Ruth and Laurie Morris first established their family craft business in the Sydney suburb of Dover Heights during the 1970’s. The store on Military Road stocked arts and crafts supplies of all kinds, including items from Semco, Myart and DMC, as well as supplies for making candles and jewellery. Ruth stocked many different kinds of craft and cooking books, which she remembers sold "like that"!
Shortly after the Military Road store opened, the Morrises began to offer a framing service for their customers. Ruth and Laurie’s youngest son Albert remembers the early days of his parents cutting and joining frames on their kitchen table each night after the store had closed.
The Needlecraft Inspiration
The Morrises also provided their framing service to a needlecraft store in Double Bay, carefully stretching and framing exquisite pieces of stitching. Ruth describes how the Double Bay store was stocked with "meters of beautiful scissors and the walls were lined with tapestry canvases." This store provided her with the inspiration to sell more needlecraft products through her shop.
The Popularity of Needlepoint
This was the time when tapestry — and craft in general — was very popular in Australia. The two large department stores David Jones and Grace Brothers were selling tapestry canvases, as were a number of smaller suburban stores.
The Morrises’ store in Dover Heights developed a reputation for the large range of tapestries they sold, including brands like Royal Paris, Margot, Tapex, Luxury Needlepoint and tramme canvases. Customers travelled from as far as Parramatta to buy these tapestries and the threads they needed. Ruth sold so many DMC threads that she learnt the colour numbers by heart!
Each night Ruth would change the window display of tapestry canvases and every day passers-by would come into the store, often thinking the tapestries were paintings. She held classes in their store to teach adults and children(!) how to stitch.
The framing and cushion assembly services were also very popular. Laurie introduced a method of framing tapestries with a little foam padding and no glass, which served to highlight the beauty of the stitching.
The Birth of Tapestry Craft
Soon the Morrises began to expand their business — now named "Tapestry Craft" — by opening new stores around Sydney. They opened a small store in Rose Bay on the corner of Old South Head Road and Dover Road and a large store on Gardener’s Road in Kingsford.
The Kingsford store had a large customer base of Greek Australians who loved buying tapestry canvases of religious and nude designs. Mrs Morris recounts how she couldn’t keep enough of these designs in stock and she would make special buying trips to her suppliers in Sydney, walking through their warehouses of stock and buying carloads full of tapestry canvases each time. Laurie also began the Valuation service in the Kingsford store, offering customers certificates to show the value of their needlecraft.
The Rose Bay store was eventually sold to Ruth’s cousin and a new Tapestry Craft store was opened in Phillip Street, Parramatta. Two years later it moved to Queen’s Arcade in Church Street, Parramatta.
Soon the Morrises felt ready to open a store in the heart of Sydney, choosing a location in Clarence Street. In the Clarence Street store Ruth began offering Private Classes to tutor students in all kinds of needlecraft. Suppliers started to ask Laurie why Tapestry Craft did not sell knitting wool; however the Morrises decided to continue to focus on needlecraft, tapestries and framing.
The Enigma of Tapestry Craft
In 1982 the Tapestry Craft store in Kingsford closed, followed by the Parramatta store. Slowly craft stores all around the state were closing and eventually the large department stores also closed their craft departments. The Tapestry Craft store in Clarence Street remained as the Morrises’ only store.
The "enigma" of how Tapestry Craft stayed in business in the heart of the city while so many other stores were closing began to amaze suppliers. Ruth puts it down to her "love of the business" that meant she would "give her all to the customers." She would love it most when her "customers would leave with a smile, even though they had come in not smiling."
In 1986 Tapestry Craft moved from Clarence Street to 32 York Street, which would remain their location for the next 18 years. During this time various types of embroidery and especially counted cross-stitch became very popular, with well known designers such as Graham Ross and Kaye Pyke making appearances in the store. Classes and demonstrations were also popular, as was simply sitting with friends and stitching in the store.
Moving into the Future
In 1999 Tapestry Craft responded to the arrival of a new tax system in Australia by computerising their Point of Sale for the first time. They took a chance on this expansion while a number of other independent craft stores decided to close their doors.
The Knitting Department was opened in the year 2000. Albert Morris, the director of the business till 2019, recalls how customers were desperate to purchase knitting supplies in the city: "The very first customer for the knitting department was so keen to buy some yarn, that she couldn’t even wait for the boxes of stock to be unpacked onto the shelves!"
Tapestry Craft moved down the road in 2004 to their current location at 50 York St - a large store of two levels in a heritage-listed building.
In 2005 Tapestry Craft launched its online store to serve the numerous international and interstate customers, as well as local customers who enjoy shopping online.
“Tapestry Craft” becomes “Morris & Sons”
In 2008 the business name officially changed to "Morris and Sons" to better reflect the variety of products sold and the family history behind the business. Ruth and her family continue to adapt to the changing craft industry.
In addition to the new name, the business launched its own brand of knitting wool, which has grown to become a staple in the business.
2012 saw the new branding released throughout the stores and combined with the excellent products and service hopes to attract, excite and teach the next generation of customers.
A new division Morris & Sons Wholesale, was also been created to meet the demand of other retailers, that find it difficult to source quality and consistant supply of knitting and needlecraft supplies. We hope this new venture will reinvigorate competition in the industry and spur on the opening of exciting new retailers that will keep the craft alive.