Even though Cincinnati native Michelle Staub studied art at Ohio University, she didn’t get into embroidery until after graduation during the summer of 2014. That’s when she came up with the idea to make an embroidered portrait of her cat. A year later, after honing her craft, she launched Stitching Sabbatical, her custom embroidered pet portrait business.
Staub has since garnered more 85,000 followers on Instagram, where she shares examples of her work. She often posts side-by-side comparisons of a pet’s reference photo and the finished product, and it can be hard to tell the difference.
Why? Because Staub’s embroidered portraits are all about the details—it’s where she says she’s seen the most improvement in her work. In the beginning, she simply focused on transferring the pet’s likeness from the photograph onto the fabric and using the correct thread colors. Now, she incorporates complex details that take it from a two-dimensional portrait to one that looks life-like. “Throughout the years I’ve [learned to notice] like, Oh this dog has some little eyelashes over here and a little pop of color that’s reflecting off the collar into the fur,” Staub says. Even a “simple” portrait can require more than 35 different thread colors, and each project typically takes about 45 hours to complete.
Staub once even incorporated a fried chicken leg into a portrait of a customer’s dog upon request. “I love when people ask me to put some of their pet’s personality in the portrait,” she says.
Such a large social media following means Staub is constantly fielding new commission requests. In order to streamline the process, she pre-screens each request to make sure the customer provides high-quality photos. If they meet her standards, she adds them to her waitlist, which is currently more than 200 projects long.
Even though she’s based in Cincinnati, Staub has shipped her work all over the world, including Japan, China, Brazil, and Germany. And her following is only continuing to grow. In February, a short video of her embroidery work was featured on 60 Second Docs, a YouTube channel that has more than 35,000 subscribers. Whether you’re a pet parent to a dog, cat, cow, or horse, Staub can create a hyper-realistic embroidered portrait of your furry (or scaled!) friend.