It's not often that a household project leads to a new business but that's exactly what happened
to Lois Caron, the founder and president of The CARON Collection.
It all began when Lois started shopping for some needlepoint kits to re-cover a set of dining room chairs that had belonged to a great aunt. Her great aunt had taught her to crochet when she was 8 and in her 20's she learned to knit, but somehow needlepoint had always seemed like a stuffy, Victorian pastime. What a surprise when she discovered she enjoyed stitching! She never finished the chairs but within months she was designing patterns based on oriental rugs. After approaching a needlework shop, which expressed interest in selling her patterns, she started hand painting patterns on needlepoint canvas. Later she started dabbling in dyeing fibers and began experimenting with variegated colors. It wasn't long before tubs of dyes and threads covered her kitchen floor.
Freshly Dyed Hulks of Hand Dyed Variegated Threads Get Ready to Be Wound Into Skeins
Over the years the business has moved into successively larger quarters – from Lois’ kitchen to her basement and, ultimately, to the current 8,000 square foot industrial space. The staff, a loyal group of people from diverse backgrounds, has grown with the company. Debbie, the first employee, celebrated 25 years of full time employment in 2006. The newest employee has been with the company for five years as of 2009.
Debbie (left) and Pat (right) are packing up an order Cory gets ready to dye more threads Tanya keeps track of orders and inventory
Going Green might be the byword today, but we’ve always been green, says Lois. Our dyes are environmentally safe and the mordants we use (the substance that helps the dye reaction take place) are earth friendly. Except for computers for record keeping and invoicing, we are technologically back in the 17th century. We work with no machinery. Although labor intensive, the variegated threads continue to be hand-dyed because the subtle color combinations just can't be matched by commercial dyeing methods. The threads are air dried and hand wound into small skeins. A barcode printer is used to facilitate labeling and for the convenience of shops.
Lois also uses a computer extensively in writing instructions and preparing charts for patterns. Needlepoint designs are still hand painted stitch by stitch to assure accuracy.
In all areas, quality and a commitment to excellence continue to be the cornerstones of the business and what The CARON collection stands for.
The CARON Collection includes eight different thread lines, some with well over 200 different color combinations. The variegated threads, and their companion solid color threads, have become favorites of designers around the world. The hand dyed variegated threads come in two different weights of cotton (Watercolours® and Wildflowers®); and in Waterlilies® , a 12 ply silk, and Impressions®, a 50% wool, 50% silk. The colors coordinate across all four lines.
Impressions, now a staple of most needlepoint shops especially, also comes in over 200 solid colors. Each range has from three to seven shades so just the right color is always available for the project at hand. Soie Cristale, solid colors in the identical silk as Waterlilies, comes in the same colors as Impressions.
Among the specialty threads imported by the CARON collection are Snow, a soft synthetic metallic, available in several colors; Antica, a heavier, chainette construction metallic; Rachel, a tubular nylon, and Rachelette, which is Rachel hand threaded with a fine metallic.
The CARON Collection line is now distributed worldwide -- in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Holland, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
With The CARON Collection's "Dyed and Gone to Heaven" web site Lois hopes to provide the inspiration for others for a lifelong love affair with needlework . We hope our visitors will tour the site and take advantage of all the resources it has to offer. Have fun and enjoy! And please support your local needlework shops who have helped so many get started in this rewarding and creative field.