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In the Netherlands
At Sylka Mode, an exciting new year filled with creative ideas originating in the imaginative mind of its owner, Sylvia Kaptein, is underway. Just awaiting a stitcher's fancy are many wonderful patterns and kits for quilters, cross stitchers and card makers. Foremost among these is the Coverquilt of the Piecemakers Calendar 2002, with several different kits available to execute it. The Coverquilt employs crazy quilting, appliqué, silk ribbon, beads and other embellishments.
Coverquilt of Piecemakers Calendar 2002
Sylvia opened her shop 12 years ago. She says, "I began by selling knitting wool, cross stitch kits and some gifts, but soon I started selling patchwork and quilting items and more embroidery threads and also began giving classes." The name Sylka-Mode is derived from the abbreviated first letters of Sylvia's first and last name, combined with "Mode" (fashion in Dutch).
Born in Amsterdam, Sylvia's family moved to De Rijp when she was 16. She recounts, "I hated that, since we never heard of that small town and if you are living in the city, life in the country is quite different. But I met Jos here, and we fell in love at first sight -- so that is wonderful." She continues, "I am still missing the city life a bit, but with a shop this large and all the work involved, done by myself, I really don't have the time to worry if I should live somewhere else. I think it doesn't matter where you live, as long as you have work that fills your time and enough people to see."
After completing her formal education, Sylvia worked in her father's accounting firm. She and Jos married in 1975 and in 1976 their daughter Ilona was born; two years later, a son, Marcus arrived. While a stay-at-home mom, Sylvia accepted commissions for knitting, sewing, making dolls, etc. She explains, "I was educating myself in all the techniques I could find. I even organized my own parties to sell sweaters for children and adults that I had designed and began making cross-stitch items on commission for a woman in the U.S. I had a lot of pen pals at that time all over the world and noticed that if you have a hobby like quilting or embroidery, you always have friends all over the world."
In 1990 Sylvia found the ideal spot for a retail store -- the front space of her mother-in-law's house. Sylvia elucidates, "It went so well - giving my own quilt and cross stitch shows, giving classes and having lots in stock. Despite the small space, we grew and grew, and had to find a larger shop." Which she did just after celebrating the 10th anniversary. She adds, "We moved to a shop that was 10 times bigger and we have been there ever since." The "we" Sylvia refers to includes her husband Jos who has been an enormous boon to the venture, readily jumping-in as soon as he gets home from his own full time business in civil engineering. Sylvia adds, "He also supports me in anything I am making, like quilts and embroidery projects; he is always amazed about things a person can make."
In October of '98, Sylvia inaugurated a shop website with a resulting increase in mail order volume. She also publishes a newsletter, which goes out by mail to about 1200 stitchers all over the Netherlands. Sylvia continues, "Recently I've been giving women the opportunity to join our mail group - again just in Dutch - for giving them news more often and more personal, like what's new in the shop, for joining a workshop or class and reminding them of shows and events in our shop."
Quilt shows are held twice a year and an embroidery show, annually. Other special events include Christmas and Halloween markets. Sylvia adds gleefully "It is no problem to have 100 ore more people at one time in the shop now. It is big enough!" Sylvia is currently running a contest, "Flowers," the theme of the upcoming Embroidery Show. Sylvia explains, "By having a contest, I give stitchers the opportunity to make something of that theme to send in for the show. All those viewing the show are the jury; so everyone has a good chance of winning." Another brainstorm was the Victorian Club. Sylvia clarifies, "It is something I came up with to give women the opportunity to work with techniques and materials that are long forgotten. We do a lot of cross-stitching here, but there are so many wonderful techniques that nobody dares to make." Techniques featured include Hardanger, beadwork, Richelieu, Schwälmer embroidery, petit point, quilting, silk ribbon embroidery and appliqué. Sylvia has her own enrollment strategy, " The project for that day is a secret. I don't tell them up front, since there are women that would not come if the project is not the their liking! Most of the time they enjoy the surprise of not knowing and seeing what we will make!"
Another bonus for her clientele is the service Sylvia renders in translating numerous American patterns into Dutch. These translations are time consuming, but well worth the effort to her grateful clientele. All this Sylvia accomplishes almost single-handedly. She admits, "I still have no staff, giving my own classes, making my own projects and designing them myself, so it is a 24 hour business, even working most of the Sundays and evenings. But it is worth every minute, while working with the customers and women that attend my classes. It is hard work, but seeing the smile on the face of someone that finishes her first project is worth everything!" She strives to make her shop inviting to stitchers and non-stitching guests alike. Sylvia adds, "We serve coffee and tea with cookies to everyone, every day; we have newspapers for the men that are waiting for their wives and we also have a children's corner with Lego and comics so everyone likes it in our shop!"
Though Sylvia does have some male clientele, she reports, "There is still some gene about making quilts or embroidery if one is a man. But I think that is silly. Lots of stitchery in the old days was done by men and even today in some countries like Turkey only men can quilt." A wide grin comes to Sylvia's face when she recalls certain people in her past. She clarifies, "If my old schoolteacher could only see me now - I hated knitting and embroidery then and only liked to draw which I did a lot (and still do). She would be amazed if she could see the shop and the activities around it and know that I teach my own classes! My teacher knew I thought needlework was stupid, but by letting me draw, she gave me the opportunity to explore designing, I think, and that is where it started with."
Sylka-Mode inventories an extensive assortment of quilting supplies and embroidery items: over 1,900 bolts of quilt fabrics (and growing), over 300 different quilt books, lots of patterns and kits, as well as quilt and cross stitch patterns and kits, embroidery floss and threads, beads, embellishment and materials for making cards and lots more." There is also a line of carefully selected gift items: napkins, note cards, notebooks and writing paper and even a selection of dollhouse items, such as quilt kits. Best of all, Sylvia offers gift certificates, a staple on the wish list of any stitcher.
Just after a wholesale dealer in the in The Netherlands began distributing the Caron Collection line of threads, 6 years ago, Sylvia purchased them and has been selling them ever since. She says, "I started making my own patterns and kits, thus being able in this way to give my customers the possibility to try out Watercolours, Wildflowers and Waterlilies" She reports that they have become very popular and are increasingly so as new stitchers are introduced to them for the first time.
Located in the historic centre of the village, Sylka-Mode benefits from year-round tourist traffic. Visitors come to walk through town, ride a bike in the surrounding polders, see the windmills, go canoeing and fish. Sylvia explains, "Polders are grasslands on which cows and sheep are held; these lands used to be water in the ancient days, but by using windmills, the polders were drained. We have lots of canals and many natural waterways here surrounding and passing through our village and between the grasslands of the polders, where people go canoeing and fishing."
Amsterdam, a mere 30 km away, makes the shop easily accessible by car. Needleworkers planning a trip to Amsterdam would be well advised to plan a day exploring the charming village of De Rijp and paying a call at Sylka-Mode. It just might turn out to be the highlight of their visit to Holland. As Sylvia stands at the entrance to the shop, she waves and adds her personal welcome, "We hope to see you someday in our shop, or on our website on the Internet! Happy stitching!"
Shop Hours: Monday: Open for classes and workshops only.
Tuesday through Friday: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm (17:00 h)
Saturday: 10.00 am - 5:00 pm (17:00 h)
For upcoming special events at Sylka Mode, go to the shop website.
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