Quilting: Hobby Turned Business Venture
Pioneer member Kari Roberts started sewing when she was a young girl. She was involved in 4-H, and her mother, grandmother, and many family members sewed and quilted, building her interest and enjoyment.
So, it may not come as a surprise that her retirement hobby turned business venture involves both sewing and quilting. She opened Kari’s Custom Quilting just over a year ago on Sept. 5, 2019.
Prior to starting her new venture just outside of Anna, Kari worked at Honda for 24 years. In March 2017, she decided to retire early after losing her son to cancer in 2016.
“I grew up sewing and quilting,” says Kari. “And when I retired, I decided I wanted to do something I enjoyed.”
Immediately after retirement, Kari began to longarm quilt out of her home. Longarm quilting uses a longarm quilting machine that loads the top, batting, and back of the quilt into a metal frame and sews all three layers at once.
After working out of her home for nearly two years, she was running out of room and wasn’t feeling the fulfillment she desired.
“I was running out of room and I wanted to have fabric,” says Kari. “A quilter can never have enough fabric.”
And that’s what led to the construction of a 2,500-square-foot building and the beginning of Kari’s Custom Quilting.
With the additional space, Kari has added an additional longarm machine. “Typically, people will bring in their [quilt] tops to me, and I’ll provide the backing and the batting, but sometimes they will bring their own.”
There are thousands of different stitch patterns to choose from, and customers can do the same pattern all over or choose different patterns for certain areas — which is considered custom quilting.
Additionally, Kari provides sewing machine repair services, sells Janome sewing machines as an authorized dealer, offers more than 3,000 bolts of material and other sewing supplies, and offers sewing and quilting classes.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Kari’s sewing and quilting classes have been put on hold; however, classes she has offered in the past include:
- Beginner sewing class: Make a quilt in six to eight weeks.
- Open sew: Sew whatever you’re working on and you receive individualized help and camaraderie.
- Mystery classes: Create a “surprise” quilt or project.
- Strip club: Create a project using two-and-a-half-inch rolls of coordinated fabric.
- Scissors sharpening: Held once every six months, customers can bring in knives, scissors, etc. to be sharpened.
Kari says she learned rather quickly that there was much more to running a business than she originally thought.
“I thought I was just going to be able to sit and sew all day,” says Kari.
Instead she has added employees — four employees total — and finds herself taking care of more business related tasks.
When Kari opened Kari’s Custom Quilting just over a year ago, she had no way of predicting how a pandemic would impact her business just a few short months later — in a positive way.
“This pandemic brought sewers out,” says Kari. “People were pulling grandma’s sewing machine out of the closet to make masks.”
Some of these machines required repair, and in some situations, they couldn’t be repaired, so customers bought new just to make masks.
“Now we see a lot of these same customers coming back to try something else,” says Kari. “This pandemic really inspired people to sew something.”
Kari acknowledges that her business caters to the older demographic, but she believes that there are plenty of younger people who sew and will find more time to do quilting as they reach a later stage in life.
“I think the biggest thing is the surprise factor, when someone eventually gets here and they walk in and you get that ‘wow,’ ” says Kari. “They don’t expect this out in the middle of the country.”
To continue the sewing and quilting tradition, Kari brings her grandchildren into the shop from time to time, to learn sewing basics.
“I’m not quite sure how much interest they have,” says Kari. “But sometime in their life, it’s going to benefit them.”
Join the Shop Hop
From Nov. 10–14, Kari’s Custom Quilting will participate in a shop hop with three other sewing shops that will include special sales, refreshments, and goodie bags. Pre-registration is required.
Kari’s Custom Quilting
14888 Wenger Road