Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Business

Women turn hobby into business at Nana's Quilt Shop

BROOKSVILLE — Home sewing isn't dead. Proof can be found at Nana's Quilt Shop, where bolts of classic, artistic and whimsical fabrics abound and the shop's customer email list numbers nearly 2,000.

Passionate quilters of 20 years, Coleen Poole and Mary Russell made the transition from hobby to business when they opened their doors to the delight of local needleworkers nearly eight years ago.

The fabrics are 100 percent cotton and American-made.

"There's nothing like a good quality fabric; you can just feel it," said Poole.

Also tempting stitchers are sewing machines with the highest-tech bells and whistles, blank kitchen towels yearning to be embroidered, kits for sewing quilts and wall hangings, all kinds of fabric-cutting tools, sewing machine presser feet to ease every type of sewing, even 1,500-piece puzzles of quilting themes.

As one peruses quilts and pieced projects displayed on walls and hanging from ceilings, it becomes apparent that quilting's creativity today far surpasses your great-grandmother's stitchery. There's a lot more than squares, rectangles and circles; fussy-cut pieces create pictures, intricate embroidery emboldens and appliques engage.

"Ninety percent of our customers are quilters or embroiderers," Poole said.

Yet, she added, seamstresses buy the shop's fabrics for making clothing and items such as table place mats and handbags. Many enroll in classes at the shop, learning to redesign a sweatshirt or repurpose an old pair of jeans.

In the hardware department, their line of Brother sewing machines range beyond the mass-market models available in big-box and chain stores, Poole said, with such built-ins as computers, scanners, laser lights, long arms and up to 10 needles.

List prices top out at $15,000; lesser models as low as $99.

"We offer a lot of sales on good machines and offer financing," Poole said. "We give unlimited lessons on machines we sell."

Poole said they've sold a lot of top-of-the-line machines.

"A lot of young people buy because they want to start a business and sell on eBay or Etsy," she said. "You want the best tools to play the best game."

She added: "A lot of men, they love these machines, the technical part of it. You'd be surprised how many men love sewing and embroidery. They can be creative and not be out in a wood shop."

As for competing with bigger-name stores, Poole said, "You can go into 10 different quilt shops and find 10 different styles. Shops take on the personalities of their owners."

Having considered the variety of ethic groups and styles in Hernando County and noting fabrics with designs from fish and wildlife to contemporary rainbow batik that they carry at Nana's, Poole said, "If we have what they want, they'll shop here."

Poole, 63, and Russell, 61, have a staff of two part-timers and an authorized Brother service center technician, plus a handful of on-call experienced teachers.

Poole admits she was totally green when she and Russell started the business, not even knowing where to buy fabric wholesale. Hearing of a Midwestern textile maker, she called and described vaguely what she wanted.

"A semi pulled up, and I had no idea what I got," she said. "From there, it has grown."

Beth Gray can be reached at [email protected]

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