing as “a creative and enjoyable pastime” which was appealing to, and worthy of, the increasing number of working women’s leisure time, energy and money.
As an ever-increasing number of women learned and loved Joyce’s Speed Stitch free-motion embroidery techniques, that became the impetus for sewing machine companies to introduce stand-alone embroidery machines for consumers in the early 90’s.
Together with her husband, Fred, they secured the marketing rights to Sulky Thread in 1985, founded Sulky of America in 1987 and developed it into the premier Decorative Thread Company in North America that it is today, now offering over 4,000 sku’s to consumers.
Not only did they create the category of Decorative Threads in 1985, but they also nurtured and grew it into a major category of sales in thousands of retail stores through an industry-first, bold and innovative educational and marketing program.
As Executive Vice-President and Creative Director for Sulky, Joyce authored 24 books that have sold well over 800,000 copies, wrote numerous magazine articles, appeared on hundreds of PBS TV Sewing, Quilting and Crafting shows, developed “Sew Exciting” Seminars that have been presented to hundreds of thousands of consumers in thousands of retail stores and guilds across North America, and developed “Certified Teacher Training” events to train thousands of future teachers.
In order to help even more people all over the world to “Follow Their Dream” of being a Sulky Certified Teacher, in 2014, Sulky began offering this outstanding course online.
In 2003 she spent almost a year painstakingly developing the first 42 colors of the uniquely different “Blendables®” Cotton thread line for Sulky wherein 4 or 5 different thread colors, that are in the same range of tone and intensity, change colors rapidly and, more importantly, randomly, which no other thread does.
She repeated the process again in late 2006 and 2011, as she developed 42 more colors each time for a total of 126 colors that are available today in both 12 wt. and 30 wt.
Joyce was instrumental in developing the extensive line of 19 high quality Sulky Stabilizers, which were the first in the industry to feature color-coded packaging and reusable storage containers for the rolls.
She also worked on the development and marketing of the patented Sulky Slimline Storage Boxes, Sulky KK 2000 Temporary Spray Adhesive, Sulky Puffy Foam, Sulky Iron-on Transfer Pens, and Sulky Petites.
In 2010, Sulky launched the Sulky Embroidery Club, which features hundreds of Joyce’s high quality digitized designs. Since Joyce loves to draw, even in retirement, she will continue to add new designs every month.
In 2005, her contributions to the industry were recognized by her receipt of the prestigious Schmetz Golden Needle Award in acknowledgment of her significant and timely contributions toward enhancing the future of the sewing industry. In 2007, Joyce and Fred Drexler were inducted into the prestigious American Sewing Guild Hall of Fame, an honor that had only been bestowed on 7 other people in the Sewing Industry. In 2013, they were inducted into the Sewing Dealers Hall of Fame.
Joyce attributes her success in the industry to a strong dedication to education, community involvement, and superior products. Joyce and Fred Drexler have consistently maintained these qualities and, in doing so, have propelled Sulky of America into the 21st century as an industry leader.
We wish Joyce all the best in her retirement, and I’m sure she’ll still be sewing, quilting, embroidering, designing, drawing and creating every day! Thank you, Joyce, for all you’ve done to bring machine embroidery to the masses. We appreciate you, your talents and your efforts!
Ellen March & the CME family: Amanda Carestio, Veronica Graham, Jessica Ziebarth & Jill Case