Contrarium Chainstitch Personalizes Vintage-Style Embroidery

With a degree in accounting from Regis University, Stephanie McCourt knew her heart lied in the arms of an entrepreneurial career. After eliminating debt as an issue, she started her own vintage-style embroidery line, contrarium chainstitch, in June 2019.

In elementary school, McCourt discovered what she refers to as a “love affair” for textiles. “My passion for hand-crafted fabric goods definitely predates my desire to design and illustrate,” stated McCourt. Moreover, even as McCourt began sewing in 2015, she felt a longing to start a business of her own in something inherently different. In 2019, her inspiration to design and manifest new techniques came forth the day she received her chainstitch machine.

“There is no better way to learn than by doing. I’m definitely still learning and sharpening my skills every day,” said McCourt.

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McCourt’s found her passion in the realm to create custom, personal work for her clients. This surfaced from her intention to start a vintage-style embroidery line in the first place. In this day and age, technology rules many of our day-to-day processes. Therefore, it can be hard to find a way to design while feeling connected. McCourt enjoys guiding her stitches by hand so her clients have meaningful, lifetime pieces.

“There is a certain charm to art made the old-fashioned way. My 90-year-old chainstitch machine isn’t computerized at all — it’s operated by hand via a crank beneath the table. I think it’s wonderful that these cast-iron singer machines still work with original parts,” explained McCourt. “This makes a stitching style that is uniquely Americana. I love combining this traditional method of embroidery with modern design.”

contarium chainstitch, according to McCourt, translates from the Latin to mean “the opposite.” McCourt can approach her business with her own attitude and aesthetic in mind, while avoiding the norm. “I hope as my brand grows, it continues to push the boundaries of chainstitch embroidery. Chainstitch is for everyone of course. However, contrarium chainstitch is for trendsetters, those who take no nonsense and the subtly bizarre. It’s a work in progress,” stated McCourt.

contrarium chainstitch denim
Photo by Stephanie McCourt

McCourt interacts with her customers on a very open, and communicative level. With her chainstitch machine, she can design almost anything a customer can dream of. Furthermore, while her website offers custom jewelry, accessories and patches, this serves as a baseline offering. In the new year, McCourt hopes to take on specific projects. This includes denim jackets, large-scale banners and anything wedding related.

“I enjoy local orders and can work with any budget to put together a one-of-a-kind piece you will love!” mentioned McCourt.

Over the years, Denver’s fashion scene continuously shows it is a force to be reckoned with. People of all talent and backgrounds bring their artistic skills to the table for the community to be creatively challenged with. According to McCourt, she loves that we are no longer considered a “cow town.”

contrarium chainstitch alphabet
Photo by Kimberly Greenwell Photography

“I love how local mainstays like Rockmount Ranch keep Denver true to its western roots. It’s nice to see western style around town — it’s not just Nashville and Austin who should have all the fun! I also love the local music scene. It tends to bring out some really inspired street style, ” said McCourt.

One goal McCourt stays true to is designing pieces that look like they come from Denver, without making it blatantly obvious. The versatility of local creatives to create pieces suitable for all people, occasions, etc. influences her own design process.

I love that every Denver creative I know is passionate about keeping it local. In addition, fostering strong professional relationships with each other,” explained McCourt. “It feels like we are all working to create pieces that feel intrinsically ‘Denver.’ This spirit of collaboration inspires me to think about what it really means to make local art. It also inspires me to envision what styles define our city.”

contrarium chainstitch dreams
Photo by Stephanie McCourt

McCourt is currently doing a series on TikTok where she stitches 50 unique patches in real time. To see the series, click the link here. You can also stay up to date with all of McCourt’s projects on Instagram.

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