November Stockist of the Month: The Little House of Patchwork

Tell us about the history of your shop and the team?
I’m Tanya and I set up The Little House of Patchwork five years ago. I was on maternity leave from my job as a secondary school teacher and decided that I wanted to try something different. I’d always sewn from a young age and had developed a love of patchwork and quilting, when I first started teaching, as a means to combat the stress of the job. I decided to start teaching a few patchwork classes and the rest as they say is history. I did return to my school job but eventually gave it up about 3 years ago when the demands of the business became too great.
I now have a fantastic team who help me with everything from cutting fabric and serving customers to teaching and website design.
What do you offer that makes you stand out from other retailers?
We are a specialist quilt shop and although many of our fabrics would suit other uses such as dress making, this is already well served in our local area and so when I started the shop I decided to make my business a dedicated patchwork and quilting shop. This enables me to really focus on the needs of my customers and to make sure they have an extensive choice of fabrics to pick from.
We also offer a DIY Longarm Quilting service. We have an APQS Lenni machine and run beginner’s courses, after which customers can book time on the machine to quilt their own quilts. This isn’t a service that is widely available and people travel quite some distance to use it.
Obviously good customer service is massively important but I always think with something creative it’s more than that. I want my customers to feel at home and know that they can come in lay their project out on one of our big tables and get the help they need to progress. Many years ago as a new quilter I felt quite intimidated by how clever everyone else seemed to be. It’s important for every customer to know we have time for them and I genuinely do love to see what they are making and hear the stories behind the fabric choice or the pattern design. I feel like I get all the fun of making hundreds of quilts without any of the unpicking!
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about learning and about teaching, I guess it comes from being a school teacher originally. I love to encourage people to try new things so I work hard on the class programme and try to bring in lots of inspiring tutors.
 My customers are predominately women and what I’ve discovered is that they are terribly good at putting themselves down and pointing out the errors in their work. I’m passionate about getting people to be proud of their work and to find the pleasure in the act of ‘doing’ rather than striving for absolute perfection. We are doing this for fun after all. We run lots of fortnightly quilting groups and two fortnightly beginners groups and within these we encourage lots of ‘show and tell’ to inspire and encourage each other. We also have a lovely big wall at the end of our shop which is perfect for displaying quilts to inspire people to try something new.
How do you choose what you stock?

I often get asked this question by customers! In the early days it’s hard not to just choose the things you like but as the customer base develops you get a feel for what will work well. Five years down the line and I think I’ve got the hang of it. We absolutely love Batiks and have approx. 250 different batiks in stock and this is growing all the time. We use them a lot in projects and this inspires our customers so we always keep the Batiks stocked up.  I also encourage the other members of my team to join in when selecting new stock. I’m a great lover of purple so it’s good to have other people’s opinions or we’d be in danger of being an entirely purple shop which might just be a little bit too niche!
What do you love about patchwork and quilting?
I love that patchwork and quilting is a hobby that anyone can do and that it gives so much more than just a beautiful end product. I feel that over the last five years we’ve built a wonderful community around our shop, where lots of our regular customers have become friends, not just with us but with each other. There’s a great sense of belonging and support and they all turn out in force in times of need or in celebration. This wasn’t my intention but it’s definitely happened and sometimes I think I’m more proud of that than I am of the shop itself. Talk to any of my ladies and they will tell you that quilting is more than just something to do, it’s wonderful therapy and that’s certainly something I’ve seen in action over the last few years.  I personally get withdrawal symptoms if I haven’t been able to sew for a while and definitely feel all the better for a spending a good few hours at my machine.
What project are you working on at the minute?
We moved into new premises towards the end of May this year and things have grown enormously since we’ve moved. This means I’ve not had a great deal of time to sew, however, we offer an extensive programme of new workshops every term and so we are busy putting together projects for that. I’m a stockist of patterns from Cozy Quilt Designs based in the states. We’re busy working on samples of some of the new patterns ready for the new year. I’m also working on some quick and easy baby and children’s quilt kits ready for next year too.
Are there any future plans you wish to share with us?
As Batiks are proving so popular we are now working on our own range of pre-cut packs. We’ve started putting together some beautiful ranges of 20 strips which are perfect for projects that require 2.5inch strips and going into next year we will be adding some 40 strip sets too for those who want to tackle bigger projects.
We also run a growing programme of residential retreat weekends with a variety of well-respected tutors. We’ll be continuing to run these as well as expanding on the recent success of our first non-tutored retreat. These are great if you want to escape to work on a few unfinished projects whilst being waited on hand and foot!
I’ve also got an idea for a book too so watch this space!

Visit the The Little House of Patchwork's website