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Fort Walton Beach woman shares her love for crafting, cross-stitching

Savannah Evanoff
Northwest Florida Daily News

FORT WALTON BEACH – Linda Oblak remembers her first cross-stitch well.

She was 12 at a Girl Scouts summer camp at Woodland Trails, located off of Lewis Turner Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach. One of the leaders gave each girl a needle, thread, fabric and an owl cross-stitch about an inch big, saying she would teach them the next day.

“In the van, I pulled out the instructions and finished it on the ride home that day," Oblak said. "And I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s something I just picked up immediately and I’ve done it off and on over the years – not as a teenager so much – again, picked it up as an adult. I do every craft known to mankind, but cross-stitch is the one I come back to. It was my first love.”

Linda Oblak holds a cross-stitch piece she did that is based on the 1877 painting the Music Lesson by British artist Frederic Leighton. OblakÕs version, which took her 28 months to complete, required 138,800 individual cross-stitches.

Oblak has since become known among her friend group for two large cross-stitches of famous paintings that hang in her home. She has a third on the way.

Oblak crafts on weekends, when she’s not a “pile of goo” after work, she said. When she cross-stitched full time, Sundays were the day. If friends wanted to hang out, forget it.

“It had to be on Saturday, because I didn’t leave my house on Sunday,” Oblak said. “Sunday was my stitching day. If I didn’t get my stitching day, people knew it, because I get grouchy. I need my time to stitch.”

Oblak isn’t an exercise person by any stretch of the imagination, she said. Crafting is that outlet for her.

“I can lose a day doing it,” Oblak said. “I have gotten up in the morning, put a load of laundry in, sit down on the couch and get out my cross-stitch and start working on it and think, ‘Good God, why do I have to go to the bathroom? I just got out of bed and put the laundry in.’ I’d look at the clock and it had been six hours later. I’d be so into it I didn’t realize how much time had passed.”

Linda Oblak cross-stitched this 1877 painting, entitled the Music Lesson, by British artist Frederic Leighton. OblakÕs version took her 28 months to complete and required 138,800 individual cross-stitches.

Oblak rarely has idle hands. She does bead work, makes T-shirts with her Cricut machine – which owns her and her wallet – makes Christmas ornaments, folds origami and does paper quilling, also known as paper filigree. She will do just about any craft – so long as it’s not painting, sewing or quilting – that involves math, she said.

Oblak doesn’t think she has a drop of her own artistic talent though.

“That’s the nice thing about cross-stitch is I have to follow someone else’s pattern,” Oblak said.

Choosing a pattern is simple.

“Anything that really catches my eye – it can be color, the subject matter – it could be something funny, something cute,” Oblak said. “The two biggest pieces I have done and the one I have halfway done are from a website that will actually take classic art pieces and take very high-quality pictures of these and break them down by pixel, and assign each pixel a color.”

Linda Oblak cross-stitched this 1890 painting, entitled The Bohemian, by French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau. It took Oblak 25 months to finish the project, which required her to make 95,750 individual cross-stitches.

One of her large pieces is based on The Bohemian painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

“He painted her around 1860,” Oblak said. “It’s a gypsy girl. You can see Notre Dame Cathedral's shadow in the background. My friends and I were scrolling this website, and the first thing I honed in on was, ‘Look at her face.’ She was the most beautiful thing I’d seen in a long, long time.”

The other large piece is based on The Music Lesson painting by Johannes Vermeer.

“These two women are in those 1800's gowns and the older woman is teaching the younger girl a string instrument with a long arm on it,” Oblak said. “The younger girl is a redhead and I’m a redhead. I was drawn to that because of her.”

The only materials are fabric, thread, a needle and your hands. And Oblak isn’t short on materials. She even met her husband, George Stokes, at The Stitchery House, a needlework shop formerly on Chestnut Ave. in Fort Walton Beach.

When the shop owner died, Oblak acquired much of its merchandise. One of the regulars died of cancer and left her craft belongings to Oblak.

“Her husband called me a few days after she died and said, ‘Did you know Sue wanted you to have all of her stitch stuff?’” Oblak said. “By the time George and I finished carrying everything out of that apartment, we had filled his Chevy truck bed up three times over with stuff.”

Their friends have an open invitation to shop supplies at their house. 

“There’s a meme on the Internet that says, ‘There’s two different hobbies. There’s the hobby of crafting and there’s the hobby of collecting crafting supplies.”