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Winning windows

And the winner of the 2009 Laguna Beach Holiday Window Contest is…Strands and Stitches, 1516 S. Coast Hwy., whose window display of a teddy bear sledding down a hillside won by a landslide.

The shop won a quarter-page ad in the Coastline Pilot, which sponsored the contest.

Runners up in the first contest were Cho’s Academy, 1966 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Surf & Sport, 1088 S. Coast Hwy., and Fawn Memories, 384 Forest Ave.

Strands and Stitches received many votes from enthusiastic fans of the shop, one of whom called the display “joyful, whimsical and original, with great use of the shop’s merchandise to decorate the scene.”

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“The true spirit of a young child’s experience of Christmas shines through in this year’s holiday windows,” another voter wrote. “I vote for the windows at Strands and Stitches as the best of 2009.”

Cho’s Academy’s window was recognized for its ”beautiful red shimmering lights that flank the banner and decorative sparkling silver balls, and balls covered in red roses. They’ve combined contemporary elegance with bold advertising for a tasteful, festive display.”

Laguna Surf and Sport’s windows were popular with the surfing crowd. “The window rules,” one said. “It looks insane.”

Fawn Memories caught voters’ eyes with its Hawaiian theme that covers the entire display window.

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Intricate and charming, the Strands and Stitches display was created by store employee and Laguna Beach High School senior Samantha Piszkiewicz.

The display depicts a teddy bear named Marigold constructing a “snow” fortress from balls of ivory yarn, while another named Aran — clad in a custom-knit crimson sweater — slides down a baby-blanketed hillside on a wooden sled.

Two fir trees and a winter landscape painting also adorn the panel, lending another winter element to the snowy wonderland.

Piszkiewicz, who has worked at the store for three and a half years, said she feels honored to be recognized for one of the many displays she’s created for the store’s window.

“I began working at the store when I was 14 and immediately took on the responsibility of creating these displays,” she said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

She later built a second display, which shows Marigold holding presents beneath a Christmas tree decorated with colorful yarn “ornaments,” and Aran sitting at a table with needlepointed “cookies” and a tall glass of “milk” made of white yarn.

Piszkiewicz’ mother taught her to knit and crochet when she was 7, and she later learned to needlepoint, spin, embroider and sew.

“I design practically everything I knit and crochet,” she said. “I have two ribbons, an Award of Merit, Best of Class and a Division Win in Needle Art and two ribbons in Sewing at the Orange County Fair for my original designs.”

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As for the creative window displays, she said, most of her inspiration comes the day before, as she peruses the store collecting ideas from merchandise and needlepoint canvases.

Strands and Stitches partner Doña Harman said she and the other employees are thrilled for the win — and for Piszkiewicz.

“She came to us when she was just a little girl and said ‘One day I’m going to work here,’” Harman recalled fondly. “She’s so creative and talented and we’re just so excited for her.”

Now in its third location and approaching two decades of business in Laguna Beach, Strands and Stitches provides knitting and needlepoint materials.

The shop offers workshops, including a free needlepoint class from 1 to 3 p.m. Mondays and an “Open Knitting” workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesdays.

For more information, call (949) 497-5648.



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