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.
by Rita Vainius
Linen Ladies is a shop in Sidney, MT, but it also personifies
its two owners, sisters Mary Lu Etzel and Barb Hagler. Both were
raised on a working cattle and wheat farm in rural Montana. While
growing up, they learned sewing, embroidery, crocheting and knitting
from their mother, Lucille, and their grandmother. They do happen
to be of Norwegian descent on their father, Andy Lee's, side
of the family and have been fascinated with their Scandinavian
heritage since childhood. In 1986, this interest was piqued when
Andy took both his daughters on a trip to Norway, an experience
that was to alter both their lives forever. There, amidst the
splendor of the mountains and fjords, Mary Lu and Barb fell in
love with the country, its people and with one of its most prized
indigenous needlearts, Hardanger embroidery.
Immediately, the sisters undertook to learn this distinctive
and exquisite needleart themselves. They bought Hardanger fabric
and supplies and once home, sought out a native Norwegian needleworker
to teach them the special cut and drawn thread techniques, which
distinguish it from other types of embroidery. It would not be
long before Hardanger became their mutual overriding passion.
When Mary Lu and Barb began stitching Hardanger in earnest,
almost 15 years ago, patterns were scarce and hard to come by
in Montana. As they themselves became more proficient in the
technique and after many repeated requests from fellow stitchers,
they began to give classes and offer some supplies to the growing
number of Hardanger enthusiasts they encountered. Word spread
and from this modest start, just by following their own bliss,
their favorite pastime grew into a viable business enterprise.
Their shop, Linen Ladies, made its official debut in November
1992 in Savage, MT and has prospered ever since. Only four years
after its establishment, the shop expanded by moving into a lovingly
restored home in order to meet the increasing interest in and
demand for its products and services. As Savage is a small burg,
the sisters decided it prudent to relocate to Sidney, a larger
town, as it would provide more traffic and exposure for the store.
But they wound up not only moving the business; Mary Lu and Barb
actually relocated the building, which would house it! Built
in Savage, MT circa 1910, this vintage home was moved lock stock
and barrel to Sidney, about 20 miles away, and placed over a
new foundation. It was then reconstructed piece-by-piece, including
all its original floors and period woodwork including all the
moldings, trim and frames, which were all separately labeled
and re-installed authentically. The front room was renovated
as a Scandinavian room to house all their imported gift items.
The outside landscaping was accomplished by a group of Sidney
High School Agricultural students enrolled in a special program,
which stresses actual supervised work experience. The horticulture
students laid the sod and landscape workers from grades 8 to
12 worked after school and weekends to complete the job.
Linen Ladies is an especially welcoming venue because it retains
it all its home-like attributes. Both sisters agree, "We
love it so much, we could live here!" Before visitors even
enter the front door, they are tempted to kick up their heels
on the charming porch to just relax and enjoy the view. Once
inside, one is transported to a stitcher's and handcrafter's
paradise. Along with their extensive needlework inventory, the
large premises accommodate an extensive gifts and collectibles
selection. On display is a handpicked selection of items imported
from Scandinavia, which include china, jewelry, napkins and other
table and bed linens and figurines - especially the trolls that
Scandinavians are so fond of! Even for non-stitchers, it's a
favorite spot to browse because of the exceptionally beautiful
product mix set in such historically authentic surroundings.
Available are handmade craft items of all kinds such as baskets,
wreaths, silk floral arrangements, stuffed animals, afghans,
rugs, purses, jewelry, pottery, candles, household linens and
many other home décor products.
Stitching supplies are so numerous there is enough on hand
to keep even the most avid needleworker busy through the most
severe winter Montana can dish out! In addition to fabrics and
threads for Hardanger, Linen Ladies stocks all the materials
needed for doing counted cross-stitch and silk ribbon embroidery,
along with patterns and books for each technique. And, speaking
of books, Mary Lu's and Barb's Hardanger enthusiasm has extended
to authoring two books themselves - Linen Ladies Beginning
Hardanger - Our Way! and The Linen Ladies On Linen. They are currently at work on yet a third to be called Cable
Mania, which will feature Hardanger patterns using cable
stitch. The Linen Ladies also design original Hardanger patterns,
which they sell in the shop and wholesale to other retailers.
They have done commission work to order for their clientele and
carry finished Hardanger projects including bellpulls, doilies,
placemats, napkins, boxes with stitched inserts, baskets, centerpieces
Mary Lu and Barb are assisted by a staff of four other Linen
Ladies - all dyed in the wool Hardanger devotees: Signe Verhasselt,
Cindy Mead, Kay Harmsen and Shelly Averett. Each is a vital part
asset to the business and each has also been an original design
contributor to their second book. According to the owners, "With
a little arm-twisting, they each designed a piece in this book.
Some actually found they liked it!"
Hardanger classes for beginner, intermediate and advanced
stitchers are scheduled throughout the year. Also offered are
silk embroidery classes and a "Basket a Month" class
for constructing a variety of reed baskets. The sisters estimate
that since they started down this path, they have introduced
and taught Hardanger to over 400 people, but it could be much
more as they lost count after 350. Mary and Barb insist that
it is the students who actually keep them inspired. They are
quick to give them credit, "Your encouragement to us and
enthusiasm for learning the art of Hardanger embroidery keeps
One celebration, which is unique to Linen Ladies, at least
on this side of the Atlantic, is the Syttende Mai Holiday. Syyttende
Mai refers to the 17th of May and commemorates Norwegian Independence
Day. Annually this holiday marks the start of an open house at
the shop and an accompanying spectacular sale event. Be sure
to mark this date on your calendar, even if you are not Norwegian.
You just might wish you were! The Linen Ladies urge you to visit
their domain and have two simple words of advice for fellow needleworkers,
323 Second Ave. S.E.
Sidney, MT 59270
Phone: (406) 482- 6414 or (800) 482- 6414
Fax: (406) 482- 6414
Shop Hours: Monday to Saturday 9:30 am to 5:00 pm