The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 1, 2014

Aristocrats for a day

Businesses cater to Downton Abbey fans

BY MARY WICOFF mwicoff@dancomnews.com
The Commercial-News

---- — People who stopped by Threads of Time and Needleworks on Friday might have thought they were in a time warp: employees dressed in 1920s-era clothing, soft jazz music playing, a maid in a white apron serving pastries.

It was Downton Abbey Day at the two businesses at 207 S. Buchanan St.

Visitors familiar with the British period drama almost expected to see Lord Grantham ring for Carson the butler or Lady Mary glide by with a well-dressed suitor. Or hear the Dowager Countess of Grantham murmur some witty comments.

“Are you Anna?” one customer jokingly asked Diane Sanders of Catlin, dressed as a maid for the day. Sanders laughed and said she was not Anna, who is a lady’s maid in the show.

Nor did Mrs. Patmore bake the delicacies, which customers could enjoy with their choice of tea. Instead, the muffins came from Charlotte’s.

Missi Gouty, who owns Threads of Time with her husband Bill, said the business often has special themed events, but this was the first time for Downton Abbey. The popular television series follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era.

The event introduced the official Downton Abbey fabric line, which features patterns from the post World War I era. The fabrics are named after the Crawley daughters in the series — Mary, Edith and Sybil — and the family’s matriarch, played by Maggie Smith.

Also featured that day were special prizes, bonus buys on the fabric line and patterns and kits from that time period, including quilts, tea cozies, and a “one-hour dress.” Needleworks, which has a room in the Threads of Time building, featured shawls, scarves, purses, gloves, and hats that define the style of the series, as well as special yarns and Downton Abbey deals.

Employees from both businesses were costumed in styles from the early 1920s. Even the men played their roles — Bill Gouty was in a gray tuxedo and employee Zach Williams wore a vest and jaunty cap.

When asked if she is a fan of the television series, Missi Gouty said, “Absolutely. I never missed a week. I know all the characters.” The fourth season, which aired on PBS, ended last weekend.

Sanders, who wandered around the building offering treats on a silver tray, said of the show, “It’s very addicting, once you start.”

Sanders is a frequent customer at Threads of Times, and made her white apron and hat. “I’m just here to serve,” she said.

The special day drew customers from a distance, including Indianapolis and the Champaign area.

Tina Prow of Champaign came over just for the event, and said she has watched all of the Downton Abbey seasons. Her friend, Carol Neilson of St. Joseph, said she hasn’t watched regularly, as she had to wait for the Olympics to end.

Malia Pelszynski of Danville has watched all the episodes, adding, “I can’t wait until the new season.” She came to the special event so she could buy some Downton Abbey fabric for a quilt.

Gaye Sandusky, an employee at Needleworks, was dressed in a flapper-style dress, including fringe on the edge of her skirt. She and two other employees knitted 1920s-style hats, which were displayed on a table, along with a teapot in a cozy and a shawl. Knitters could get the patterns online, she said.

Sandusky is a fan of Downton Abbey, describing it as an English soap opera.

On Friday morning, four women were engaged in knitting projects in the Needleworks room. Wanda Grygiel was making a flapper-type hat for her daughter, following directions on her tablet. She said that she hasn’t followed the series; instead, she watched Sunday night football.

Sandusky said of the women knitting, “We have a lot of fun around the table.”

The first weekend of April, 32 knitters will come to the retreat center at Threads of Time for a three-day workshop. Also, the business is open until 9 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month for avid knitters.

Knitting is relaxing, Sandusky said, adding, “If you’re not relaxed when you’re doing it, then you need to do something else.”

Needleworks is an annex to the Champaign business.

Missi Gouty said it’s a “cool thing” that Threads of Time, the largest quilting store in the Midwest, and Needleworks teamed up for the day.