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.

The Country Cross-Stitcher
in the Georgian village of Woburn, Bedfordshire, UK

Not a few needlework shop owners share a common thread - they launched their businesses because they could not readily obtain the supplies they needed. With this realization, a window of opportunity was opened and a brand new life and career begun. Rosemary Sharman, (shown in photo ­ right) owner of The Country Cross-Stitcher, is just such a visionary entrepreneur.

Her own ardor for needlework dates back to her youth at a convent school. The nuns, who embroidered the altar cloths and vestments, considered stitching to be an important skill to acquire. As teachers, they had a reputation for exacting perfection and work which did not "pass muster," had to be redone. These strict standards were an asset to Rosemary, because they clearly revealed her talent with needle and thread. She recalls: "To be truthful, it was the only subject I ever excelled in."

After Rosemary married and and started a family, her idea of a good day off, was to attend stitching workshops. She mastered many techniques and discovered that she reveled in sharing her skills with others. She was, and still is, an avid gardener. Her specialty is fuchsias and upon returning home from work, her first stop is the greenhouse.

Rosemary's adventure began modestly as a small club in her home where she offered a range of supplies to fellow stitchers. It was soon apparent that most of them had been just as frustrated as she was. In response, Rosemary began to look for a place to open a bona fide store. The location she chose is a lovely historic building in the Georgian village of Woburn and The Country Cross- Stitcher made its official debut in March, 1993. Rosemary intuitively felt that Woburn was just the right spot; the closest other shop is over an hour away and the town is a favorite stop for tourists. It also boasts many other specialty shops and an enticing Antique Center. An annual event, when the town really comes into its own, is the Oyster Festival. Trust to the eccentric British to hold a fair devoted to shellfish in a town 150 miles from the sea!

When Rosemary discovered that in the 1800's her shop had been the home to the village seamstress and that during the Victorian Era it had functioned as a women's workhouse, her intuition was confirmed. Her store was right in keeping with tradition. The space inside is defined by hand-hewn beams of oak and features a wonderful Inglenook fireplace - a massive open brick hearth which forms the perfect enclosure for needlework displays. The store stocks an incredible array of fabrics, threads, books, charts and items designed to accentuate needlework: pill boxes, brooches, footstools and even fire screens. Rosemary scours the globe to unearth whatever is just "that little bit different." And it is just that little bit that makes all the difference. Take, for example, her specially themed fabric collection. For Halloween there were patterns with bats, jack-o-lanterns, spooks and witches astride their brooms. Especially dramatic was some material of a deep ink-black hue with an overlay of silken spider webs interspersed with stars in raised metallic silver. Another off-beat find is a collection of embellishments with garden motifs: watering can, horn of plenty, stenciled basket and flower pots of all sorts. These can be used as buttons or as other decorative accents where a bit of whimsy is just the thing.

Using her natural aptitude for teaching, Rosemary instituted a series of workshops. Until recently, these were held in the basement, but they became so popular that Rosemary needed to find a more commodious space. Fate smiled again and The Woburn School of Needlework was established in a cottage directly opposite the shop last fall. Classes taught cover all levels of skill and strong emphasis is placed on the pleasure of stitching as well as technique. Rosemary stresses: "Our aim...is to let our students learn what a joy it is to create something that one day will be an heirloom." The teaching staff, headed by Stephanie Burnham, offered 79 different workshops for the Autumn season alone. Guest teachers are frequent contributors and Rosemary extends an open invitation to all interested needlework instructors.

Each Easter, a large marquee is set up on the grounds of the Bell Hotel. For the gala 1999 exhibition, Rosemary is hosting "The Best of the British." Exhibitors will include Heritage which specializes in English wildlife, country scenes and popular landmarks. Their current best-seller features the Titanic. Brenda Keyes of The Sampler Company will display her line of traditional 17th and 18th century band samplers. Carol Tinson Designs (featured in our Designer Spotlight this month) will introduce her exclusively commissioned "Millennium Sampler" and Textile Heritage will offer their unique sets of matching bookmarks, needle and spectacle cases decorated with lighthouses, London taxis, topiary gardens and other typically English motifs.

At last year's show The Country Cross-Stitcher "went Dutch" and even though floods raged and freezing temperatures prevailed, the exhibitors' and attendees' enthusiasm carried the day. All spirits were undiminished except those of Rosemary's husband, who was enlisted to spend the night of the deluge, under the canopy, in order to safeguard the stock!

When in the area, Rosemary suggests you check out Woburn Abbey, the stately ancestral home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Tavistock. Lady Tavistock is an experienced tapestry stitcher whose work graces the walls of this resplendent abode. The Abbey is set in a charming landscape, dotted with lakes, where black swans glide majestically across the waters. The picturesque parklands encompass a magnificent rhododendron garden and many rare trees, providing a habitat for several breeds of deer. The Country Cross-Stitcher offers a custom designed needlepoint canvas spotlighting the Abbey and also carries a blackwork piece, The Woburn Sampler, which depicts the village's cobblestone lanes, enchanting cottages and decorative ironwork. Both of these designs are exclusive to the Country Cross Stitcher.

Among her 9 employees Rosemary encourages teamwork. Her exuberant personality stimulates the lighthearted and harmonious atmosphere which prevails. Rosemary's current focus is on the shop, occasionally "pinch-hitting" as teacher. She refers to herself as the "Ideas Girl." Her favorite projects employ cross stitch and Florentine (bargello) techniques and she gravitates toward experimenting with textural fibers and unusual threads when designing.

The Country Cross-Stitcher benefits from the involvement of several other family members. John, her husband, is a prior bank manager who now oversees their ever expanding mail order business. Son, David, while studying business at the University, is the family computer expert and the creator of the shop website, affirming their commitment to providing anything cross stitch addicts world-wide, could possibly want. Rounding out the clan is Amanda who is training as a dietician, and Mark, who has managed to integrate his job at Mercedes-Benz with his own consuming passion for cars. Rosemary's children, one and all, concur that they have never known their mother not to have a needle in her hand. In response, Rosemary grins sheepishly and succinctly avows: "I think that says it all about me!"

The Country Cross-Stitcher is located at 19 Bedford Street, Woburn, Bedfordshire, MK17 9QB
Hours : Monday to Saturday 10:00 am to 5:30 pm and Sunday 11:00 am to 5:30 pm
Phone : 01525-290070
Fax: : 01525-290072
E mail : ccswoburn@btinternet.com
Website: http://ww.btinternet.com/~ccswoburn.web


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