Dyed and Gone to Heaven – An Online Magazine and Needlework Resource  

By Rita Vainius

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Being raised in Marshall, MI, Jeanne Manley can identify with the lyrics of John Mellencamp's song, "Small Town." She says, "Growing up in a small town was great. Everyone has a chance to excel." Throughout childhood, Jeanne watched her mother engage in handwork and as she grew older they worked on projects together. When she was a teenager, Jeanne and her mom knit sweaters until the closets were overflowing. Embroidery was another passion, with cross stitch becoming a particularly keen interest for both.

After high school, Jeanne attended Purdue University and then Michigan State University receiving a degree in retailing. She spent the next sixteen years working in both professional and volunteer positions at the International Headquarters of Zeta Tau Alpha International Fraternity for Women and then at the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. Her volunteer work for Zeta Tau Alpha, culminated in her election to the National Council where she served for 4 years.

After 16 years of working for others, Jeanne felt the need to pursue a career in a business of her own. This urge was inspired in part by the business her parents owned - they had built a golf course when Jeanne was 18 years old and grew that business into a viable and respected enterprise. Jeanne knew she wanted her venture to be needlework related. She explored the possibility of purchasing an existing shop in the Chicago area as well as starting a new business.

In the midst of her quest, Jeanne was visiting friends in Scottsdale, AZ, when she came across Quail Run Needlework, a store that was for sale. She followed her intuition and it soon led her to life in Arizona as the new proprietor of Quail Run. The shop was established in 1976 and had a reputation as one of the finest shops in the country, which Jeanne applied herself to maintaining. Shortly after taking over, she was approached by three artists who had painted designs for the shop previously. Each had developed a distinctive line of needlepoint designs. They were Terry Enfield, Robert Chapman and Diane O'Leary. Jeanne decided to carry their lines and Quail Run Designs, the wholesale offshoot of Quail Run Needlework, was born.

Initially Quail Run Designs featured about 100 designs by the original three artists. During the last 18 years, Jeanne has amassed a portfolio of talent from various parts of the country, making for a diverse mix of styles. Quail Run presently offers over 800 designs and Jeanne is negotiating with several new artists who made be added to the fold.


In 1987, Jeanne and her family decided to return to her native turf in Michigan, to join her parents in the golf business. Remarkably, Jeanne had maintained such an outstanding staff at Quail Run Needlework, that she was able to retain ownership of the shop while being an absentee owner. Jeanne elaborates, "I did consider selling the shop, but it's a great excuse to visit my favorite part of the country." Meanwhile, Quail Run Designs made the move to Michigan with Jeanne. Aside from growing her wholesale design business, Jeanne is actively engaged in the day-to-day operation of Tomac Woods Golf Course in Albion, which she and her husband now own and manage. All three businesses continue to prosper.

When queried about having both a retail and wholesale business, Jeanne states, "I believe there are advantages in having both. The expense of stitching models is more justified because they can be used in both businesses and displayed all year in the store." She continues, "It is also extremely helpful to have input on design ideas and designer potential from the retail staff who is in contact with customers on a daily basis. Plus, we have the creativity of several staff members to create models and stitch guides for our designs."

Asked how she manages to juggle so many ventures at the same time, Jeanne admits, "Being involved in three different businesses at the same time is often challenging." She adds, "I think there are basic principles which apply to each of them and which we try to adhere to: provide outstanding customer service in a friendly manner, provide a high-quality product at a fair price, make improvements and positive changes on a regular basis, listen to customer comments and keep up with industry trends." It's a tall order, but Jeanne seems to handle it with style, verve, energy and finesse!

Jeanne stresses that over the years, the needlework industry has made great strides. When she bought her shop, there were only a handful of artists designing in needlepoint. Today there are over 200. She notes that the proliferation and availability of so many different fibers, fabrics and stitches has enabled stitchers to maximize their artistic expression through needleart. Jeanne elaborates, "Companies like the Caron Collection were leaders and innovators when they introduced new threads, stitching techniques and printed materials which enable stitchers to create beautiful stitched works of art." Today Quail Run Needlework carries over 100 different threads in a myriad of colors and fibers. She continues "Many needlepoint artists and creative stitchers have made their ideas available to shops and their customers in the form of stitch guides for designs that they produce and sell. For those of us who are not so creative, this has been a true blessing." Jeanne, though not a designer herself has an unerring eye and takes the initiative to nurture and introduce such talent to others. She also scouts for artists using other mediums such as watercolor, pastel and oils, and transposes their imagery into needlework, thereby as she expresses, "...giving the stitcher more chances of finding 'just the right' project."

Tooth Fairy Pillows

Jennifer sees herself as an Illustrator who took up cross stitch as a hobby and then began to see all her ideas through a different lens. She explains, "The special fibers were like a new box of crayons to play with. Suddenly the fibers would let me create an effect I could never duplicate in watercolour drawings." Many of Jennifer's design ideas are spawned when she least expects them, so she keeps a sketchbook handy. Nick is fond of saying that it can be like living with a gerbil if an idea hits in the middle of the night. There's always a pen and paper handy and Jennifer doesn't even need to turn on the light. As Nick describes it, he just hears the "scritch, scritch" in the dark!

Bearly a Wizard

When Jennifer was new to cross stitch, her initial works included much tonal variation and as many as 30 colours in each design. As she advanced in knowledge and technique she began using specialty stitches and more diverse fibers. She says, "The beauty of Caron's colours and the texture of the fibers themselves are what first attracted me. Here were threads that I could stitch with and suddenly the colour varied like magic! It gave my dragon's wings and bodies far more mystery and subtlety without any extra work on my part to blend threads!! I fell in love with them right away! I also love the stitching process itself. Nick and I stitch most of the models ourselves. ... most of our large dragons - I just can't bear to let someone else see it come to life and fondle the fibers!"

Moonlight Guardian

In an interesting aside, Jennifer jokes how appropriate the fantasy theme is to her personal life. She declares, "I come from a family of Giants!" Her father is 6"10" and everyone else in her family is over 6' tall. She also chuckles when she admits that even though Nick is over 6'5", he is the tallest in his family, so there might be a recessive short gene lurking somewhere! But both Erin and Bethany are already well above the average height curve. Before Bethany was born, Jennifer was an avid seamstress and made clothes to fit her statuesque 6' 5" frame. She hopes to delve into quilting in the future, but for now has promised Nick to hold off until she's 40. He apparently is convinced that Jennifer will begin by designing Dragon quilts... no doubt, he's right on

Dragon of the Winter Moon

Dragon Dreams Inc.
112 Highmeadow Drive, Moncton, NB, CANADA, E1G 2C4
Phone: (506) 852-9017
Fax: (506) 855-5828
E-Mail: dragondr@nbnet.nb.ca
Website: http://www.DragonDreams.accra.ca

Castle of the Mist Bellpull

Here's a treat that the near future definitely holds in store - coming in 2001 is an exciting fantasy trilogy. This collaborative effort between Jennifer Aikman-Smith, Teresa Wentzler and Karen Weaver (Black Swan Designs), will include a dragon designed by each of them in a single leaflet! Dragon Dreams leaflets are available to stitchers through needlework retailers in more than 7 countries! Jennifer has just begun teaching at some festivals and plans on doing more of that in the future as well.


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

CARON email: mail@caron-net.com