Every month The CARON Collection features 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.
We take you on a visit to...
Ginger's Needlearts and Framing, Austin, Texas
Join us as we pay a visit to Ginger's Needlearts and Framing located in Austin, Texas. To give all you needleworkers some idea of just how popular a spot this shop is, there's a long-standing joke around town that Ginger's is really just a "front" for a male strip joint! How else to explain why so many harried and tense women converge there during their lunch hour and leave about half hour or so later, relaxed and laughing! All kidding aside, one has only to peek inside the door to see that Ginger is very serious about pleasing and satisfying her customers.
Ginger Edwards, the shop's owner and namesake, started doing cross stitch as a 3rd grader, when she was confined to bed with the measles. By high school she had moved onto needlepoint. In college her dorm was situated directly across the street from a needlepoint store! This was obviously a prophetic coincidence but at the time only served to put a severe strain on Ginger's time and budget as a student! Upon graduation Ginger worked at a Meribee Needlecraft store (a chain of stores owned by the Tandy Corporation) that carried extensive needlework and craft supplies. At that time, individual stores did not have the authority to decide their own inventory; all the shops carried the same merchandise regardless of fashion trends or location. In her position as a needlework buyer for the 300+ store chain, Ginger was instrumental in changing this practice to allow individual stores to customize their inventory to appeal to and reflect regional tastes and trends. This represented an innovative marketing strategy, which is a crucial aspect of Ginger's business plan in her own enterprise.
Ginger bought an existing needlework and craft shop in November of 1985, and immediately began to implement changes that would tailor the inventory to her own clientele. Because of nearby competition in crafts in the form of a Hobby Lobby store, she phased out most of the crafts, but expanded the needlework selection and added smocking supplies, patterns and fabrics. The modest exterior of the shop, located in a strip mall alongside a dry cleaner's, appliance repair shop, leathercraft store and ham radio shop (great diversion for accompanying husbands!) only hints at the bounty within.
Though she started with only 1200 sq. ft., her store now encompasses 4000 sq. ft of office, storage and display space. It is just one of those unfathomable quirks of nature, that no matter how much room you have, your goods will somehow almost magically expand to fill it up! What makes Ginger's selection so accessible is her innate design sense in arranging and showcasing her wares. Movable displays are changed with frequency and regularity to appeal to a wide audience. Antique blue carpeting, white walls, lattice display panels, weathered wood cupboards and shelves provide a pleasing and harmonious background for the wide assortments of fibers, kits, canvases, tools, books etc. Tables, shelves and gondola end caps are draped with garlands of fabric, further enhancing the inviting atmosphere.
Ginger's offers a very deep selection of the many types of needlework available: cross stitch, canvas, smocking, silk ribbon, counted thread, needlepoint, hardanger, smocking and tatting. She specializes in hard to find fabrics, threads, buttons, embellishments, and doo-dahs. (Ginger's name for handy gadgets, accessories and "toys"). Custom services offered include framing, sewing and finishing of needlework projects (pillows, belts, bell pulls etc.), and pleating and clothing construction for smocking projects.
Ginger's boasts a dedicated staff of 16, many with their own special talents and skills. The smocking department manager, Marcy Collins, designed a plate that has been featured in "Creative Needle" magazine. She is referred to by her colleagues as their in-house "stylist". Another is Peg Dunayer, an artist who has her own line of greeting cards, painting patterns and charted canvas designs, including "Basket Band-its". Another pattern named, "Noah's Ark", will be gracing the cover of an upcoming issue of Needlepointer's Magazine. Peg's original designs are sold under her company name of "Uniquities". An architectural feature in the shop also sports her work in the form of a "faux" Dutch door, with the shop cat, Dorian Grey, comfortably nestled at its base. This specail motif captivates all who see it. And now Ginger is throwing her hat into the ring as well with her own first design chart to be published: a sampler with a "Little Red Riding Hood" motif.
Ginger publishes an extensive and very informative newsletter quarterly. A full complement of classes take place during the week and every Saturday, taught by renowned needleartists and teachers, which include local celebrities Donna Strader and Carole Lake, and out-of-towners Jean Hilton, Linda Driskell, Mosey'n Me, Mary Clubb and Eileen Bennett. A sampling of classes scheduled for May is: Mosey 'n Me - Lady Rosebud class project, Silk Ribbon Embroidery - Bloomin' Lace Basket, Smocking Class - Bishop Collar, Petitpoint - Bluebonnets, Stumpwork - Pansy, Beginners Cross Stitch and Just Nan's - Royal Roses class project. Trunk shows are held throughout the year, with 2 scheduled for this summer.
An ongoing and extremely popular project of many year's duration is a month by month sampler, originally conceived by Carole Lake as a counted thread design. This has since evolved into a counted canvas sampler with Mimi Kaufman leading the way. (Mimi also teaches the "Just Nan's" class projects). For the month to month sampler there is a kickoff party the first Saturday of March. Everyone comes in the see the first section that has been stitched. At this point, the rest of the sampler remains a mystery. There are 6 to 8 potential color combinations displayed in baskets around Mimi's started canvas. All color groups begin with the Caron Watercolour threads. On the first Saturday of the month for the rest of the year, new sections of the sampler are worked and Mimi publishes the instructions. Any one who has signed up can come in to pick up the new section or they are mailed to out of town customers. The theme for this year's sampler is "Wild! @ Heart".
The local EGA chapter is the largest in the South Central Region and is extremely active. Ginger participates in the exhibit which they sponsor every other year held at the Parks and Recreation Center. The upcoming show is this month (April '98) and is an event not to be missed. It is open to the public and features over 300 examples of needlework on display, and 15-20 vendors with booths bursting with their specialty wares. A Tea Room is set up to provide sustenance and respite to the intrepid browsers.
Ginger's store is strategically situated on I-35 north of the Austin Airport, and is practically in line north to south with Dallas/Fort Worth, Waco and San Antonio. Austin, as a town, wears many different hats. It is the gateway to the hill country, home to the U of Texas Longhorns and the site of the largest urban bat colony in the US (they've adopted the bridges crossing the Colorado River as their roost). These city mascots are also paid tribute by the local hockey team, the Austin Ice Bats. In addition to being the capital of the state, Austin is also the live music capital of the world. One can easily see why, catering to such divergent interests as it does, it is one of the fastest growing cities of the US.
Right now is a great time to visit as it is the peak of the wildflower season. When the fall has been rainy as this past one has, the spectacular display of blossoms is a sight to "Knock your socks off"! Every self respecting native, who has children, knows that it is "de rigeur" to have a photo of your child wallowing in a field of Bluebonnets!. Last year's month to month sampler project was influenced by nature_s pageantry and appropriately named "Wild! Flowers". Also prominently displayed is the "Texas Wildflower Afghan", a perennially favorite project. It is executed in cross stitch and designed by a University of Texas professor.
So, for all you skeptics out there, who think there's some illicit thrill going on behind the doors of Ginger's Needlearts store, we can assure you that Ginger does "deliver the goods" and there are plenty of temptations to entice you, but of a sort that is more inspiring and ultimately much more satisfying than a strip tease which is after all, just a "flash in the pan"!
Ginger's Needlearts and Framing is located at 5322 Cameron Rd., Austin, Texas 78723. The phone number is (512) 454-5344 and the hours are Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
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