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.

Crossed Threads
Whitstable, Kent, England

It doesn't look very big but it's amazing what you can get into a
small space if you really try!

"For the most part, this is the best job in the world ­ beautiful colors and textures surround me, so life can never be dull," declares the proprietress of the Crossed Threads, Jane Scull.

Jane was born and bred in Canterbury, Kent and has a younger brother. She says of her childhood, "It was very happy as my parents [Catherine and John] were, and indeed are, perfect." Jane's boast at primary school was that her Mum could do 3 things at once - watch the television, read a book and knit!

Jane's interests growing up included reading, ("I couldn't be without a book"), dancing ("I went to The Sydney Woodman School of Dancing from the age of 3") and needlework/crafts generally ("My first sewing machine was for my 7th birthday. Mum spent lots of time with us 'crafting' - we had a 'lick it and stick it' box for rainy days and would while away hours making presents and gifts for family birthdays/Christmas.") One aunt, her dad's sister, Shirley Anne, still has everything Jane ever made for her, just in case her niece ever appears on "This Is Your Life"!

Catherine (Jane's Mum) and Jane
The boat on Jane's sweatshirt is her Dad's:
The "Shirley Anne," named after his sister

During grammar school Jane admits to needlework lessons being a bit of a chore. She explains, "Once I'd started something I wanted to get it finished and as I knew how, I would, which didn't go down well with the teacher at all." She was also especially proficient in learning other languages, went on to the Crawley College of Technology in Sussex and did a bi-lingual secretarial course in French and Spanish. This meant a move to Brighton with her husband-to-be. The intention was to make a career as a simultaneous conference interpreter. However having completed her course they got married, but divorced 7 years later!

During a holiday in Devon Jane visited the Lace Museum in Honiton, where she saw a woman demonstrating bobbin lace. She continues, "I had been mesmerized and had in fact been standing watching her for over 3 hours! She became determined to find somebody to teach her how to make bobbin lace. Jane adds, "It became an all-encompassing passion and I joined the Sussex Lacemakers. Not least, it was something I could do that my Mum couldn't; she has of course learned how since."

Jane held various jobs whilst away from home working in the retail trade for Marks & Spencer and Victoria Wine/Unwins, and office work for Legal & General - Life and Pensions Head Office. She also did quite a lot of voluntary work mainly with the elderly. Her partner, Tim also worked for Legal & General and that's how they got together. In 1989 Jane's Dad had a serious accident and without a second thought she came home for good. Before long Tim moved to Canterbury as well and eventually joined a Whitstable based company that he still works for. But Jane was not sure what direction to go in.

Promoting bobbin lace at a specialist rose grower's open day. Caravan as base!

Jane explains, "Having done a bit of care work I was becoming increasingly frustrated working for other people. My Dad had been running his own business since the early 70's and the idea of being my own boss looked like the best bet. But what could I do? I could make lace and I could cross-stitch. So was there a market out there? The Government at the time was running a scheme called 'Enterprise Allowance' - you had to raise £1000 and they would pay you £1000 over a year to get your new business off the ground. And that's how it started."

Crossed Threads came into being in October 1990 in a very small unit in a sort of indoor market in the centre of Canterbury selling bobbin lace and cross stitch gifts. They expanded twice within The Harvey Centre to bigger and bigger units and stock was increasing all the time. Cross-stitch was starting to really take off in the UK with specialized magazines appearing on the shelves and as it was something Jane had been doing since she was a child, she instinctively felt it was the right direction to take. And then, The Harvey Centre closed down!

Boughton - On the road again.
This time at the East Kent Federation of Womens' Institute's Lace Day

"By now Tim and I were living in Herne Bay," says Jane, "Out of necessity 'home' became 'shop' as well. Not ideal but I had built up quite a nice customer base and I didn't want to let them down; besides the business was doing very well! I had been involved in setting up several local clubs for lacemakers/stitchers, contacts had been made with many of the existing lace groups in Kent and several other clubs and societies including Womens Institutes and Townswomen's Guilds. If they couldn't come to me I would go to them!"

Packing the car with stock Jane would spend evenings going round to various club meetings and supplying enthusiastic lacemakers and stitchers with all their requirements. An invitation from a local Craft Centre led to a 2-week exhibition entitled "Spiders & Spangles" ­ An Exhibition of Bobbin Lace. The owner said that visitor numbers were substantially up over those 2 weeks, which was very encouraging.

Purely by coincidence Jane found out about the shop they occupy now. She explains, "I was teaching a young girl how to make lace at her home and, in conversation with her mother, mentioned that I would like a 'proper' shop, but that there didn't seem to be much available at the right price. She came out with, 'My mother-in-law has got just what you're looking for and I know she wants to sell!' Talk about being in the right place at the right time. It was a bit tatty and neglected but we could afford it." They moved in on the 18th December and after lots of hard work they opened on the 21st January 1995. The situation is perfect. Tankerton Road is the main thoroughfare in Tankerton and there is plenty of free parking. Tankerton is a sort of village just outside Whitstable on the north Kent coast.

Crossed Threads Opening Day
"I have no idea why Tim is wearing his woolly socks," exclaims Jane,
"Thankfully we did have some customers though!"

Crossed Threads began by supplying lacemaking and cross stitch equipment. Over the years they have expanded to include all types of needlecrafts and most especially threads and fabrics. Jane has refused to deviate from needlecraft as that is her area of expertise. "I feel that is an important part of my business and I am always pleased when I can sort out customers problems for them and they can go away inspired to get on with their current project," she insists.

Teaching Youngsters Bobbin Lace
"A special joy," says Jane, "So much easier than adults! They never need to know why, they just get on and do it. Both girls, Emma on the right and Claire are now young women and I am proud of them."

A local framer provides Jane's customers with a professional framing service. Jane says, "It is a delight to see the look on customers faces when they come in to collect their work. We also get to see some really amazing stitching as we have some very talented customers. What's especially nice is when someone brings in some work, which is a new technique for him or her, such as their first piece of crewel work, when they've always done cross stitch for instance. Just to know that they've tried something different and succeeded gives me great satisfaction."

Crossed Threads also features the work of a local designer Patricia Bage of Patricia Ann Designs. (Be sure to check out this month's Feature/Gallery for a sampling of Patricia's work) Jane states, "Patricia's designs have been very popular with my customers and they eagerly await her next offering. For many it has been their introduction to using Caron threads and, lets face it, after using Waterlilies, stranded cotton will never be the same again!"

Shop Inventory
A lot of our customers refer to us as an 'Aladdin's Cave.' The more you look, the more you see, and the walls of colour always impress.

The shop's Anniversary Sale is an eagerly anticipated annual social event. Customers come from far and wide in search of a bargain and to meet up with old friends. They invariably go away with armfuls of goodies, a lighter purse and having made some new friends as well. Group evenings are also popular - Jane opens for a particular group of stitchers by invitation only and they come along to browse at leisure and are able to buy without the hindrance of children or husbands/partners!

Hotel Bar 'Fayreness'
This was one of those occasions when we
were between premises and because the customers couldn't come to us, we went
to them. Even though it was a hotel bar, a very good time was had by all!

Crossed Threads stocks the complete range of Caron threads and Jane is currently promoting Rachel, Rachelette and Double Dipped Rachel. A local Fibre Artist, Shara Thompson uses these threads in a most innovative way. It involves the use of scissors but not a needle! She produces some unusual and wonderful work. The Caron threads have led to some very interesting window displays and consequently workshop ideas. Jane elucidates, "Two that I remember particularly are 'How Does Your Thread Garden Grow?' (Blue Lavender, Fuchsia, Marigold, Pussywillow, etc.) and 'Good Enough To Eat!' (Pistachio Nut, Peach Melba, Blueberry, Burnt Toast, etc.)

Whitstable is a small town with a thriving, working harbour and a quaint historic seaside feel. Tankerton has what are called "The Slopes"- grassy banks leading down to the beach, dotted with the ubiquitous beach huts. The area has always been popular with visitors from London as it only one to one and a half hours away. Many Londoners have been buying property there and consequently pushing up prices. They are referred to locally as DFL's (Down From London)!

Members of the Oyster Lacemakers doing their thing on the shop
forecourt during Regatta weekend. We did keep them supplied
with endless tea and biscuits.

Every summer Whitstable has its famous Oyster Festival and Regatta. Crossed Threads joins in with appropriately themed window displays and in years past has even had lacemakers and stitchers sitting on the forecourt demonstrating their craft, which generates lots of interest from passers by. Jane adds, "We also have our own famous Charity Stitcher, Mr. Eric Ashby. He regularly appears in the magazines having raised money for various causes. His retirement from the police force coincided with our opening in Tankerton and that was when he started cross-stitching. We are always happy to donate materials for his charity projects."

An Example of our own Charity Stitcher's Work.
Mr Eric Ashby - a most remarkable man and a good friend. His stitched pictures raise thousands of pounds for charity. In this case the Royal National Lifeboat Association - Whitstable Lifeboat House Appeal. (Now open and housing our 'state of the art' lifeboat - 'Oxford Town & Gown')

In closing Jane exclaims, "The wonderful thing about owning a needlecraft shop is that you get to meet people who are as passionate about threads and fabrics as you are, Jane marvels, "And when you have several customers in the shop who haven't met before, they are soon chatting together like old friends about the project they are working on or what they are planning to do next. We are always interested in what our customers are doing and eager to offer support, advice, help and encouragement whenever we can."

Crossed Threads
168, Tankerton Road
Whitstable, Kent CT5 2AP
Phone: 01227 772 282
E-mail: bionicpixie@supanet.com

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

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