Moving to Delaware in 1970 was one of the greatest challenges in my life. I'd never been so far from home (West Virginia) and everything seemed bigger and faster....and me the country girl, maybe the hill billy where "cricks" and "hollers" were a part of our lingo....had a hard time coping with the busy traffic and big grocery stores. My struggles to adapt with a 3 and 6 year old were tremendous. I had battles with major depression and had to learn to cope and rewire my thinking.
After some adjustment and much therapy and getting the girls in school, in 1971, I was fortunate to travel with my husband to Europe on one of his business trips. Having never been abroad I really didn't know what to expect.....but I never expected to find a beautiful bellpull hanging in the window of a very small shop in Dordrecht in the Netherlands (Holland).
Asking to look at this piece of embroidery that I had no clue what it was, the ladies in the shop went to the back and asked a young high school girl to come and translate for me, and it went something like this...."You have a chart or graph that has symbols and a color name and number. After sorting out the bundles of thread, you matched them with the symbol in the chart, and begin making x's on the fabric"..
Having made x's on gingham as a kid and creating my own design, I figured I could make this happen. My kit.....and kits were and still to a large degree are the packaging of the embroidery in Europe and Scandanavia. ...the kit I saw in the window was an Eva Rosenstand kit made in Denmark. My first Danish Connection. This handwork was like nothing I'd ever tried before and I was fascinated watching the design grow and become something by using this chart, little bits of thread, and a needle on a perfectly blank piece of fabric. I was quite used to those little blue x's stamped on and then worked on. I loved sewing, quilting, a little needlepoint..filling in the background.....This fine stuff was flat out new to me, but I started on that bellpull in the hotel room and marched back over several times for corrections. That bellpull so changed my life and made the connection to many others out there that now are history....but mainly special friends.
My girls were 6 & 9 when we were transferred back home to West Virginia. The year was 1973.....and home seemed to feel so good. For many years when we wanted to go to the beach and living on the western side of the mountains, we drove south and spent many a vacation at Myrtle Beach, SC. We seldom went farther south only to find places to eat. Picking up one of those "Suncoast" brochures with this and that in it....places to eat and see...I happened to find The Hammock Shop ad which included a reference to "the side porch" where Ginnie Thompson had counted cross stitch. Suddenly, that terminology connected with the bellpull I was working on.......I was making cross stitches and had to count every one of them. I had to go to this place! called Pawleys Island, SC. And we did and the rest began the history of the past 34 years...4 in W.Va. and 30 in Pennsylvania.
I met Ginnie Thompson that day and she would become my mentor and encourager to share counted cross stitch "up north"!. The basement of our home became the first location of The Strawberry Patch which took off like crazy. I quickly decided I couldn't keep this up in my neighborhood and began looking for a real place. With a friend who had antiques, we jointly rented an old house to open business. Our charts were sheets of paper only; we had 30 DMC colors; hardanger fabric; 11 and 14ct. aida; eventually some linen. In 3 years, it grew and grew and I found out that my college years provided me with skills to teach others.....but not to run a business.
I made my first trip to Copenhagen, Denmark in 1975 to buy from Eva Rosenstand, The Danish Handcraft Guild, Clara Waever, and OOE...for those of you who remember those company kits. They sold only kits and that was a learning experience. In 1976, I traveled with my sister, Carma who was still in high school, to Pawleys to take a class with Jytte....one of the two Danish teachers at The Danish Handcraft Guild. I recall Pat and Gloria...of Designs by Gloria and Pat....two of our first U.S. designers being in the class. It was beginning to happen.
The following year 1977 was my first trip to take classes at The Danish Handcraft Guild with Jytte and Marianne being our Danish teachers who later came to Pawleys to teach during our Danish-American Days in the 80's and 90's. I traveled many times after '77 to take classes meeting so many wonderful people and coming to find Copenhagen a place away from home. During classes over the years, many of you have heard "the stories" I've shared from those very special years.
Back to Delaware in 1978......The Patch was sold to my antique friend and I vowed I didn't know enough about business to do this cross stitch stuff again. After trying to find other needlework shops to let me teach and to begin to carry the basics......not.....I finally started to look for a "spot" and found The Farmhouse Shoppes in Concordville, PA on Rt. 1 (where Duffers is now located)...on the second floor with 300 sq. ft......ultimately to grow to 900 sq. ft. So Carm, Beth, Abby, and myself got the place ready....note the pics.....and The Strawberry Sampler took off. ....and so did counted cross stitch in the areas north of the Carolinas. My nickname was the "egg dropper" captioned by the designers in this growing industry in the early 80's.Now, I am going to post!!! this and then continue later, adding the pics (which I have to get help on) I will try to keep more to date with this, and tell you the rest of the story.....Ruth Ellen....October 21st ....4:30p.m.