Wednesday, August 29, 2012

JBW Designs & Golden Needle (Port Charlotte, FL)

 Featured Designer -

When did you begin designing your own patterns and how did that turn into a business?
It all began years and years ago with a needlepoint class .  I had been stitching since childhood, and began taking more advanced classes through the EGA after our children were born.  Since my background is in education, I volunteered to teach a few friends how to needlepoint.  The first mistake I made was asking them to design the layout for their own sampler.  It was much too intimidating for beginners, and so I designed two beginning needlepoint samplers.   I taught classes in our home, and also for a lovely needlework shop in our area.  The manager  was not only a friend but a mentor as she encouraged me to continue designing new samplers for the store.  
 I also worked for a woman who owned a distribution company, and that gave me  a glimpse  into the  potential of the wholesale market.   I realized that I could sell my designs to shops to use for teaching purposes.   In the mid 1980’s  (I’ve been designing for a long time!), I converted many of the needlepoint designs to cross stitch, and have never looked back.  I had no idea that my early designs would lead to the company that I have today.  It has been a wonderful journey.

What are a few of your favorite themes when designing a pattern?
I think that a designer’s works evolves throughout the years.  In the beginning, I loved the graphic quality and designs of quilts, and so many of my early patterns were quilt themes.  The first cross stitch pattern which was printed as a full sized leaflet was called Quilts Are Love in 1983 . 
 I’ve always loved  the elements of antique samplers: alphabets, floral borders, small motifs, etc. and have tried to design pieces which incorporated those elements into an elegant format.  Favorite themes are :  Christmas , other  holidays and designs for the home and family . 

 I went through one phase of hiding the alphabet in the design, and that series included Home At Last, To The Sea, Baby Announcement, Five Little Pumpkins and The Reindeer Sampler. 

Judy's Design Studio
 About five years ago, I began putting  antique sampler motifs into one design and that is how the  French Country  line began.   I can’t tell you how much fun they are to design.  I begin with a list of all the motifs which would pertain the theme,  sketch  the design, and  then begin charting on the computer.  It is similar to assembling  a puzzle and if you study them closely, you’ll see that vines, leaves and hearts are the motifs which help tie them all together.

Do you stitch your own models? 

Yes, because I make so many changes in the charts and the colors as I’m stitching.  Each time something is altered, I go back to the computer to enter the changes into a corrected version.  Sometimes there will be 10 - 15 revisions of one design.  Once the final version is completed, I sometimes have a model stitcher do a second model in another color family or over one thread.

Do you have any advice for aspiring designers out there?
Judy's Design Studio
The cross stitch field has so many outstanding designers, that I’m sure it must be intimidating for  new designers to  enter the field.  But don’t forget, we all began with just one design - and our collections gradually grew so that we had enough to begin displaying and selling at the wholesale shows.  I would advise an aspiring designer to find a look that is unique ,  take her designs to as many  needlework shops as possible to see if there is potential in the marketplace and I would encourage them  to contact the needlework distributors  to receive feedback.

Loaning the models to a shop for a trunk show would also be a great way to sell the designs - as we all know that seeing the models in person can be the key to selling.  There are many great designers who began just like we all did  - on a small scale .  It does take awhile to get name recognition for your company so select your company name carefully.  I’m not sure if I ever analyzed whether JBW Designs would fit  into that category,  but somehow it has worked!

Have you ever exhibited at or attended a TNNA trade show, and if so what are your thoughts on it?
I’ve been exhibiting at the wholesale trade shows  for almost 25 years and I think it is one of the keys to success . You and your company have to be visible to  needlework shop owners.  When I first began, I didn’t have a large enough line to exhibit on my own, and so I worked with another company  who exhibited at the trade shows.   Norden Crafts often exhibits  for designer’s  who are unable to attend the market.   I love going to the shows as it gives me the chance to reconnect with shop owners, meet new people, and network with other vendors in our industry.   I come home from the shows with new ideas , new products and  more enthusiasm for the year ahead. 

Let's Learn a Bit About Judy

1. Besides stitching and designing, what are a few things you enjoy in your free time?
Reading is high on the list of favorite activities.  I organized a book club with friends about ten years ago. and it has certainly  expanded my reading  tastes, plus we have  have a great time together.

  I also take a hand painted furniture class once a week .We find old pieces of furniture, base coat them with white, and then paint designs on the pieces with the help of our very talented instructor.    I’ve painted tables, bowls, trays, pepper mills, frames, waste baskets , bird feeders , bulletin boards, chairs, etc.  I also enjoy antiquing and have many collections:  antique red samplers, linens, Chintz ware , tole trays,  silhouettes and blue and white china.

2. What are your three favorite books? 
It’s so hard to choose but here are three I really enjoyed and would recommend.
No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin  ( about the Roosevelt years)
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Vreeland  ( about Renoir’s painting of that name.)
Peace Like a River by Enger.  (His writing style is so lyrical.)

What kind of music do you listen to? 
I like classical, but also listen to Josh Groban, Susan Boyle, Andrea Boccelli,  and soundtracks from favorite movies.

Would you like to share a little about your family?
Mr. & Mrs Whitman on vacation last year.
My husband and I have been married for 48 years, and have two adult children - Mark and Kris and 6 grandchildren.   Mark and his wife Brenda have 5 :  Wyatt is 15, Ashton is 12, Cody is 8, Tristan is 5 and Ellie is 3.  Kris and her husband Andy have one son Liam who is 8.    When we're all together it is 'crazy' but so much fun.   Our two oldest grandchildren are avid baseball players and play on travel teams so we  attend as many of their games as possible.  We also enjoy  boating ,  picnics, and traveling together.  We are so lucky to have them living nearby. 

Would you like to share a favorite recipe?  
Since I always bake cookies for the shop owners in Nashville, its only appropriate to include one of my favorite cookie recipes.
Oatmeal Cookies
1/2# butter
2  C. sugar
2 eggs
1  teaspoon vanilla
2 C. oatmeal
2  1/2 C. flour
1  teaspoon baking soda
1  teaspoon salt
1  C. chopped walnuts
1  C. raisins

1.  Cream together butter and sugar.
2. Add eggs and vanilla
3. Mix in oatmeal.
4. Mix  flour with baking soda and sale 
and add to butter mixture.
5. Beat until well blended.
The batter will be quite thick.
6. Stir in nuts and raisins.
7. Heat over to 350 degrees.
8. Bake 8 - 10 minutes until
lightly browned.  

Judy wanted to say thank you for all of your support over the years - so she designed this adorable FREEBIE for you!  Happy Stitching!

Fabric - 30ct Northern Cross Linen - Off White
Fibers - Sampler Threads
Size 38W x 35H
Finished Size on #30 fabric: 2.53" W x 2.3" H
Color Code
Symbol - Color - Sampler Thread
< - Green - Avocado
L - Dark Rose - Cherry Wine
1 - Pale Pink - Sweet Petunia
K - Med. Pink - Victorian Pink
J - Med Dark Rose - Holly Berry

Featured Shop -

How long have you been a stitcher and where did you first learn?
I have always done things with my hands, mostly machine sewing. I am really a misplaced fashion designer. That was my dream. didn't make that turn in the road. My mom was a hand smocker, my great aunt a seamstress and my godmother a milliner.
I am left handed and some of the hand mediums were more difficult to my brain. I started in 1975 with stamped and crewel kits. moved to counted work in early eighties.
We lived in the metropolitan DC area where my husband was in law enforcement, and I found a couple of shops that had some wonderful stitching, but became close friends with the shop in Laurel Md. Michelle sold me the rights to the name of her shop (for a $1.00) and when we moved to Florida I was going to open Stitching Pretty South.
There was a bend in that road and I ended up buying the Golden Needle in 1994 ( a machine embroidery business) and in 1995 when we expanded my husband thought I should bring the cross stitch in and I never looked back.
We have been in our existing shop for 13 years and have increased our inventory at least 100 times over. We have 2 floors though you can't tell from the front and we carry all kinds of counted cross stitch.

How do you compare the products that are available in today's market to 10 years ago, and how has that changed your business over time?
We have come along way from Aida cloth and DMC floss. There are so many innovative people out that have changed our industry so. The overdyed fabrics and flosses, the silks and metallic's that are now available can make a real impact in what you are doing. I am a famous one to try a different fabric or thread to give the design a different look. My customers know that and many aren't afraid to try.
What are some of the biggest changes in the industry you've seen since you've been in business?
I really think the internet, and social media have greatly affected our industry. both good and bad.
I have a website and it is still general and it gets people here if they are in the area.
It is hard to compete with something that is open 24/7 though many of my customers will check with me first before ordering on line, which is nice.
Who are some your personal favorite designers?
I have always been a big fan of Shepherds Bush. It seems if I am struggling with something their colors and designs always put me at peace. I love Erica Michaels silk gauze pieces and have done several of them. Even though they are sometimes a struggle on the eyes. a little magnification goes a long way.
I also like some different designers, they are smaller companies but have some really nice pieces. Michelle Ink Designs, and Jardin Parvie are 2.

Is there an event or promotion that you offer that you feel is incredibly successful that you'd like to share?
We always have a huge success with our Super Bowl Sale, I include a sidewalk sale along with my SB Sale and everyone looks for those deals. I had an old boss up North who didn't feel old merchandise should spend too much time in the store and moved it just for the room. I have taken that concept and used it here, with great success.
We also have a Stitch Marathon about 4 times a year. I rent our Habitat community Center for the day, and take up to 50 people to come and stitch and share new friends. We cook dinner for everyone, have a few demos, and have a great time. The fee they pay goes back to Habitat for the joy of sharing their place. Lots of work but a worthwhile event.

A Bit About Cathy - 

Books. I think reading has a close second to stitching. I go through fazes on reading. I like the "and they lived happily ever after" type. One of my most favorite books is Rainwater by Sandra Brown. She is generally a very edgy more graphic writer, but she wrote this without anyone knowing and it was a truly wonderful book
I think my greatest strength is I remember alot. I can tell you what people bought and are working on from years ago.
My biggest weakness is I'm too nice. I will tell you I am a bad boss because I would never call you on something and that gets me in trouble or really frustrated. I try to be tough, but everybody knows it is a facade!!
My Family,
My husband is Bruce, we have 2 kids a boy, Trace and a girl, Kim. and 3 grandsons, plus a 4th on their way. and a beagle, Buddy.
    I think one of my biggest dreams was to own my own business, and I'm still here after 17 years. We have had some challenges in our journey, but I still love what I do and enjoy meeting my customers and my friends when I go to the shows. I've seen alot over the years in the industry, but wouldn't have it any other way!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lizzie*Kate News, Homespun Elegance Freebie, and a pic of my baby girl!

I have to apologize for omitting this from the Homespun Elegance Feature on August 8th!  Sandra from Homespun Elegance has designed this adorable FREEBIE as a thank you to all of her fans.  What a cute idea for an ornament, or pinkeep, or bookmark, or tiny framed piece.  Enjoy! 

Lizzie Kate News!

THEY ARE COMING!!!  Part 3 of Lizzie*Kate's Mystery Sampler is ready to ship!  Thank you to all 3,500 of you that supported this incredible design!  It has sparked excitement for the industry in a way that we are all so incredibly proud of and thankful for.  Linda, you have been absolutely amazing to work with, and I hope we can do this again someday!  This has been an incredible ride, and I am sad to see it almost over. 

A well placed Post-It Note hides Part 3 of the sampler..... for now! 

IMPORTANT NEWS - We are awaiting the 30ct Guacamole for the bonus pattern from Weeks Dye Works.  Due to an unforseen production error, it has set back the delivery of this fabric by approximately a week.  We don't want to delay the shipment of the patterns, because we know that all of you stitchers are so excited to see the remainder of the main piece!  While you are all waiting for the bonus fabric, you can start stitching the 3rd installment of the main piece.  When the linen arrives here at Norden, we will ship it out to our shops right away along with the bonus threads.  We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this causes. 


 Hannah's 1st Day of 4th Grade - Where has the time gone?  I can't believe she is 9 already, and looking like she's 13.  Some of you probably remember meeting her at shows when she was just a baby, well here she is now!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Milady's Needle & Cross Stitch & Crafts - Norden's Needleworkers

Featured Designer -

How long have you been a stitcher and how did you first learn about stitching? When did you begin designing your own patterns and how did that turn into a business? 
I have been stitching since my mother taught me how to stitch and knit when I was in junior high school.  Although I put it aside for many years, I took it up again while in college when a friend taught me counted cross stitch.  I began my own design company in 2004 after I designed a Christmas ornament for my local sampler guild and friends there encouraged me to try my hand at designing professionally.

What are a few of your favorite themes when designing a pattern?
I love antique samplers!!  It’s that simple.  So, my design themes are based on old samplers.  I have over 25 antique samplers and plan to reproduce many of them.  I enjoy doing the research to discover more about the young girls who stitched these samplers.  It’s heaven to me to just study an antique sampler, so I attend seminars hosted by museums whenever I can and read books about samplers from my library of needlework books. 

Where do you see your company in 5 years?
I hope I will still be designing, attending trade shows and working with the wonderful shops who stock my designs.  Because of the huge problem we have with piracy of designs on the internet, many designers and shops have closed their doors.  I hope that within a few years we will have this problem more in control, as at times it simply seems like the best option is to stop designing. I would like my company to continue to grow and flourish in the next 5 years.

How important is social media in the cross-stitch industry and how do you make use of it for your company?
I think that social media is very important to anyone currently in business.  Shopping these days is done online and people seem to want to talk about what they bought and what projects they are working on.  While the internet has increased the closure of independent needlework shops, there are several shops which have a wonderful online presence and use social media to expand their customer base.  I would hate to see brick and mortar shops completely disappear, as I love to see and touch fabrics, fibers and charts.  So, while I might do my research online, I support my local needlework shop when I am buying for my personal stash.  I have a blog at: and update it at least once a month with news about new designs and upcoming trade shows.  I do have a website at: but it is woefully outdated, so I post my new designs on my blog.  There is never enough time in the day to do everything, but my husband is retiring at the end of this year and hopefully we will get the main website caught up to date after this happens.  

What other designers are you a fan of?
I know so many wonderful designers out there and I appreciate their talent even if I might not personally stitch their designs.  I can just love a design, but it might not be my personal cup of tea.  Since I love antique samplers, most of the patterns in my personal stash are from reproduction designers.  I have been buying reproduction sampler patterns from The Essamplaire, The Examplarery, The Scarlet Letter, Threads of Gold, The Sampler House, Sheepish Designs, Good Huswife and Handwork since I fell in love with samplers in 1995.  A couple of these designers have retired and I miss their presence in the market place.  But several newer reproduction sampler designers such as The Scarlet House, Sampler’s Remembered, Needlework Press, Shakespeare’s Peddler, Queenstown Sampler Designs, Needleprint and With Thy Needle & Thread have come into the market place in the last 10 to 15 years and I have appreciated their work as evidenced by the presence of their designs in my stash.  Of course I also am in awe of the great business minds behind Little House Needleworks and Blackbird Designs both of whom have come out with a few reproduction samplers.  There are so many other designers designs populating my stash, that they are too numerous to name.  I am a collector and love to sit down with my collection and simply enjoy the art of the needle.

Do you or are you willing to travel for stitching events?
I love to travel for stitching events.  I attend Sampler Seminars whenever I can.  I attend at least one retreat a year and would love to add more.  I go to TNNA trade shows and love to meet my customers and keep up with new trends in the counted thread marketplace.  These shows are invaluable for my business and I wish I could attend all of them.  I love to teach and would love to do more of this with sampler guilds, retreats, and needlework shops.

Do you feel your style has changed over time, and if so how do feel about your older designs now? What is your personal favorite design in your line?
My style hasn’t really changed much, but I have moved more towards reproduction samplers than original sampler designs.  I still have a few of those in my line up, but I have shifted my focus to my passion for antique samplers.  My favorite design is often my latest design.  Of my original sampler designs I think my favorites are In Search of Bliss and Winter Is Past.  I just love the thoughts expressed on samplers, so I try to find samplers that have unique verses
In Search of Bliss

Winter is Past
Of my reproductions my favorites are Sarah Brown & Ann Blockley.  I like to find fairly unique borders on the samplers I reproduce.  This can be a unique border in iteself or the way the sampler maker stitched the border.  
Sarah Brown

Ann Smith Blockley

Besides stitching and designing, what are a few things you enjoy in your free time?
I love to read…all kinds of books including mysteries, fantasy, current novels, history, biography and especially historical novels.   One of my favorite historical novels is Katherine by Anya Seton.  Of course books on samplers abound in my collection and these are opened more than once a week.  I also love to watch old movies and TCM is my favorite channel.  I could watch Casablanca, The Thin Man series and any of the Preston Sturgis movies over and over and not get tired of them.  Since I have seen these so many times, it’s much easier to stitch while watching old movies.  I also love period movies with Elizabeth and Shakespeare In Love being among my favorites.

What kind of music do you like to listen to?
I love all kinds of music except traditional opera.  It depends on the mood I am in as to which music I choose.  I like to stitch by soothing music and often choose new age or 17th century music.  The latter always sweeps me back in time thinking about those young women of the court stitching on beautiful samplers.  If I am doing housework I listen to 70’s rock.  It keeps my energy up and my husband always laughs as I dance through dusting.

What are your three greatest achievements? What do you want to achieve in life?
Wow, big questions.  I think my three greatest achievements are attaining my Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology, starting my own business and the development of meaningful friendships with strong women.  I would like to leave this world knowing that I have made a difference in the lives of those around me.  What I would like most to achieve in this life is the serenity that comes with clarity of purpose, with direction from the spirit and with living life to the fullest each and every day.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
Interestingly, I don’t want to win the lottery.  That much money is a burden rather than a blessing.  Thinking about how to spend all that money, usually selfishly, changes a person and their focus in life.    I would rather just have a very successful business that provides me with enough financial success to meet reasonable needs, travel and of course expand my needlework stash. 

Who has influenced you most in your personal life?
I would have to say that my father influenced me most in my personal life.  My father was a University Foreign Student Advisor with a PHD in Education.  His beliefs throughout his life centered on tolerance towards those different from you, giving to others less fortunate than you and learning as much as you can right up until you leave this world.  Other influences include my four sisters with whom I am very close.  I am fortunate to have a family that I can talk to about anything and who support me to be the best I can be in every endeavor I undertake.

Who inspires you and why?
My husband has been the biggest part of the inspiration behind my business.  Without his support both financially and personally, I would not have been able to begin or maintain Milady’s Needle.  He has given me the opportunity to turn my passion into a job that I love and that willingness is inspiration in itself.  In addition, my friends have also inspired me to keep designing.  Their appreciation of my creativity has given me courage when I needed it and new ideas when I felt the need for renewed inspiration.  Those who stitch or collect my designs have also inspired me to continue to create new and exciting needlework for their pleasure.  I believe that needlework can act as food for the soul and in that way I have an active part in helping others to create a richer and more soulful life.  That has made it all worthwhile.

Featured Shop -

How long have you been a stitcher?
  Before I started school, I had a babysitter that did embroidery and I loved it !   When I was 6 years old, my mother bought a stamped dresser scarf for me and one for each of my two older sisters.  I stitched my scarf and had to finish theirs before she would buy another project for me.  That scarf is still on my dresser but the tablecloths, towels, pillowcases, and hankies are all worn out.  Now, I do not have to finish a project before I can start another one since I stitch most of the models in my shop.  I do eventually finish all the projects. 

Who are some of your favorite designers?
 I love samplers and usually have one going at all times.  I stitch Lizzie Kate, Bent Creek, Trilogy, Little House Needleworks, Country Cottage beach themes, La D Da ( I never knew that Mares Eat Oats had real words), Just Nan and lots of Shepherd's Bush just to name a few of my favorites.

How long have you been in business?
 Cross Stitch & Crafts just began our 15th year in July.  When we retired, we moved home to be near my husband's aging parents.   Johnson CityTennessee, is a small college town in the mountains and did not have a needlework shop.  I am a retired nurse that always enjoyed needlework as a hobby.  In the past 15 years, I have learned a lot about business and  have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of meeting new stitchers and learning about stitching.  When we opened, I had just learned about Sampler and Weeks Dye Works threads and was a little intimidated by Pat and Ann at R& R fabrics.  It was a good time to start a needlework business and I was able to learn while I was trying to keep up with all the new things and could share it all with the customers. 

How important is the social media?
 Sharing has been an important part of the business as there has always been a round table and chairs for anyone to sit and stitch.  When a project is finished, someone actually gets to " do the dance."  We do have a website, " that gives information about the shop, location and a map to find us. Conventional advertising has not provided many growth opportunities for us as we have found that word of mouth works best.  Stitchers loves to introduce their stitching friends to their source.  Just last week, the elevator opened and I heard a new customer announce to her friend, a regular customer, that she was now in cross stitch heaven.

What products do you offer?
  Being a shop owner, you start out with the things that interest you and then fill in with other things that customers want.  I think it is really important to be a member of the professional association and attend the markets that are appropriate for your inventory.  I like to tell customers about the designers and encourage them to keep up to date with the newest designs.
 Cross Stitch & Crafts offers a room full of fabrics and a room overflowing with threads, not to mention the beads,  buttons and charms to embellish.  I thought  the shop should do one thing well, and tried to carry everything needed to stitch each pattern in the shop.  I expanded quickly as I learned that we use the same threads for other stitching like needlepoint, tatting, punchneedle, hardanger, and beading.
My husband, Fred , and I have two children.  Becca and her husband live in Huntsville, Alabama.  They have three children and she is the 7th and 8th grade math teacher  at their school.  Becca is one of those rare birds that stitches one project at a time.  Granddaughters Mary (8) and Kate (11) love to spend time in Nonna's  shop and are good stitchers.  Thomas and his wife live in Marshall, North Carolina.  They have a one year old son.  I also like to knit and quilt for the grandchildren, and read romance and mystery novels.
My customers will tell you that I like to share my philosophy about stitching.  If you will stitch for 15 minutes before going to sleep, you will sleep better.  It relaxes you and soothes the worries about your job that you may have brought home with you.

Thank you for reading about Milady's Needle and Cross Stitch & Crafts
Please join us next Wednesday to read all about
JBW Designs & Golden Needle!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Myrtle Grace Motifs & Strawberry Sampler - Norden's Needleworkers!

When did you begin designing your own patterns and how did that turn into a business?
I started designing punch needle patterns 6 years ago.  I bought my first pattern and loved it – but I wanted to adjust it and make it my own.  I realized I could make it my own and delved right in.  I did punch needle patterns exclusively for about 3 years until so many shops asked me to convert them to cross stitch – so I gave that a shot.  It was worth going outside my own comfort zone to do something other people love.

How important is social media in the cross-stitch industry and how do you make use of it for your company?
It’s so fun to be able to connect with stitchers, shops, and designers through social media.  The ability to get instant reaction to new designs or ideas has been so fun.  Even naming patterns – it feels like more of a group effort sometimes.

Do you stitch your own models, or do you have model stitchers?
I am blessed to have three wonderful model stitchers that do my cross stitch models.  I do all my own punch needle models – but these three lovely ladies count all those stitches and make each piece look awesome.   Without them – there would be no cross stitch versions of my patterns.

Do you have any advice for any aspiring designers out there?
Design what you love – not what you think other people will love.  I’ve found the patterns that I like the most – other people love too.

Have you ever exhibited at or attended a TNNA trade show, and if so what are your thoughts on it?
We love exhibiting at the TNNA trade shows.  We’ve had the privilege to do so the last five years and hope to continue to do so!  We love to have the opportunity to see our friends and customers face to face, hear feedback and get to know each other better.  It’s also a great time with fellow designers.  TNNA is a great organization and we feel blessed to be a part of it.


Would you like to share a favorite recipe?
I have so many favorite recipes, even blog most of them at
One of my favorites that I can’t have too often (I am sadly allergic to lemon.)
Lemon-Cream Cheese Cupcakes
What You Need!
1 pkg. (2-layer size) white cake mix
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) Lemon Flavor Instant Pudding
1 cup water
4 egg whites
2 Tbsp. oil
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 pkg. (4 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Make It!
HEAT oven to 350ºF. Beat cake mix, pudding mix, water, egg whites and oil in large bowl with mixer on low speed until moistened. (Batter will be thick.) Beat on medium speed 2 min. Spoon batter evenly into 24 paper-lined 2-1/2-inch muffin cups.
BAKE 21 to 24 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 min.; remove to wire racks. Cool completely.
MEANWHILE, beat sugar, cream cheese, butter and juice with mixer on low speed until well blended. Frost cupcakes.

Do you have any pets?
We have one 80 pound bounding lump of fur named Rusty.  He’s about 7-8 years old and we’ve had him for 5 years already!  He still acts like a young pup – but he’s getting up to middle age.  He’s the inspiration for one of our favorite patterns – Rusty Bucket. He’s a Labrador-Retriever-Pit-Bull mix with something else that makes his tail curl at the end.  He’s a goof but we love him.

Meet Bronwyn!
What do you want to achieve in life?
My husband and I both would love to have a house with grass.  Currently we have a townhouse with some shared grass.  We’d love to be able to have our own grass to plant things and complain about having to mow.  We might even be thankful for the snow that we’ll need to shovel… but oh that will be a good day.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
If I won the lottery today, I will still go to work tomorrow.  I have a day job and I kind of even like it … We would do things like pay off debt, save a sensible amount, pay off our parents’ mortgages, not go crazy with it… sadly we’ve thought it through.  Sadder yet?  We don’t even play the lottery.  My husband’s theory is he will only play once – when he knows he will win.  Will we every play?  Doubtful.

None of us are perfect – tell us about something that embarrassed you.
After asking my husband what he’d like me to bake for dinner with friends – he suggested his grandmother’s jelly roll cake.  Begrudgingly I got the recipe and baked it.  As I was rolling it up with the jelly inside and powdered sugar all over it, I rolled it right off the counter, all the way down my body and it landed square on the floor.  Rather than cry, I picked the sucker up, plopped it on the tray, added more powdered sugar and made sure our friends knew the path of travel for that sad cake.  We laughed and laughed about it.  I’ve had plenty of baking failures and I find the more I share – the better I deal with them.

Featured Shop

The Strawberry Sampler
364 Wilmington Pike, A-2
(Rt. 202)
Glen Mills, PA  19342
1-800-634-6106 and 610-459-8580
Hours ~ Tuesday - Saturday 10AM-5PM

How long have you been in business?
My mom, Ruth Ellen Duncan, opened her first shop in 1975 in the basement of our home.  She learned to stitch in 1971 after getting an Eva Rosenstand kit in Holland, where a teenage girl in the shop translated the basics for her & got her started.  She came home & taught me, so I’ve been stitching for almost 40 years.
When we moved to Delaware, she sold that shop & swore she’d never do that again.  Famous last words.  By the spring of 1979 we were looking for space.  We opened in the upstairs of a farmhouse in September of 1979.

Picture, left to right: Ruth Ellen, me (Beth, in the back), Carma (my aunt) & Abby (my little sister).
I’d like to say I was MUCH too young to work….but I worked every Saturday!  I had my own “group” of customers who visited on Saturdays, shopped, went for lunch, compared goodies & came back for more.    In fact, I just got an email from one of “my” Jersey girls a few months ago.  Now, after much movement (both of the shop & the people), we are just 2.5 miles from our original location.

Ruth Ellen signs the checks & does the accounting (much to her chagrin, as she likes to point out that she sent me to college for 4 years & I am a CPA ~ blech!  Not for me!).  The shop is run by myself & Molly Keith, who joined us in 1989.  She was originally going to work here for a year or two, get some experience, then move to New Hampshire & open a shop.  20+ years later, she’s still here, thank goodness!!  While I grew up working in the shop, I can say without a doubt that I would not be able, nor would I want, to run this shop without her.  We are a team ~ we have worked together so long, we are like a cliché of the old married couple – we finish each other’s sentences, we have our own language….it’s quite sad actually!!  So for this bit of sharing, like everything else around here, our answers are really a group effort!

Do you have an online webstore, and if so how do you feel it has affected your business?
We absolutely have a website!  Before the internet (yikes! When was that??), we offered mail order to people who weren’t close by.  We have always had a newsletter. It began as a piece of paper, typed up by my mom about 4-6 times a year, featuring a chatty greeting, some hints & ideas & an update of lots of new stuff.  We Xeroxed it, typed up labels & sorted the bulk mail.  Stitchers loved it ~ my mom is a natural communicator & teacher.  As things progressed, our newsletters became more detailed, eventually including photos & color printing.  Ruth Ellen did not enjoy keeping on top of the newest, latest ways to do this! For several years we had a print catalog & even created a video catalog (we STILL laugh about taping that…it wasn’t pretty, but people loved it).  Now instead of our stitchers hearing from us 4-6 times a year, they can subscribe to our online newsletter & hear from us about once a week.   Ruth Ellen has a blog (that she does in fits & starts), Molly has a blog that is more tied into what’s up at the shop & another gal who works with us has a blog & keeps US up to date with what others are stitching!  With the advent of the internet & the “information age”, keeping our stitchers updated & in touch with us has become a full-time job.  It was initially a love/hate thing…actually it still is!  We resisted getting caught up in all that new-fangled internet stuff at first!  But we quickly learned that like anything else in life, you better be able to adapt to new ideas & tools, or you will find yourself left behind.  Our website has certainly expanded our exposure from Southeastern Pennsylvania to stitchers around the world.  We regularly send orders to Europe, South America, Australia & Japan.
There is so much out there & trying to stay on top of everything can be exhausting.  Many times we find out about new designers from a stitcher who has seen something on someone’s blog & asked us if we carry it.  Our suppliers do a wonderful job keeping us informed of what’s new. We find new & exciting things almost weekly & with our website we can keep our stitchers around the world up to date as well.
But what remains the same is our desire to reach our stitchers as friends.  Our newsletter, which I typically write, is part new-goods, part shop update, part personal update. I tend to share bits of personal goings on from all of us ~ new puppies, new grandkids, little league scores (my nephews both play almost year-round), hilarious happenings & the latest good thing we’ve eaten (usually chocolate ~ although by far the best day of the year is KRINGLE DAY!!).  We also do some unsolicited commentaries on new stuff we’ve seen.  We’ve been known to recommend books we liked & shoes we wear.  We have a page on our site called “Favorite Things” which is a conglomeration of, well, some of our favorite things aside from cross stitch ~ from jewelry to the Phillies, from Dansko clogs (the headquarters & factory outlet is about 15 miles away) to Longwood Gardens (even closer).    We hope these personal touches bring smiles to folks & make them feel like part of that gang, even if they live in Kansas or California or Maine.  We know we’ve had many folks who have come in & said they took a roundabout route home to stop in because they stay in touch thru the website.  We love putting faces with familiar names.
There have been times where I have been known to go off on a complete rant about things ~ be it copyright infringement, the cost of shipping (& the people who think it should all be free) or the times when our world seems to be a perfect storm of WRONG.  In the end, what it all boils down to is a (hopefully kind) reminder to  “do unto others…”  I think the internet is a necessary evil, but I also feel that it keeps us from actually connecting in the real world. Having 697 Facebook friends is not the same as having FRIENDS.  While we recognize the great benefits of the internet as a business tool, we try very hard to make it more personal, more helpful & more fun ~ we realize that a stitcher can get their supplies anywhere, so we do try to at least be their cheap entertainment for a few moments!
So while the internet requires as much work & sometimes more than the shop, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without it.

What types of products do you offer?B:  When we opened our shop, we had single Xeroxed graphs that we kept in sleeves in 3 ring binders. There were about 25 design companies ~ Ginnie Thompson Originals, Graphs by Barbara & Cheryl, Designs by Gloria & Pat, Canterbury Designs, Green Apple Designs…and kits from the Danish Handcraft Guild, Eva Rosenstand & Clara Weaver in Denmark.  Now we have leaflets, charts, books & kits from all over the world.  We have progressed from  that little hand-charted turtle graph with 15 stitches in it, to computer-generated reproductions of famous artwork.  While it is wonderful to have always-more-challenging designs to continue to create, there are times I feel some of these “design” companies aren’t really designers at all, but very nimble computer people.  I find it really annoying to see “cross stitch designs” that have never been cross stitched, only scanned & digitized.
We had 14ct aida, 18ct aida & 22ct hardanger in white, ivory & a couple of colors.  There was 18ct, 27ct & 30ct linen in bleached & unbleached.  There were about 200 shades of DMC.   Now, I can’t even count the varieties of colors & counts of fabrics.  We have over 450 colors of DMC,  silk threads, metallics & overdyed fibers.
When we first started seeing embellishments, particularly Mill Hill beads, my mom was mystified.  Why would you want those on your stitching?  Now we routinely use beads, buttons, charms & more.
One of the most interesting changes is in the “overdyed” fabrics & floss.  We used to have fabric come in “splotchy” & no one wanted it ~ it looked dirty.  Certainly no one wanted threads that weren’t perfectly uniform.  Now, overdyed fabrics & fibers are the norm.  And yet, my mom still says, “when I started, this would have been the reject stuff”. 

Who are some of your personal favorite designers?
My personal favorite designers run the gamut: Merrily Beams, Stitches in Silk, Rae Iverson, Eileen Bennett, Cricket Collection, Shepherd’s Bush, Drawn Thread, Victoria Sampler, Heartstring Samplery,  Ink Circles, Lizzie Kate, SamSarah… Obviously my first love is samplers, but I like new & shiny just as much as old reproductions.  I love borders & symmetry & clean lines.  And almost anything blue!

Have you attended a TNNA trade show, and if so what are your thoughts on it?
We do go to markets.  My first market was in Charlotte in 1979!  Before the advent of the internet, markets were our best avenue of finding new designs, new designers & great ideas.  The Charlotte market was by far the best gathering of cross stitch designers & I think we have suffered from the demise of that market.
Since the internet, the role the market plays has had to change & I don’t always feel they have made themselves the tool they could be.  The cross stitch industry is composed of many small, almost micro-businesses.  When INRG combined with TNNA, many of the designers were put in a difficult position.  The cost of a booth for an exhibitor at a TNNA market is much more expensive & many  designers simply could not afford to put themselves out there, particularly new designers.  It follows from this that if there are less exhibitors, then shopowners have to weigh the cost of travel with the benefits of seeing what’s new “in person”.   As the markets have moved back to a hotel setting, the costs have declined, but the designers have been slow to jump back on the bandwagon.
The Nashville market is great, but always falls at a difficult time of year for many people to depend on good travel weather (from ice storms to snowstorms to floods ~ February is just not the best time to travel thru the mountains of Tennessee).  We haven’t attended that market in several years, but are hoping the later scheduling for 2013 will be a better fit, especially because Nashville is such a fun city!!  We went the first year of the combined TNNA/INRG show in Columbus, but found it to be completely dominated by needlepoint & knitting & really not a good market for our shop (however, we stayed in a great area outside the city & did some serious shopping & eating!).  We attended all the markets in St Charles & found them to be good opportunities to find new goodies.  Also, we LOVED being in St Louis ~ great restaurants!  Our only regret was not ever being there while the Cardinals were in town.  Last year we went down to Baltimore for the day & again, brought home bunches of great stuff!  Typically, we go to a market & do as much as we can on Saturday ~ on Saturday night we go out & it never fails that there is some sort of hilarious occurrence.

 One year in St Louis, we saw a guy walking down the street with a guitar.

He walked a block where a girl was having car trouble.  The guy did nothing to help her, but he did stand there and sing to her until the AAA guy got her car started!

Then we head back to our hotel room, stock up on vending machine candy & diet Coke, fire up our computers & scanners & start updating our customers! 

Unfortunately, we never seem to be able to get the Phillies game on TV & there is NEVER anything good on, so we watch bad TV, write a newsletter with lots of pictures of new stuff (& what we had for dinner) & hopefully share our excitement with our stitchers.  By the time we get home, we generally have orders for lots of the goodies we’ve brought back!
What we enjoy most at market is 1) reconnecting with friends that we only see at market ~ we really are a community of stitchers who are simply trying to share our love; 2) eating out ~ seriously, sometimes this is #1; and 3) seeing things stitched.  We hear this every day from our customers & we know how true it is.  You just can’t capture the beauty of a piece in a picture (& if you have a bad photographer it’s nearly impossible).  Finishing ideas are always inspiring as well.  But if you really want us there find a city with good food & drinks!

A Little Bit About Beth and all the girls at Strawberry Sampler

Besides stitching and running your business, what are a few things you renjoy in your free time?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  When I’m not working or stitching, I’ll let you know!  Actually, I am lucky to do what I love, so work isn’t WORK, & I’m also fortunate to work with great friends who do make it possible for me to be gone sometimes. Favorite outing: a girls’ day out at Sephora & Cheesecake Factory (not necessarily in that order).  Molly & I try to swing a day off together now & then & that’s our fun day out.  We hit King of Prussia mall & spend hours playing in Sephora (if you’ve never been, it’s like a makeup candy store!!).  Now that I think about it, we haven’t done that in a long, long time….we’ll need to rectify that problem.
I spend LOTS of time at Little League fields.  I have 2 nephews, 10 & 11, and they play almost year-round.  I coached them when they were little, but after a couple years I had taught them all I could (play hard, have fun, catch the ball, throw the right way).  So now I am the “official” scorekeeper for both of their teams.  It’s a great time & there are 20-25 boys yelling “Auntie, what’s the score?” or “Auntie, what’s the lineup?”  It’s a great way to spend time with my nephews & build something we’ll share for a long time (or at least until they start saying, “Don’t talk to me while my friends are around!”). 
I also LOVE to read!  And I have a tremendous affection for food magazines & cookbooks.  No, I don’t cook.  I do bake & in fact my younger nephew bakes with me.  I buy cookbooks based on their covers & if they’ll look pretty decorating my kitchen!
 My aunt is 5 years older than me, so she’s more like my big sister.  She now lives in New Zealand, so I’ve made a bunch of trips there.  Love the people (especially all my new Kiwi family!) & it’s a great place to just be.  I like travelling, but don’t get to do nearly as much as I would like.

Do you like to read and if so what kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
 I love reading, but I really prefer books ~ as opposed to BOOKS.  No Oprah book club books, no critically acclaimed works.  I want either a good mystery or a mindless happily ever after story.  It’s my entertainment – I don’t want to have to work at it or be depressed (I can watch TV for that).  I have a Kindle app on my iPad, but I hate reading like that.  I only use it when I travel.  I want a REAL book I can touch & (more importantly) sniff!  You know how books just have that book smell….
However, I do have a few favorite authors & 1 best book.
BEST BOOK EVER: The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Favorite authors: hometown girl, Lisa Scottoline!  And Jen Lancaster (Bitter is the New Black, Such a Pretty Fat).

Do you have any pets?

Several of us at the shop have pets, mostly dogs.  My girl Casee comes to work on Mondays. 

Molly has 3 pups, all rescues. 

Lise, our framer extraordinaire, has a German Shepherd & is also an obedience trainer (although she has yet to train us to properly fill out framing slips). 

Catherine, who handles our mailorder, just got a new puppy ~ a Rottweiler who is 4 months old & weighs in at a dainty 70 pounds!!!  We have been known to leave people waiting at the register while we go out & love on their pups (who are usually outside with a husband or child).  Some stitchers know now to just bring their pups in when they come, & then just hand them over to us while they shop.  Consequently, we are pretty much not Philadelphia Eagles fans ~ as soon as they get rid of  Michael Vick, we’ll think about coming back.  Maybe.  If our dogs say it’s okay.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
As Cindy, who works with us on Saturday, says, “I’m just 1 ticket away”.  And if I ever end up with that winning ticket….wow.  First, a big chunk goes to charity.  After that, more space for our office.  And then, my own private island in the Caribbean, complete with pool boy & chef.

If you could be an animal, which would you pick and why?
If I could be an animal, I’d be my dog.  Whoever came up with the phrase “working like a dog” has never met my dogs.
A tough life: do I swim today?

Maybe play a little baseball?
Time to wat yet?  Is it Monday?
Must be time to go get breakfast at McDonald's, then head to the shop, take a nap, get a chicken strip when Lise come in, wait for my buddy the UPS guy to come play with me, if the FEDEX guy stops buy, he'll bring me another treat.


time for another nap...
Yep, that's what I'd go for.