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Tri Thy Needlecraft Centre in North Wales, UK

"From small acorns doth the oak tree grow." This age-old saying typifies a journey that began in March of 1978 and has culminated to date in the "Tri Thy Needlecraft Centre" in north Wales, UK. Norma Restall, the driving force behind this visionary endeavor, was hell-bent that her children would never stand in the "dole queues." Her resolute aim was to create a family enterprise that would involve and support them all. Having been employed as a handcraft teacher, Norma's master plan involved creating a craft oriented business. When the opportunity arose to buy some acreage on Hope Mountain, (home to 5 generations of her family), where stood some dilapidated buildings from a former farm, she seized the day. Ignoring the lack of running water, electricity and mutterings from family and friends alluding to "Wuthering Heights," and "Living like Gypsies", Norma, with husband, Dick, and their three children began the daunting task of transforming Norma's dream into reality.

First priority was to make the main house habitable. "It was a struggle", Norma recalls, "but we never wasted anything, repairing things that other people threw out." A fine example of this resourcefulness is a room divider constructed from the farm's old stone cheese presses, which separates the modern galley from the homey Welsh farmhouse kitchen.

TRI THY Needlecraft Centre - (1) Mary's Tea Room, (2) Jane's Needlecraft Shop,
(3) Thresher's Walk Gallery and Arcade, (4) Adult Workshop, (5) Self Catering Cottage

Once their living quarters were set up, the next project was the old granary, which was slated for reincarnation into a craft shop on the ground floor with a workroom above. The former cart shed was resurrected as a space of white-washed walls, polished wood floors and exposed beams, creating the perfect backdrop for displaying one-of-a-kind handcrafted items.

The original farm name of "Tri Thy", meaning three houses, was adopted and by Mayday 1980, "Tri Thy Craft Centre" was up and running. Initially, items made by local artisans were supplied on a "sale-or-return"(consignment) basis. Norma, Mary and Jane handled the day-to-day running of the business and, son, Paul helped out with the bookkeeping.

To generate another source of income, the Restalls pooled their labor to transform a stable block into four separate workshops which could be leased to local craftsmen. During the summer holidays, the family arranged a series of craft classes for children in ceramics, macrame, needlework and screen printing. So successful was this program, that Dick was able to take early retirement from his teaching job, and join the others in the family cooperative. Dick's imagination was focused on refurbishing the old threshing shed to resemble a "Vintage Victorian Shopping Promenade." His theatrical conceptualization resulted in an array of display cases with glass fronts to set off the collection of exquisite embroideries that family members had made or acquired over the years.

Further restoration work produced a "Tea Room" and what had been the cow sheds became workrooms and classrooms. This newest renovation enabled them to attract organized bus tours arranged through women's institutes, church groups and other organizations. Regularly scheduled day-trips included craft demonstrations, a home-cooked meal in Mary's new Tea Room and time to browse the shop which now also included needlework supplies. It wasn't long before visitors from overseas were knocking on their doors. Tri Thy is now known far and wide as a favorite stop for Needlecraft Tours in the UK.

Dick's next project was to build up their screen printing business by producing tea towels with single-color line drawings which are ideally suited for fundraising activities. Orders for these were soon pouring in from churches, choirs and schools. By 1991 each member of the family was managing their own section of the business.

At long last only one derelict building remained to be converted - the former pig sty and hen house! With the Restall's by now legendary magic touch, this became a luxury two bedroom self- catering (housekeeping) unit named "Snowdrop Cottage", which is rented to visitors attending embroidery classes or folks just looking for the perfect getaway "far from the madding crowd."

ust before the last lick of paint was to be applied, an unforseen calamity of magnanimous proportions struck: Dick was diagnosed with cancer. The restoration of the cottage was completed with the help of friends and Dick managed in his last few months to mentor Norma, Jane and Mary in the operation of the screen printing business. Tragic as it was to lose him, they could all look on what they had created together with enormous pride and gratification. They had, against all odds, succeeded in living the "Good Life", which would constitute an enduring legacy to future generations.

Norma is a VERY inspiring teacher who believes that EVERYONE is creative. She takes absolute novices and ispires them to create fabulous scenic pictures in embroidery. Dozens of samples hang from the walls showing the work her students have done. Most recently, Norma, Mary and Jane have concentrated on applying their needlework talents to create a series of original designs christened the "Mary Jane Collection." These consist of embroidery charts and kits for blackwork, silk ribbon embroidery and crewel. The collection includes decorative counted thread samplers which employ hardanger, drawn thread and holbein techniques using Caron Wildflowers and Waterlilies threads. New crewel embroidery designs consist of small pictures and bell pulls executed with Caron Impressions silk and wool fibers. The Mary Jane Collection is distributed in the U.S. by the Caron Collection. Ask for them at your local shop.

Two unrelated, but equally valuable, members of the extended family are Pam and Marilyn, both highly skilled and competent needleworkers. They manage Jane's Needlecraft Shop, which is now one of the longest established in North Wales.

Time has steadily marched on and the acorn which has grown into a massive, deep-rooted oak tree is branching out with new growth to include another generation: Jane's daughter, Amy, is beginning to take part in the family business, soon to be followed by sister, Megan.

To appreciate the Restall's true pioneering spirit, you must visit the "Tri Thy Needlecraft Centre" in person. Hands-on demonstrations and a workshop resulting in a silk ribbon embroidery of four local wildflowers will set the perfect mood for a traditional Welsh repast in the Tea Room followed by a stroll around the Thresher's Walk Gallery and Arcade where you can ogle the needleart, craft and gift exhibits. No one can possibly leave uninspired after such an adventure.

Tri Thy Needlecraft Centre is located at Coed Talon, Nr Mold, Flintshire CH7 4TU in the UK. They are on the main A5104 Road, 12 miles from Chester on the Welsh/English border.
Phone: (01352) 771359
Fax: (01352) 771881
Store Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10:30 am to !7:00 (5 pm)

The Mary Jane Collection is available to the trade. For information contact them at Tir-y-fron Lane, Pontybdkin, Nr Mold CH7 4YU
Phone: (01352) 771359 Ext. 02
Fax: (01352 771881

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