Throughout most of her life, there was one thing Evergreen, Colorado, resident and University of Nebraska-Lincoln alumna Rebecca Martz-Burley could always turn to — cross-stitch.
Tracing back to sixth century B.C., cross-stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery in the world. Now the most popular style of needlework, cross-stitch is done by crossing pieces of thread into an X-shape to form a picture or pattern.
After picking up the activity in college, Martz-Burley said cross-stitch helped her through a divorce, an illness that left her disabled and the full-term stillbirth of her second child.
At first, cross-stitch was only a hobby. But when she had to stop working after becoming sick in 2010, Martz-Burley said she had more time to stitch. After her child’s stillbirth, she said she put more time into cross stitch to occupy her mind. She altered her Etsy store in order to create and sell more patterns in her favorite genre, horror. Martz-Burley said she promised herself she would one day release her own cross-stitch pattern book.
“I loved doing the horror pieces, but I was always trying to do stuff I thought would sell. And then I just said, ‘To hell with that. I’m going to do what I love to do,’ and that was the horror stuff,” she said. “I put all my creative energy into the horror genre, and, at the time, I promised myself I would publish a book of patterns within five years.”
When she was coming up with ideas for her book, “Evil Dead 2: The Book of the Thread,” Martz-Burley said she chose to do a book about horror because it’s not common in the cross-stitch world.
Martz-Burley then came up with the idea of getting the rights to one of her favorite movies on which to base her book.
“That is what I’ve been stitching the most — things from the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise,” she said. “In my first book, I went with what I’m most passionate about and what I know the most. I know those movies inside and out.”
After pitching her idea to a publisher, Martz-Burley and her team began to work on the lengthy process of obtaining rights to “Evil Dead 2” in order to use images from the movie in her book.
Working through the production company, Studio Canal, Martz-Burley got the rights to use iconic scenes from the movie, including the laughing scene in which Ash Williams, played by Bruce Campbell, and various inanimate objects around a house begin laughing hysterically.
Martz-Burley said with the help from her artist friend, Teri Heidemeyer, she came up with her own movie-inspired designs.
“For patterns that aren't straight from the film, those are from my imagination. It was just whatever I thought was funny or represented the film well,” she said. “And because I just cannot draw, I asked [Heidemeyer] to draw things for me.”
Before she could publish any of her own creations that resembled Williams, Martz-Burley and her publisher had to get permission from Campbell himself in order to use his face.
“He had to approve the Bloodied Ash face pattern I created, since that wasn't an image straight from the film,” Martz-Burley said. “He did nix an image and we couldn't use that pattern for the book. He didn't think it was a good enough likeness of him.”
Along with cross-stitch patterns, Martz-Burley’s book also includes a story that is narrated by “Evil Dead 2” character and deadite (or possessed being) Henrietta. In addition to the narrative, Henrietta also helps the readers through how to do the different cross-stitch patterns.
To accompany Martz-Burley’s narrative and instructions, Michigan-based publishing company Source Point Press’ founder and art director Josh Werner helped design graphics for the book to help the readers better understand how to cross-stitch the designs.
“I worked with her closely to also include direct shots from scenes in the movie as well, which are very detailed cross-stitch renderings of what can be seen on screen,” he said. “My graphic work was primarily in the design and layout of the book itself. It was important to me that the book was a work of art too, that was engaging and fun to look at.”
Werner said he was excited when the idea for the book was first brought to his attention. After doing some research on the crossover between cross-stitch and horror, Werner said he was surprised by how large the fan base was. As an “Evil Dead” fan himself, he was determined to make the book happen.
“I spoke with [Source Point Press] editor-in-chief Travis McIntire and remember saying to him ‘This is so crazy it might just work,’” he said. “I was thrilled when we were successful in obtaining the license, and I was determined that we not only create a product that would make the ‘Evil Dead’ creators proud, but that it be a superior product to other licensed cross-stitch books on the market and be unlike anything anyone has ever seen before.”
Since the release of her book in April 2018, Martz-Burley said she has been pleased with the reaction and attention it has been getting from the cross-stitch community. Though she currently does not have plans to do another book soon, Martz-Burley said she would like to do another cross-stitch and horror crossover when the time comes.
“I’m seeing that there are so many cross-stitch books with traditional cross-stitch that have inspirational or religious tones or with cute stuff you do for babies, but I’m not seeing a lot of horror,” she said. “I’m going to stay in [the horror genre] as long as I have a supporter and a publisher, and I think that’s really important. I’d like to keep going with the horror [subject] and see where we can go with that.”
This article was originally published in the August 2018 edition of The DN.