House in Stettler, Alberta, Canada, caters to the needs of Hardanger
enthusiasts by one of their own kind - Betty Stokoe. Betty (shown
on the left) is a native of Stettler and except for working in
Calgary and Toronto, has lived there all her life. After a taste
of the "big city" Betty never thought she'd yearn to
return to her small town roots, but now she firmly asserts otherwise.
Of the many amenities Stettler provides, the most prominent is
its sense of intimacy and community. Shopping trips can take
twice as long as in urban areas, but not because of parking hassles
or waiting in lines. Social interactions with merchants and other
customers, who tend to be friends, wile away the hours.
Stettler, "The Heart of Alberta" is a bustling town
of 5000, halfway between Edmonton and Calgary. It boasts more
merchants than one would expect to find, because there are no
other major commercial centers nearby. Businesses in Stettler
attract shoppers from far and wide; Lou's Fashions, the largest
independently owned ladies' store in western Canada lures women
by the van load and Morning Sun and Shenandoah, a major Canadian
clothing company, has its main distribution center there. Another
attraction also draws thousands to the area. Hungering for a
taste of the past, folks come to experience a journey back-in-time
on the Alberta Prairie Steam Tour Line. And for archeology buffs,
south of Stettler in Drumheller is the Royal Tyrrell Museum of
Paleontology and several excavation sites where dinosaur remains
have been found.
became familiar with Hardanger because of her Norwegian ancestry.
Her grandmother, Anne, who hailed from Eidsvold near Oslo, was
so adept as a seamstress that she employed neither tape measure
nor patterns, relying only on her own unerring eye. Anne passed
her skills on to Betty's mother, Anna, starting her on a Hardanger
project when she was 11. It was a table runner 40 inches long,
every bit of it stitched, which Anna did not complete it until
she was well into her teens! Betty's childhood home tastefully
displayed their handiwork and she recalls exquisite Hardanger
embroideries adorning the furniture. Anna worked as a professional
seamstress and while raising and supporting Betty and her 2 brothers
did not have the time to indulge in her own projects. After her
children were grown, she was again able to devote herself to
embroidery work and hook Betty on it besides! (Photo on the right
shows Betty with other members of the Luft Hus Society at a Scandinavian
Christmas Craft sale.)
in her 20's and saddled with an office job, Betty was motivated
to find a creative outlet to counteract her workday tedium. She
had always enjoyed sewing and took a course in making dress patterns.
For a time knitting afghans was all the rage and Betty became
immersed in it along with the other girls in the office. Then
she discovered Hardanger. Her mother introduced her to the stitching
basics and Betty took to it "like a duck to water."
What began simply as a diversion has become her "raison
Betty had access to only two books with Hardanger patterns. She
augmented these projects by reproducing some of her mother's
work. When a favorite niece got married, Betty presented her
with a replica of a table linen Anna had made for her own hope
chest. Soon Betty began designing her own patterns. (Shown left,
a pattern copied from Betty's mom.)
In 1984 Betty launched her business. Initially, she intended
to publish her own designs and, though they were favorably received,
the scarcity of supplies to complete them impeded sales. Betty
recognized a different business opportunity. She searched out
suppliers for Hardanger fabrics and threads. Once
she had her sources in place, Betty offered everything a Hardanger
enthusiast could possibly want, growing her business by instinct.Though
her clientele range as far afield as Germany, Belgium and Japan,
most of them span Canada from Newfoundland to the east, Vancouver
Island to the west and the Yukon to the north. Many think nothing
of traveling long distances to obtain these goods.
Hardanger House is a home-based venture with time flexibility
built right in.Telephone inquiries can be made almost anytime
of day or evening - within reason. By
tailoring her business to her schedule, Betty was able to care
for her aging mother, when Anna was ailing and unable to care
for herself and is currently able to perform this valuable service
for another elderly relative. It has also enabled her to be involved
in many community activities. She is currently head of the ladies'
group at her church and plays the piano regularly at services.
Betty is extremely fond of drama and music theater productions,
attending whenever that opportunity presents itself.
Betty has dramatically expanded her inventory, but continues
to specialize only in Hardanger having built a reputation for
expertise in this area. The renaissance of Hardanger has expanded
her customer base in recent years. These new Hardanger stitchers
tend to be more adventurous and Betty marvels how many other
techniques are now commonly combined with Hardanger, making it
more complex and less rigid. Gone are the clearly defined rules
and parameters which circumscribed this technique historically.
Betty, herself, is more traditionally inclined and her biggest
criteria for any completed Hardanger embroidery is that it not
be framed. She insists: "There's a reason for the holes!"
Because of her specialty, Betty has developed an innovative relationship
with a local needlework shop called "Stitch `n Addiction."
Kathy Ray, its owner, and Betty collaborate to accommodate their
clientele, regardless of the stitchers area of interest. This
allows them both to offer an intensely personalized service,
geared to each stitcher's particular requirements. Betty has
taught classes in Hardanger at Kathy's shop and now keeps it
stocked with a basic inventory of Hardanger fabrics, threads
and books. This approach has been very successful and offers
countless advantages for shopkeepers and customers alike.
piece started by Betty's mom when she was only 11 years old.
House's in stock items cover even-weave fabrics by Zweigart and
Canterbury Cross Fabrics; threads from the Caron Collection,
among others and patterns by Nordic Needle, Cross "n Patch,
Love `n Stitches, Burda and Hermanson Hardanger, as well as Betty's
own. The business is located in a residential area, 2 blocks
off the Main Street. Part of Betty's home has been converted
into a 400 square foot mini-showroom where she is always eager
to offer advice and render assistance. She has had several unique
telephone consultations, referred to as "stitching therapy
sessions!" These present Betty with a real challenge - to
articulate stitch instructions without a visual reference is
no easy task. (Shown left, "Floral Trellis" one of
Betty's published designs.)
a small home based business, located in a small town and catering
to a niche market to be successful, a personal touch is paramount.
Betty is expert at providing it. As Hardanger continues to grow
in popularity, Betty is keeping apace with the enthusiasm and
increased demand while maintaining the all important personal
touch which is her hallmark.
For more information or to be put on Betty's
mailing list, please contact her at Hardanger House, P.O. Box
1223, 4708 52nd Street, Stettler, Alberta, Canada T0C 2L0
A new brochure is currently at the press
and due out this month.
phone: (403) 742- 2749
hours: Monday through Friday from 9:30
am to 4:30 pm (closed for lunch from 12 noon to 1 pm)