Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Close-knit, longtime vendors celebrate their craft

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013 - 8:20 am

Watch out, Sacramento. Linda Urquhart is finally spinning out of control after four decades of sticking to her knitting at Rumpelstiltskin craft store.

On Second Saturday, Urquhart, her six part-time staffers and their customers will be letting their loops, purls and stitches all hang out. They're preparing even now to yarn bomb the cityscape outside their building at 1021 R St. to celebrate a momentous anniversary.

"This is our 40th year," Urquhart said. "I almost hate to admit it. It makes us sound so old, but we've got a lot of young people on staff and as customers, so it's not an old, staid kind of business."

Urquhart is making that point with the yarn-bombing, a kind of multicolor graffiti with knitting. Over the years, bombers have covered a phone booth in London, a bus in Mexico City and a pole outside the Crocker Art Museum.

Urquhart purchased Rumpelstiltskin at age 22, fresh out of design school at University of California, Davis, with a loan from her parents. She taught adult-ed classes to make money because the shop had losses for the first few years. Rumpelstiltskin remains in the same building, but it's now downstairs and three times larger.

New pattern in Placerville

Sue Rees quit her job at the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles to launch Kelsey's Needle Krafts in Placerville on Sept. 1, 2001. Ten days later, the nation was plunged into deep mourning.

"I sat there and went, 'Well, can I get my state job back?' " Rees said. For years, she worked seven days a week without being able to hire another employee while missing out on a lot of fun with her daughter Kelsey.

"We were making enough money to keep the business open but not enough to take anything out of it," she said. "I had a decision to make. I could close it. We could try to sell it, or we could try to come up with a creative alternative."

After considering several options, Rees did something that might be inconceivable to many business owners. She consulted the California Center for Cooperative Development in Davis and formed a not-for-profit co-op, selling equal partnership shares to six other women in the stitching community. Each bought in with $1,000, meaning Rees received just $6,000 in cash. But to hear her talk, you'd think she got 100 times that amount.

"I don't have to be here seven days a week," she explained. "It relieves me of a lot of the responsibility of running a business. We share that responsibility."

Rees, Donna Burke, Anneke Fisher and Karen Keller are all who remain of the seven executive members who launched the co-op in 2009. Six annual members pay $25 each year.

Each member carries her share of the load – from handling the books to placing inventory orders, from designing displays to coordinating classes. No one is paid, but executive members receive a 30 percent discount and annual members 20 percent. They all get the reward of serving the needlecraft community they love.

They have built up a cash reserve for tough times, Rees said, and if Kelsey's is ever sold, the executive members will share in what's paid.

He's sewn up the world

Roseville artist Marc I. Saastad receives fan mail from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

If you've browsed the displays at Kelsey's Needle Krafts at 447A Main St. in Placerville, then you'll understand why. Saastad's cross-stitch designs of lighthouses and flowers burst with color.

"I have a fairly large color key for each one of my patterns," he told me. "It varies anywhere from 20 to 80 colors. I love to keep track of them."

The 67-year-old Saastad spent 40 years as an artist, selling his oil paintings of the California and Oregon coasts and the high mountains for anywhere from $300 to $10,000.

"After doing it … for about 40 years, then all of a sudden, I just got burned out," he said. "I needed a change. So, I thought, 'Why don't I use my paintings?' I redesigned them and used them as a needlepoint or cross-stitch designs."

This second career has supported Saastad for 18 years. Now semi-retired, he still sells thousands of his patterns around the world. Locally, they sell for $4 to $15 at Kelsey's and at Saastad's website, thesilverliningonline.com.

Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/anderson. Follow her on Twitter @cathiea_sacbee.

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