In 1974, Sally H. Volkert and her sister-in-law, Mary Gee
Volkert, bought an existing needlework store that had been in
business just a few years. They immediately set to work changing
the format, adding their own touches and realizing their concept
of what a needlepoint shop should be. Thus began "The Adventure
of The Canvasback."
Sally was born and raised in Westport, CT, until the age of
fifteen. Her father was then transferred with NBC to Illinois
and the family moved to Winnetka. Sally attended New Trier High
School, then Skidmore University, and after that, she transferred
to Miami of Ohio University. Sally adds, "My major was art
and my plan was to go into graphic art designing since my interests
have always been in the art field. In school I was always active
in sports, leadership and, of course, academics. Whatever the
activity, I always ended up creating the art work for any given
After attending college Sally worked as an Interior Decorator
with a firm in Chicago. She married and raised three sons, who
are all now married with children of their own. Sally calls them
"My abundant blessings!"
When Sally's sons were still quite young, she became passionately
interested in needlepoint and began designing needlepoint for
her friends. She elaborates, "In 1974, I asked my sister-in-law,
Mary Gee, if she would join me in creating a needlepoint shop.
We ended up buying an existing shop that had only been in business
a few years. We changed the format, adding many more services,
classes, handpainted needlepoint, yarn, etc., and began the journey
of The Canvasback."
Within just a year they moved and greatly expanded the store
to accommodate their growing business. The original shop had
been quartered in a very tiny room in a gift store, just around
the corner from its present location. It has been thriving ever
since, doubling in size and becoming an institution to stitchers
from Chicago, its suburbs and across the nation. Sally ruefully
admits, "We again need to expand but are having trouble
finding the space!"
In 1993, Sally's sister-in-law, Mary Gee, had to leave the
business due to illness. Sally was left to run the shop on her
own. She reminisces, "Mary Gee is missed by everyone and
is specially remembered with a memorial garden in front of the
shop, which blossoms with beautiful flowers and color, as does
Mary Gee Volkert's Memorial Garden
and Commemorative Plaque
The Canvasback has grown each and every year under Sally's
superior stewardship. The focus has remained the same throughout,
always reflecting Sally's and Mary Gee's original goals -- quality
needlepoint and all that goes with it. Sally adds, "The
explosion in the art work of hand-painted designs and in the
variety of new fibers introduced has created a glorious combination
for the creative stitchers that visit The Canvasback."
The Canvasback is a total needlepoint shop. "I have not
brought in knitting or any other stitchery," explains Sally.
"The focus and products have remained the same, with tremendous
growth, throughout the 28 years. We offer an extensive inventory
(one of the largest in the country) of hand painted canvases,
just about all the fibers available, all the accessories and
furniture that go with needlepoint, an extensive schedule of
classes, our own custom designer, (I had to give up that part
as the shop grew), our own creative finisher (who has been with
the shop since the beginning) and exceptional service."
The shop holds monthly trunk shows and attracts teachers from
around the country to supplement Sally's staff of creative and
talented instructors. She enthuses, "I am fortunate to have
a very talented and dedicated staff, who help me run a very busy
shop. I could not manage without them." Needlepoint workshops
and classes cover every level of experience from total neophytes
to expert advanced stitchers. The shop even arranges workshops
for children. The classes run year-round on a quarterly schedule.
Sally's creative and well-informed staff is made up of stitchers
who each have the same passion towards needlepoint that Sally
herself possesses. They instill their limitless curiosity and
enthusiasm into each and every customer. Sally adds, "This
tends to make us a family that works well together, as well as
having a lot of fun. My best employees have been past customers
and today, all ten who make up the staff are previous clients.
How lucky I am! I have four people on the floor each day, each
one has specific responsibilities and they all continue to amaze
me with their dedication. When I let them know I am on overload
everyone pitches in and does a little more!! They keep me well
directed and I am thankful for all of them!"
Sally has inventoried the Caron Collection products since
they first became available many, many years ago, from canvases
to fibers. She informs, "Impressions is one of our biggest
sellers, followed closely by Watercolours, Wildflowers and Waterlillies.
Located in the small town of Northfield, only about 20 miles
north of Chicago, The Canvasback is close to the major highway
that runs from Chicago to Wisconsin. It is a convenient and easily
accessible location for customers coming from all directions,
particularly for stitchers heading into town from the northern,
southern, and western suburbs.
Sally and Mary Gee's original goal when establishing the Canvasback
was to bring their customers the very finest in needlepoint design
along with the most attentive and responsive customer service.
If anything, that philosophy holds as true today as it did 28
years ago. Sally states, "My passion has never ceased for
the love of needlepoint; my staff has the same passion and we
love sharing it with others! The Canvasback is a needlepointer's
paradise, which is how many of our customers have referred to
Sally H. Volkert
The Canvasback Ltd
1747 Orchard Lane
Northfield, IL 60093
Phone: (847) 446- 4244
Fax: (847) 446- 1247
E mail: Canbk4@aol.com
Shop Hours: Monday Friday 10 am to 5 pm
Saturday 10 am to 4 pm