Isn’t that name just too cute? It was my first needlepoint shop and I started going there in 1970, shortly before I turned 14. The shop was in Wexford, PA (Pine Township), right next to Wexford Antiques. Looking like a little 40’s cottage on the outside, it had 4 rooms and was, I think, the Wexford Post Office. The last time I was by there, decades ago, it was a deli. The antique store is still there I think, although Wexford is firmly in suburbia now and no longer the “ruburb” (rural suburb) of my childhood and youth.
The front room had kits on tables. The room behind it had the best display/storage for threads EVER! The other two rooms had books, canvas, and probably things I couldn’t afford in high school and college, like painted canvases.
I loved that thread display! It was one of those old-fashioned brass front post office box units. The Persian Wool was put in one color per box. The color number was the box number, To get threads, the employees would go behind the boxes and pull out the thread.
I bought my first kit there. They taught me how to make my first textured stitch (Encroached Gobelin) and encouraged my designing efforts. I also bought my first Bargello book there. Long after I left Pittsburgh, I would visit the shop whenever I went home. It’s long gone, but it will always be dear to me.
Even though needlepoint was booming in the 70’s young people doing needlepoint was considered very odd. As a result the ladies who worked there loved it when I came in and really encouraged my creativity.
Thinking back on it I’m certain that they created an environment that made needlepoint very approachable, creative, and fun. The store wasn’t fancy but practical. Except for the amazing display of Paternayan, there were linoleum floors and stuff displayed on folding tables. Many of the things we love to see in stores, such as cozy stitching places and classrooms, weren’t there. Instead you found encouragement and friendship. There wouldn’t have been wall space for a trunk show, even if they had been around then.
It could be because of those ladies that needlepoint being a “rich lady’s hobby” never occurred to me. The Pine Needle wasn’t a store for the rich. It was in farm country and was created for practicality and for stitchers. Because of my mom being an artist I was used to hanging out in studios with creative people and so The Pine Needle looked correct to me. It looked like, and indeed was, a place to be creative.
I think about The Pine Needle often and how visiting it changed my life. As I got older I visited other shops, but rarely would I find such a great combination and such encouragement. It’s something that I think we lose sight of these days. In a world where canvas can cost hundreds of dollars and shops vie to have very expensive classes with nationally-known teacher, how often do we find these kinds of stores?
How many stores these days are that welcoming? How many stores say that you can pursue this art even if you have little money and are an awkward teen? How often do we welcome people into our stores and our guilds even if they aren’t the usual type of needlepointer?
Other stores in the area I visited turned me off with snobbish attitudes, restrictive hours, or strange ideas, but The Pine Needle had my love until it closed. It’s still close to ideal in my mind.