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.

City Stitcher of Chicago, IL

Most dedicated stitchers are people who appreciate other handcrafted items which incorporate a bit of the soul of the artist who created them. Jane Dresner and Cyndi LaBarge have made this concept into a tangible reality by founding an emporium of gifts, furnishings and accessories, City Source, to compliment their needlework shop, City Stitcher. The philosophy of City Source is to offer only items that are made from natural materials - no plastic, acrylic etc. The focus stays on handcrafted merchandise such as beeswax candles, picture frames, ceramics, pottery, handmade cards, papers and stationary, boxes, albums, small furniture pieces and linens (placemats, napkins, kitchen towels). Jane elucidates on their selection: "We like to work with smaller companies who don't mass-produce thus making their product more unusual. For the past several years, we have represented Design Studio, a local group of artisans who have a wonderful line of seasonal hand-painted fingertip towels, whimsically dressed, stuffed animals (bunnies and families of holiday snowmen), dried arrangements (wreaths and swags), decorated votives, and much more."

Cyndi LaBarge is one of the original owners of City Stitcher. She was raised in Toledo, OH and recalls that her grandmother signed her up for lessons in needlepoint and knitting at the local department store. One memory is particularly vivid: "I still remember the red mohair she let me pick out for my first project. The cost was not as important as having something I loved and would be committed to accomplish. I find I often tell beginning stitchers to pick out a project they will enjoy in lieu of simply the least expensive or easiest. Yes, I did finish that red mohair vest..." After graduating from Bowling Green State U, Cyndi taught 4th grade for three years before getting married and moving to Chicago. There she worked as a computer systems trainer. Her job entailed traveling and needlework came to the rescue in filling in the idle hours spent in transit. Downsizing eliminated Cyndi's position just when she found herself pregnant, making that transition fairly easy. Though she delighted in Erin, Cyndi missed socializing with adults and eventually took a part time job at a local needlepoint store. That's when the entrepreneurial bug kicked in. An attempt was made to purchase the shop with 2 colleagues, but that didn't pan out. They persevered and in May of 1983, the 3 partners opened a shop on Chicago Ave. and incorporated the business. Over time, one partner retired and the other left for other reasons. Jane starting working at the shop in Dec, 1983 and the rest is their joint history.

Jane Dresner was raised in Streator, Illinois by parents who encouraged her endless "creative" endeavors. She was taught to cross-stitch and sew by her mother and learned graphic and drafting skills from her father. She later taught herself to knit and do needlepoint. After H.S., Jane moved to Chicago to attend Nursing School, graduated and worked as a psychiatric nurse in a hospital for 15 years. It was there she met her husband Bruce during his Residency. While working, she satisfied her creative needs through crewel embroidery, sewing, cooking, painting (watercolors), calligraphy, and needlepoint. Over the years she joined two Needlework Guilds where she initially met Cyndi, while taking a series of Japanese Embroidery classes.

In 1983 Jane decided to return to school for a graduate degree with the stated intention: "My thoughts for grad school were either to go on in Psych. or an MBA but I put that on hold and its still holding!" The reason for that is because, while back in school, Jane took a part time job at City Stitcher. Less than a year later, her future underwent a radical change when she decided to buy into the business. Jane insists that she and Cyndi are "polar opposites"- while Cyndi is tall with dark hair, Jane is petite and blonde. Apparently, Cyndi is laid-back, while Jane flashes through the shop like a "whirling dervish!" Regardless of their differences, as a business team, they form one cohesive whole. Jane explains: "We each bring different strengths to the business; We compliment, criticize, and compromise as necessary, which is crucial."

Cyndi harbors maternal feelings for the business: "I call the business my "middle child" as Erin had started preschool and I could focus on the growth of the business. In 1986, I had my second daughter, Courtney...I had worked all day on Saturday and thought my back hurt from just being on my feet all day. Then Monday morning...she made a hasty entrance to the world and I had to call Jane and let her know I probably would not be in.... Jane used the display window to announce Courtney's arrival, filling an antique carriage with baby canvas designs, pink wool and a "It's a Girl" sign."

Cyndi does all the accounting; Jane oversees schedules and payroll, maintains the mailing list and writes their promotional material with lots of input Cyndi and the staff. Both share ideas deciding on the look and direction of both businesses, share buying and try to attend markets and trade shows together. In terms of stitching expertise, they agree they are even-steven. This equality and harmony benefits their clientele in the quantity and quality of personal attention they are able to render.

The delineation of responsibilities between Jane and Cyndi allow for considerable flexibility: Cyndi enthuses: "I have always enjoyed the fact that I can schedule myself off to attend my children's school activities. In my time off, I also enjoy shopping flea markets and antique stores. Many of my 'treasures' find a home as store props and unique displays in City Source. Cyndi's antiques fit in well with the age of the building and lend a nostalgic flavor while also functioning for interesting presentation of sale items. These one-of-a-kind finds include a wooden arbor, a harvest ladder, a handyman's bed and a 1920's gas stove.

City Stitcher, Inc. offers hand-painted canvases, cross-stitch, a full line of fibers, and stitching accessories. Included in-house is a full-line Elizabeth Bradley boutique. They work with several artists who do custom designs and provide full finishing services. Classes are taught by Cyndi, Jane, other experienced members of the staff and guest teachers. All levels are taught, beginner being a standard introduction (basic stitches and seven decorative stitches taught on a Susan Roberts canvas). Intermediate classes change often and are frequently developed around specific requests from customers. Most popular are projects with multiple stitch techniques and a variety of fibers. City Stitcher's clientele consists mostly of urban residents, tourists and working women. Both partners remark on the increasing numbers of young professionals who enjoy stitching as a counterpoint to corporate life. There is always a post holiday sale, which their customers count on and several trunk shows are scheduled each year. While at their original location, one of their earliest and most successful trunk shows was Lois Caron's line. Jane insists: "We treasure her original canvases...We now stock Snow, Watercolours, Waterlilies, and Impressions."

The current staff includes a number of part time employees who share a full time love of stitching. Their talents are vast and their rewards are few as Cyndi emphasizes: "I don't know too many in this field who are in it for the paycheck." Kathleen, Jan, Lynne, Kris and Karen provide friendly, competent service to customers while initiating an uncountable number of creative ideas that which benefit City Stitcher and customer alike. They all are committed to preserving and continuing the craft.

City Stitcher, Inc. is located on the first 2 floors of a lovely turn of the century building just two blocks from the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue), Water Tower Place, the old historic Water Tower, and Lake Michigan. The store is within easy walking distance to most major hotels in the area. The business relocated to its current home 9 years ago. It is rumored that the building was once owned by the Borden Family of Borden Dairy fame. The shop occupies the corner first floor space and the entire second floor, which constituted the original owner's abode. As such, the interior retains the original appointments and period details of the residence: mahogany pocket doors, a built-in breakfront and four fireplaces, some with mantels of carved marble. With the increased urban development in the area, it seems only a matter of time before City Stitcher will have to relocate, once again. Jane voices their primary considerations: "We want to stay in the area and keep our store competitive with current trends in fibers, while maintaining a large selection of canvases."

The two businesses are run as one business in that Cyndi and Jane are equally committed to and involved in both. The addition of City Source increased their work load correspondingly - an entirely new set of vendors and trade shows to attend, as well as the day-to-day operation of two different businesses. Jane clarifies the dilemma: "Over the past nine years, the demands of the dual businesses keep us both very busy thus we seem to have less time to stitch. We live vicariously through seeing what others (staff and customers) are doing."

While each business does draw different crowds there is naturally also a large overlap. After all, what could be better than satisfying your creative urges and being able to pick up that special gift at the same time! Cyndi and Jane look forward to assisting you with your stitching projects or finding that extra-special something for your home or for that special someone in your life!

City Stitcher, Inc
One East Huron, at State
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 664- 5499

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

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