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

The 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.

We take you to...
Needle in a Haystack in Alameda, California

Alameda is an island in San Francisco Bay. From before the turn of the century it has been a vacation spot for the wealthy and remnants of this lifestyle are evident in the many gracious Victorian homes preserved from that era. The area surrounding the shop boasts a bookstore, dress shop, florist, picture framer, gift shop, coffee bars and restaurants making for a diverse and aesthetic mix of businesses in close proximity. The original Alameda Theater*, circa 1904, no longer shows movies, but upon entering the lobby one is confronted with astounding visual effects nonetheless. Vibrantly hued "thread walls" span the entire 84 foot length of the shop, forming an exceedingly dramatic panorama. Add to this the plaster frieze work which has survived the intervening years and you have the unique setting which embodies "Needle in a Haystack." Founder, Cathe Ray, is the proprietress of this marvelous needlework venue. Though the shop has been open for only 8 months, it looks and feels like it's been there for ages.


Cathe's intense passion for stitching, coupled with her dream to create the ultimate needlework establishment, were the overriding factors propelling her into this endeavor. Once she realized that she did not have to give up her other career as an engineering manager in the computer industry to do so, this fantasy quickly began to develop into a reality.

Cathe found the ideal location in the newly renovated Alameda Theater*, opening her store on March 27, 1998. The walls of thread constitute the most striking feature of the shop and Cathe considers their visual impact a crucial to the atmosphere. In furnishing the shop, her aim was to make it feel as much like home as possible - a teak desk and credenza form the checkout counter and the linen selection is stored in Early American style cabinets and Shaker reproduction pieces. The cutting table consists of two buffet tables with granite tops placed back to back. Other wares are displayed in a French Country cupboard, an hexagonal display cabinet and two small apothecary chests. A cozy kitchen area, with a pot of tea steeping at the ready, forms the perfect setting to sit, sip, stitch and chat. "Open Stitching Night", every Thursday evening prompts stitchers to bring their projects and congregate with kindred spirits in this informal and conducive setting.

In implementing her concept of how the shop should be outfitted, arranged and managed, Cathe's plan was crystal clear. She dubbed her stitchers' emporium as "The Purveyor of Fine Needlework Supplies," suggesting the highest level of quality in products and service. Every member of the staff is an accomplished stitcher and when hiring an employee, examples of their needlework are as important as a resume of their work experience. Paramount among Cathe's goals was to provide her clientele with hard to find needlework supplies. This M.O. is the reason behind the name; Cathe wanted to offer items that were as difficult to locate as the proverbial "needle in a haystack." In providing customer assistance, Cathe strives to strike the perfect balance between helpfulness and hovering! This close attention to subtleties is what has made her shop an overnight sensation.

In thread selections, with few exceptions, entire lines are stocked. For the Caron Collection, Cathe stocks all the fibers in all colors. Watercolours, Waterlilies and Soie Cristale are also sold in larger hanks and Soie Cristale is available by the yard. The variety of fabrics and canvas is enormous, with a concentration on linen and linen band. Specialty fabrics such as Silk Gauze, Australian Wool Blanketing and Linen Twill are staples. A large array of hand painted canvases, needlepoint kits, cross stitch and counted thread charts and kits of other needlework techniques are inventoried. Needlework accessories and tools, simple to extravagant, round out the selection.

A much valued service is provided by serging any fabric sold, so that the customer can begin stitching right away. Their color matching service accommodates stitchers who want to change from one type of thread or fabric to another. Classes are taught by the staff, local and nationally known teachers and individual instruction is available for those who prefer a more personalized session. These sessions are often impromptu, attesting to the prevailing casual approach.

The shop website at www.murder.com/haystack/ is in a constant state of evolution. Though open for such a short time, they have already amassed an impressive local customer base and loyal following. So loyal in fact, that customers and teachers often volunteer their time in helping out. Cathe stresses that she plans for the shop to be around for a long time to come, and given that time frame, it's mind-boggling to think what she might accomplish in the future!

Since Cathe intended to continue her computer career, she was adamant about hiring employees who shared the same goals for the business and passion for needlework. She was most fortunate in finding her manager, Ada Haydon, whose fervor matches her own. Ada has made her mark with her own stitching and business skills and she continues to marvel at the unexpected circumstances that led to this self-proclaimed "dream job." The rest of the staff: Katy, Chris, Anne, Ann Marie and Joy, is equally dedicated. Since Cathe's schedule allows her considerable flexibility, she keeps on top of day-to-day affairs. She also singlehandedly publishes the shop newsletter, which aside from being extremely informative, reflects the store's ambiance and Cathe's effervescent personality.

A foray to the July Charlotte Needlework Market was made up of a "Haystack Convoy" consisting of Cathe, with Ada and Susan in tow, each equipped with rolling cart, complete with file folder baskets and sporting licence plates reading "Haystack 1, 2 and 3." Organization, refined into a "class act," is another of Cathe's talents and it's obviously contagious.

Undoubtedly, you're wondering about the "murder" in the shop website address. Both Cathe and her husband, CArl Smith, are life-long, avid mystery buffs. When they decided to register a domain name, this interest seemed an appropriate theme to choose. After the shop opened, Cathe investigated using "haystack.com," but that address was already owned by an agricultural combine company and using "needleinahaystack.com" just seemed too cumbersome. Inspiration struck: why NOT put it under their existing name? It certainly was memorable - Cathe has yet to hear of someone forgetting it! "Besides," she adds with a mischievous glint in her eye, "have you ever seen a stitcher whose project has been `compromised' by the family pet or through some other mishap? Doesn't seem such an odd combination, now, does it?", implying that you never know what might happen if you really rile a needleworker. Considering the standards she has set for her shop, that's one thing that Cathe will probably never find out!

Needle in a Haystack is located at 1340 Park Street, Alameda, CA 94501
Phone: 877-HAYSTACK toll free or 510-522-0404
E-mail: haystack@murder.com
Fax: 510-522-3692
Store hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10am to 6pm, Thursday 10am to 8pm,
Closed Sunday and Monday

Cathe stresses that a lot of other individuals' "blood, sweat and tears" went into this endeavor. "I couldn't have pulled this off without the talent and hard work of my staff, most especially Ada, and the support of my husband, Carl," she asserts, voicing her enormous gratitude to all who have contributed their time and energy.

For more information on Cathe Ray, visit her personal website at
http://playground.sun.com/pub/cathe. She's got lots of other tricks up her sleeve!

*The last building to house the Alameda Theater is now home to a gymnastics studio.

© 1997 The Caron Collection / Voice: (203) 381-9999, Fax: 203 381-9003

CARON email: mail@caron-net.com