Store name: Stitched with Love
Owners: Lynn Farestad — partner David Schmid was my silent partner at first but is becoming less “silent” as time goes by.
Store Location: 500 N. Custer Rd Ste 110, McKinney, TX 75071 (located in Custer Plaza)
Phone: (972) 540-5355
Region of the country: Midwest: West North Central
Years in business: 6.5 years
Number of employees: 13
Types of special services offered: Fabric, patterns, notions, long-arm services, long-arm rentals and for purchase, classes, clubs and special events.
Stitched With Love gives their customers the full experience. From a beautifully organized store, to meaningful classes, to extra help with their longarm machines, quilters can expect solutions for a whole range of quilting expectations.
What does the outside of your store look like? How do you enhance your curb appeal? Rock with lots of windows. We utilize the windows to their fullest. From the outside we make sure you can tell it is a quilt shop – with words on the windows, barn quilts hanging in the windows – pieces of fencing with quilts hanging on them.
What do your customers see when they first arrive, both inside and out? Fabric, in rainbow order against the back wall, greets you. Lots of natural light. Our shelving isn’t higher than four feet so you can see the expanse of the whole shop. Shelving is all white so the colors of the fabric really can shine. A smile, a welcome, music playing in the background – laughing and help with whatever you need.
Did you intend for your daughter to be part of your store? YES! She is so creatively talented – I knew she would be key when I first thought about going into this venture. She knows me better than anyone, so knows what I am thinking, what I want or how I would handle a situation, even if I am not here. If there is any questions, she will ask me what my priority is, so she can make sure she is tackling things in that order. Because she is my daughter, she understood that she has to almost work harder than anyone else. With her Graphic Art degree – I depend on her to make sure we stay true to our brand and that anything that gets added passes her approval.
How do you divide the workload? I do the scheduling of staff, schedule classes, the ordering, the back office stuff. I love math so that is right up my alley. I also do the newsletter – gives my writing passion an outlet. Lyssa on the other hand loves the creativity that comes with various areas – so helping people pick fabric is her love. She also designs packaging headers, buttons, t-shirts for the shop, helps with the website. As a certified tech for Handi Quilter, she handles lots of those calls. We both work on the floor – enjoy spending time with our customers. Lyssa works most mornings from 9 until 2. Her husband works evenings and Lyssa days – so their boys are not in day care. I work the full day. Most of the time, if she is here, I am also here – but may be in the back working on my duties.
How do you manage the variety of classes you hold? We have tried so many different ways with classes. At first we just tried to offer the basics. Then the next year we decided we were going to try to do it like college courses – you know – Chemistry 101, 102, etc. Where the following classes built on the first ones. Well, while we thought it was a great idea to help people with the basic techniques – we found that people really didn’t want that. They didn’t think they needed help on their basic techniques. So we switched to Technique and Project curriculum. That was received a tad better. Now we offer classes on what excites us. If there is a pattern we just love – we make up a small sample and offer a class. Sometimes people will ask for a certain class – especially if a sample is hanging — and if enough interest, we find a teacher. We do the basics – Sewing 101, Piecing 101, Intro to Foundation Paper Piecing. A new clutch or purse pattern hits – we jump on it.
Who teaches the classes and how do you manage them? I have several fantastic individuals I can pull on to teach. Lots of time they will come to me and say they found a new pattern and would love to have a class – how can I refuse! We have a period of time the teachers can come in, present what they would like to teach, give us the description, supply list and then together we pick dates for the calendar. So far it has worked, some can’t teach on weekends, and others can only teach then – so the timing and days get spread out nicely. We pay the teacher 80% of the class fees. We also let our employees and teachers take the other classes for free, if the class has at least two paying students in it. Also, if the teacher has a full paying class, the employee/teacher may need to help if needed and they are able. This has helped getting people to sign up for the classes. The employees can talk about it from experience and the teachers can talk about them with their students – especially if it is a next step kind of class.
What are your most popular classes? A lot depends on what else we have going on at the moment. Our Second Saturday Sampler has months that have Foundation Paper Piecing – so that class has been held every month since December and gets filled. Piecing 101 has been huge – 4 sessions 3 hours a session – they leave with a quilt. We keep the 101 classes fairly small – about 4 so people feel like they are getting the attention they need / want. Anything that Natalie Rawlinson (Ticklegrass Designs) wants to teach – is sold out very quickly. We have found that while we have it on the calendar months in advance, we don’t really start advertising it until about 3-4 weeks – then there is a sense of urgency and people flock. If they see that it is repeated over and over again – we seem to have issues filling the class.
Which social media platforms do you use the most to reach customers? Instagram and Facebook. I have a newsletter that goes out on Monday afternoons – my blog is at the top and the rest follows. Funny how many people are reading the blog – I write about myself, my struggles, my accomplishments, my family life. I’m open and honest and it seems to draw people in – they can relate.
How does being a HandiQuilter dealer enhance your quilt shop? We only sell HandiQuilter machines. When we first started SWL, I brought my HQ into the shop to quilt for others. After a few years, someone asked why I wasn’t selling them. Good question – so I contacted my local rep and we talked. HQ is a fantastic company. They really care about their reps, and their customers. There are so many stories where they have gone above and beyond to help a customer – I knew that that was the kind of company I wanted to be associated with.
Do you have a technician on staff? Yes, my daughter Lyssa was my first technician. Recently we have added Jenn to our list. She came in to rent a machine and was hooked. We sent her to training and the rest is history. She loves quilting her quilts! That’s another thing I do – as an employee, you can use my longarms for free. I feel the more they understand the machines and can use them, the more comfortable they will be in telling others about them.
What kind of machine education do you offer customers? I have National Educators come in at least two times a year. This year it will be five times. Every time someone hears someone else say something, it helps them learn something new. One of the best events was Dinner with Adam. Our customers are asking when the next one will be. We catered in dinner, asked him questions and then he started showing us some new fun things on the machine — they loved it! We also have monthly long arm club meetings. If they purchased their machine from us – they get a full hot breakfast at 9am. Then at 10am the others come and we have an organized club meeting. We talk about maintenance, couching, the different feet, quilting for a quilt show, etc. At the breakfast, I usually have to stop all the table conversations to ask questions and do show and tell. They learn so much from each other. Plus, any of our customers can come in at any time and get a quick lesson or ask questions. I would not want anyone to have to wait until the 3rd Saturday to get their questions answered. Another thing we do that is different, Lyssa, Jenn and I give our long arm customers our cell numbers. There is nothing worse than having your machine act up at 5:30pm on a Saturday evening and having to wait until Monday morning to get help. They text us and we get back to them asap. We would rather take 5 minutes from our evenings / weekends to help and get them quilting again, then have an upset person call Monday morning after missing their deadline.
How do you manage your longarm quilting business? When we first started, I did it totally in house. As we got busier and then turnaround time kept growing, I asked for help from people whose quilting I trusted and liked. Currently we work with a gentleman who has 3 HQ longarms going at once. He provides fantastic service and a great turnaround. There are times when customers will request me to long arm – and I will if I can – but most get picked up by Jeff.
What policies do you have in place for quilt drop off? We have a form the customer fills out. While they are writing their contact information, choosing the batting, reading through our guidelines and the part of that it is a machine and that we will not be held liable, we measure the top and the back of what they brought in. We request at least 4” on each side of the quilt – if not, we let them know right then. Also, by measuring all 4 sides of the top, we can let them know ahead of time if their quilt is going to be crooked or wonky. So many people think that their quilts are perfectly flat and square and seem surprised when we tell and show them it is not. It helps then with the finished product if we warn them ahead of time. We square and ease in as we can but when there is a 4-8” difference, you can only do so much.
How often do you change displays? I am so blessed with the skills of my team. I have one who was a merchandising “queen” in her prior position. How often do they change depends if there is a new line coming in that needs to be highlighted. If we are pushing a line that hasn’t done well, then she will put together a display that highlights that fabric with other samples and it flies. There was one time I came in and couldn’t find our thread after three passes of walking through the store. Got sort of panicked then! Now they know to let me know the shop will be flipped and they make sure I know where the thread is. We try to let the team know as a whole that changes are coming so they can walk through at the start of their shift and see where everything has landed. Grunge, Solids, notions – they are mainstays that are in the same place — the others are free game.
Do you have strong relationships with designers, either locally or from somewhere else? I like to think so. Natalie Rawlinson from Ticklegrass Designs tested her first pattern at our shop. She was a customer and teacher and then started putting down in writing her ideas. Now she has quite a few patterns and is still a very popular teacher. Anytime she gets a new pattern, there is a class. I saw Eye Candy Quilts at a market – their mini line they title as “Fierce”. So “Fierce Ladies”, etc. On the back of the “Fierce” patterns, they have the quote, “though she be but little, she is fierce…” That resonated with me on so many levels. When I first started, I felt like this teeny tiny fish in the huge pond that is known as quilt stores. I felt so out of place and doubted myself in so many areas. Then I met these ladies and saw the quote – I bought every one of their patterns – especially the “fierce” ones. I had them come to the shop to do a trunk and workshop and have been following them and supporting them since. Now when she has a new pattern, she will drop me one – send me a sample to display – it works out really well. I think when you build relationships with the designers it benefits both of you. I really want to support local designers – I remember how it was when we first started out – want to help them as much as I can.
You’re adding Sue Spargo wool applique and quilting to your store. What went into making the decision to do this? When I first started, there were two other established quilt stores in McKinney. I really tried to not carry what they were known for, and though there was some overlap. Two years ago, the longest running store closed their brick and mortar and then two months ago, the other one closed. I met with my team and my vendors to figure out what was going to missing in the area with the closing. Wool was one. We are a bright store and Sue’s wool colors are bright and vibrant. A great fit in my opinion. There was also a panic about where the local wool addicts club was going to be able to meet and get their supplies so for us, it was a no brainer. The leader of the club stopped by, shared some of her samples and we talked. Jill is bringing her club to our shop and is helping me order and set up our wool section. She already has classes on the calendar and people are signing up. We showed her work and the velvet and wool at the SSS meeting – where we have 106 individuals listening to all we say and show them – and the buzz was created and is growing. We now have wool, needles, threads, patterns, books and there is still so much to get. But it is all so very exciting.
You have an engaged Chamber of Commerce. How has their involvement enhanced your store and your recognition in the community? Yes, our Chamber is very good. Before I even opened I went through the Chambers SCORE program where I was teamed up with a retired business owner. He helped me with my business plan, my financials, finding a building to lease etc. He encouraged me to take advantage of the other offerings the Chamber had. I know I try to go through the Chamber listing when needing a service. Anytime your name is out there – whether it is in their new resident basket, their website, or a Facebook video, it gets you and your business out where others can see it. Still after so many years, people still say they didn’t know we were here. Any and all publicity helps. Our Chamber included SWL in a recent video.
How has your store evolved since your first day? Lyssa officially resigned her job in July and we started working in my dining room at home. Felix was 3 months, so now at 7, I can say he really has grown up in the shop. We met with venders, started receiving fabric, cutting FQ’s, samples, etc until we moved into our building, officially opening in January of 2013. I thought that everyone would love what I loved. Why wouldn’t they? We had a crib set up with nursery fabrics, we had bright fabrics, some batiks, very few Grunge and some 30’s fabrics. I was trying to make my own path compared to the other existing stores. Very quickly I learned that what I loved might not be what everyone wanted to purchase. I learned that the modern new mothers didn’t want nursery fabrics, even though the grandmothers did so that got phased out. Learned that the name Grunge didn’t scare people away, but in fact used it as a fantastic blender – so now we carry every single Grunge that is available. I learned that when you carry some fabrics – like Reproductions, 30’s etc., you can’t just carry 50 bolts, you need quite a few so they have choices. Over time, we evolved. We figured out what notions people are purchasing and how to track what is still selling and what is slowing down. It was important to me not to have anything hanging from the ceiling – wanted for people to see the whole shop so that has taken some creativity. I learned quickly to rotate and change displays. People find new things all the times. Even the team does. We have changed what classes and services we offer but we still make sure everyone is greeted with a smile, that they feel like they are the most important person who has walked through the shop. We know that not everyone who comes in is really looking for fabric – but they are looking for their “safe” place, their place to escape to – and we want to be that for them.
Do you take business classes, either online or locally? Where do you learn how to manage your business? I spent 30 years in the Human Resource field before opening my shop. The Chamber offers classes periodically, like accounting for a nonaccountant that I took advantage of. While my degree is in I/O Psychology, I did take business classes as part of that course work. I thought with my experience this wouldn’t be too difficult. Hahaha — I think I have a leg up because of my background – but nothing can prepare you for owning your own business. It is all you. There is no CEO that makes decisions and then you work forward – you are the person making the decisions and it isn’t always easy. There are many times I wish I could just have someone else make the decision but that isn’t the reality.
How do you balance your life? Wow, think that is a work in progress. I take Wednesdays off and I treat them as sacred. My father has Alzheimer’s so I spend lots of my Wednesdays taking him to appointments, errands or just spending time with him. I can watch my three grandsons then, have my own appointments, sew, whatever needs to be done. I know I have that day that is set aside for that.I also go to Spring Market, HQ Retail Academy and try to spend time with my sister once a year. I also try to get to Tennessee at least once a year to see my boys, and their families and my other three grandsons
Do you have a hobby that isn’t sewing related? Music, gardening, my grandsons and DIY around my house. Trimming out my windows, putting down hardwood flooring, new baseboards, etc. Takes me a while since my time is limited and I’m learning as I’m going – but boy, sometimes just pulling the carpet up, or using a nail gun is so freeing and relaxing in a different way. I’m not afraid of trying new things and if something is too heavy – I call my son-in-law who is always willing to come and be muscle for me. But seeing the finished project all pretty and shiny knowing I did it with my own two hands – so rewarding.
What are the store successes you’re most proud of? I think that I even tried it. It was a dream that was made into a reality. I kept telling myself that even if we don’t “make” it, I need to be proud of the fact that I tried I have doubted so many of my decisions and my own capabilities, but did not give up. There have been many mornings that I have started my day listening to Carrie Underwood singing The Champion or Kelly Clarkson singing Stronger. There are so many things you really don’t know when you start your own business – such as having to pay Property Tax on your inventory. Learning about all the tax filings and payroll filings. Wondering if it is even worth it all. Then a customer comes in and gives you a hug because they read the blog and it hit home with them. They realize they are not alone and they have a place they can come to de-stress and feed their hobby. What is my biggest success? That’s hard. I didn’t give up, we didn’t give up and we are helping others not to either. No matter what their “battle” is, they can come here to refocus, learn something, gain a friend, get a hug and feel loved. I may not have the biggest profit at the end of the year but knowing we have touched people’s lives is worth more than what that report will ever show.