Before she ever opened her craft store, before she learned how to quilt or embroider or cross-stitch, my mother started with crochet, every night chaining a row that would eventually, she hoped, become an ankle-length skirt in a multicolored ripple pattern, do you remember those?
It was 1970. She was young and newly married, and to keep busy while my dad worked, she learned to make things.
When he came home, she held up her progress, the two of them laughed, and he hooted, “Whoo, we got four inches!”
She kept at it. But it seemed like it might take a long time to finish that skirt.
She learned needlepoint, too, and stitched her first sampler: a traditional wedding motif in bright blue thread, a bride and a groom holding hands on either side of a tree, and their wedding date, March 26 — it would’ve been 47 years this month — stitched across the bottom. That sampler was the first framed piece she hung in their little rented house.
Two years later, she opened her first store on Fayetteville Street in Asheboro, across from Sir Pizza, in the old Mabe Oil Company building. The shop was a tiny spot, only two rooms. In one, she stocked every kind and color of yarn imaginable for knitting, crochet, embroidery, crewelwork. In the other room, my dad built wooden display racks — they looked like tobacco stringers — to hang needlepoint canvases on. Owls and mushrooms and sunflower patterns. Butterflies and birds and still lifes of flowers.
She and my dad painted the exterior of the building bright canary yellow. They wanted it to be the first thing you saw if you were driving by.
Every day before she opened her shop, my mom had coffee with my grandfather. And every morning, he’d ask, “How much did you do yesterday, Susie?” Every day, she’d sigh. “I didn’t sell anything.”
“Don’t worry,” my grandfather told her. “Every day can’t be a good day.”
First came a gas shortage. Then a recession. She kept at it. But it seemed like it might take a long time for business to come.
One morning as my grandfather poured her coffee, my mother blurted out, “How much did we do yesterday?” He turned around, grinning, and she jumped up, too excited to hold back. $25!
By the 1980s, my mom had expanded her store to a larger space. Cross-stitch was king then, and customers poured in. They brought their finished pieces to the shop to show her: Serenity Prayers and Footprints in the Sand. Sayings and samplers. Covered bridges and wildlife and butterflies and birds and still lifes of flowers.
My mom always turned the work over to check the back, to see that the threads were pulled tight and cut neat. For her, that was the real mark of quality: what you didn’t see. She knew how much work went into all of it, how much time it took to needlepoint a canvas, to stitch a sampler, to crochet four inches, to keep at it and create something true and strong — a craft, a home, a marriage, a family, a business — that lasts, if we’re lucky, a lifetime.
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