Dyed and Gone to Heaven – An Online Magazine and Needlework Resource  



CARON Collection is pleased to feature one of the outstanding shops who so ably provide stitchers with not only supplies but guidance, technical expertise, and inspiration. We hope you'll support your local shops and browse through our extensive SHOP LISTINGS to find a shop near you.

Nordic Needle
Fargo, ND

Their building stands on Gateway Drive and a how very apt the address is: this truly is a gateway to a vast and inspiring world which only the dedicated stitcher could appreciate. Nordic Needle is the culmination of a mission that two naive, young stitchers embarked upon almost 25 years ago.

In 1975 Sue Meier, Roz Watnemo and Gayle Hillert worked at Concordia College. They had just made the acquaintance of Marie Hanson who introduced them to an obscure embroidery technique. Each took to it with gusto, but found supplies elusive. That their passion for Hardanger became the cornerstone of a business dedicated to it, is rather extraordinary since, even though both Roz and Sue descend from Nordic stock, neither had ever even heard of it before. The three decided to open a tiny shop to supply their own group. The inventory consisted of 20 yards of Hardanger fabric, 2 cases pearl cotton #5 & #12, 2 books, needles and some local
crafts. They set up shop in an old hotel as "Crafts, Cloth and Collectibles"- try saying that fast three times!

After a short-lived occupancy, a better spot was found in an enclave of small businesses known as "Block 6." In the interim, Gayle had moved but Roz and Sue forged ahead. To attract customers, they began a series of Hardanger classes, teaching wherever and whenever they could. The next logical step was to publish a book of the word-of-mouth patterns they had compiled from their teacher: Hardanger Embroidery Favorites. Though barebones, it presented the stitches clearly charted, with straightforward instructions. It was such a success that it is now in its 18th printing. Next, they had no alternative but to attempt their own designs. Eureka! They found they both had a talent. To date, Nordic Needle has published over 130 Hardanger books, several kits and chartpacks which are sold wholesale to 1200 needlework shops and to 78,000 retail mail-order customers throughout the globe.

Even though Hardanger is a very specialized technique, they mined it to the minutest detail. "We found a very small but necessary niche in the market." Sue elaborates, "And we've explored that narrow niche in great depth to fill our customers' needs." In so doing, they have preserved a venerable Scandinavian art and gained many a new convert. Later, they added complimentary techniques; first counted cross stitch which has Danish origins and then tatting, silk ribbon embroidery, Brazilian embroidery, bobbin lace, blackwork, pulled thread, canvaswork and counted bead embroidery. Recently Russian punchneedle embroidery and Romanian point lace have been introduced. Their space in Block 6 went through 3 expansions before their current premises of 9000 sq. ft. were built in `84. The name was changed after the 1st renovation; crafts had fallen by the wayside and their area of specialty called for a more suitable moniker.

Being so devoted to promulgating a selective range of needlearts, Nordic Needle has a most eclectic and eccentric roster of customers; a couple from Israel was visiting NY and decided that they were already so close, they might as well fly to Minneapolis, rent a car and drive for a day, just to see Nordic Needle! Folks on vacation just pop in: one RV was as close as Omaha, NE, so they drove the extra 7-8 hours to pay a call. A young couple from Toronto planned their whole holiday around shopping there. When a stitcher in Georgia was asked what she wanted for her birthday, she declared: a trip to Nordic Needle! She got it. Obviously, Roz and Sue have made an indelible impression on stitchers the world over.

For twenty years, Nordic Needle has been sponsoring a Hardanger design contest and Roz marvels, "Every year the entries get better and more amazing!" Designs are judged on workmanship, creativity, color appropriateness and overall general appeal. The 10-12 winners selected have their designs are published in a annual pattern book. Nordic Needle's website carries contest info, free patterns, special sales, new products and photos of their operation in full swing. Their staff consists of 23 women and 1 "token" male, the webmaster! Both partners stress how much they owe to their exceptional employees. Nor could they have succeeded without the support of their husbands, Jim and Harold, and their children, who have all helped with the nitty- gritty day-to-day chores of boxing, labeling, sorting, mailing, stitching, loading and general gophering - no preferential treatment there!

It is no wonder that Roz and Sue have received numerous accolades: in `90, Fargo's Small Business of the Year award; for `91 and `97, N. D.'s Small Business Exporter of the Year distinction; Zweigart's `91 Outstanding Support Services Award; in `94 & `95, ND's Number One Outstanding Women in Business. For several years, they were on Fargo's Top Fifty List of fastest growing companies and were featured in "The Area Woman" magazine. `98 brought a Lifetime Achievement Award for ND's Women Owned Businesses. They have also been profiled in Jane Applegate's book, 201 Great Ideas for your Small Business, Idea #116: How to turn your hobby into a thriving business.

As working mothers, Roz and Sue are very responsive to the needs of their staff and endeavor to be flexible with scheduling. The structure of their corporate hierarchy definitely sets them apart, reflecting a sensitivity, democracy and spirit of fair play that, I'm sorry, no man I know could conceive of. Jim Meier serves as the secretary of the corporation, Harold Watnemo as treasurer and Roz and Sue switch-off every two years as president and vice president. How could anyone argue that if women ruled the world, there would be no war??!!!

Though many folks envision places like Fargo to be kind of in-the-middle-of-nowhere, the natives loudly proclaim otherwise. Many may already know it through a popular cowboy love song:

Come and sit by my side if you love me; Do not hasten to bid me adieu;

Just remember the Red River Valley and the cowboy who loved you so true.

The area was put on the map in 1997 because of the severe flooding of the Red River. On a more upbeat note, Fargo gained notoriety when the movie of the same name came out. Though it is the largest city in ND, it is essentially a rural agricultural community with many urban amenities: fabulous restaurants, summer theater, golf courses, parks and a new zoo. Apropos to Nordic Needle's raison d'etre, the area is heavily populated by people of Scandinavian heritage. Roz and Sue are adamant that the locale is the ideal place to raise a family, with only one qualification: if you can stand the winters!

Their working relationship is very satisfying and both stress that the key factor is the delineation of responsibility according to individual preferences and talents. Sue is the "numbers" person, devoting herself to the wholesale and foreign distribution aspects. Roz is the artist/designer, specializing in the retail end of things. Sue's advice echoes hard-won wisdom " Being in partnership is a lot like being in a marriage. You need to both be aware before you start that the other person is unique...for Roz and me, it is the differences that make our partnership work so well...It brings diversity... that is good for the business... Above all, be prepared to compromise on a daily basis...Choose a partner who complements your strengths, and be prepared to let her do what she does best - her way!" Both firmly believe needlework is ever growing in popularity and expect to enjoy their partnership well into the 21st century.

Anecdote's reveal how intensely connected their personal and business lives have become. Roz and Sue remember business highlights relative to family milestones. You might hear Sue exclaim, "After five years [in business] and four daughters, we expanded the store!" Or Roz may reminisce about the time she had to close shop early to get to the hospital in time to deliver a baby! As people in business for themselves will tell you: It's all in a day's work!

Nordic Needle is located at 1314 Gateway Drive, Fargo, ND 58103
Phone: (701) 235-5231 and (800) 433-4321
Fax: (701) 235-0952
E mail: needle@corpcomm.net
Website: http://www.nordicneedle.com

Nordic Needle maintains distributors in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England, Netherlands, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Korea, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Costa Rica

© 1999 The Caron Collection / Voice: (203) 381-9999, Fax: 203 381-9003

CARON email: mail@caron-net.com