Designer Q&A: Katie Stice Stewart of Baublestockings
“It’s wild times for miniature stockings,” says Baublestockings founder Katie Stice Stewart. “Kris Jenner recently posted about us on social media, and Paris Hilton posted something yesterday.”
The Atlanta native started her line of hand-stitched stockings back in June of 2018. At that time, Baublestockings were in 32 stores. The following year that number jumped to 90, and in 2020--when many brands saw retail sales plummet—they expanded to 140 stores.
“This year we’re in 300 stores,” say Stewart. “We’ve grown exponentially.”
Baublestocking’s popularity can perhaps be attributed to their ethical business model and superior craftsmanship. Stewart works with a team of fair-trade artisans in Haiti who turn her brand’s intricate designs into stunning needlepoint creations.
We chatted with Stewart about all things Baublestockings just after she returned from a launch party in New York City for her brand’s collaboration with Nicky Hilton (one of Baublestocking’s guest designers).
So, what’s a bauble stocking? Where did the tradition come from?
Baublestockings is based on my family’s Christmas tradition. After all your presents have been opened, you go to the tree, get your bauble stocking down, and the final gift of Christmas—or a clue to it—is in the bauble stocking.
It’s something that I grew up with, and we always did it for my mom to thank her for all she’d done that year. I have so many good memories of going on a shopping trip with my dad and brothers and brainstorming the perfect gift for my mom.
After I met my husband, I said to him, “when do I get my bauble stocking?” And he said, “what are you talking about?” And I said, “you know, what the good Christmas presents come in!” He didn’t know. I started Googling it because I thought every family had one, but it turned out it was my parents’ own unique tradition.
Grandparents especially love buying them. They replace white envelopes really easily, and then they have this tradition they can do forever. The bauble stocking is an heirloom that kids can always remember their grandparents by. We’ve found people also want to buy bauble stockings for their kids or their significant others.
This year we’ve even seen them included in place settings. People are placing them on their dinner tables for a festive touch.
You work with a team of artisans in Haiti who are paid a fair wage for their services and earn the equivalent of a nurse or teacher in the U.S. Tell us more about that partnership.
I spent a year searching for a fair-trade partner. I got very, very lucky in finding Good Threads after a long search. At that time, there were 82 full-time stitchers. I wrote to them and said hey, this is what I have, and would you be able to make it? They agreed. It’s a great work situation for a working mom because they can stitch from their home and on their own time.
My mission is to employ 1000 women full-time for fair-trade in Haiti. And we employ about 700 right now, so we’ve grown a lot from the 82 stitchers we started with.
Like any needlepointer will tell you, what my stitchers do in Haiti is nearly impossible. The Veneto Landscape by Emma Ruth Wise is actually the most difficult stocking we’ve ever stitched. Our designs are all stitched by sight. The artisans get a sheet of paper and it has four thousand dots on it. And those are four thousand stitches. It’s very, very challenging to do what we do.
You have such a range of designs from traditional toile patterns to a santa-hat clad giraffe on the savanna. Who comes up with your designs?
My main artist is Sarah Watson out of Fairhope, Alabama. She’s a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design (which has a campus in Atlanta). Here in Atlanta, we’re very proud of our SCAD graduates. And she happens to be my best friend’s sister-in-law! And then we bring in guest artists.
The idea for our Home for the Holidays design actually came from a social media influencer. She wanted me to do a design for the troops, and I ended up basing it on her house. Ten percent of the proceeds from that design goes to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Tell us more about the guest artists. Anyone in particular you hope to work with in the future?
We partner with so many great companies and artists. Dogwood Hill, for example, is like the end all be all. They’re just a great, great company. They work with around 30 artists. Next year we’re coming out with a set of eight designs for Dogwood Hill which is going to be wild.
Draper James did a collaboration with us. Alice and Olivia also did a collaboration with us. I’d really love to work with Vietri. And, you know, if Caspari would ever like to design its own Baublestocking of course I would make that happen!
The reason that so many great companies are willing to back my company is because we have this mission of employing 1000 women for fair trade. It’s something that everyone can get behind.
So many women have shared their light with us, which makes our job possible.