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,
Thresher's Walk Gallery and Arcade, (4) Adult Workshop, (5) Self Catering
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.
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
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."
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
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