For Stephanie Bradshaw, one nightmare home economics project spoiled her on sewing.
She had to make a skirt with a zipper, waistband, and buttons—an overwhelming task for a novice. “It was like telling somebody who has never cooked to whip up a soufflé,” says Bradshaw BSHE ’89. “It was too advanced. And so I never really enjoyed sewing.”
Fast-forward 30 years; Bradshaw now owns and operates The Stitchery, a fabric and sew shoppe in Rome, Georgia. Isn’t it strange how things work out?
“If you told me back then that I would be selling fabric and sewing machines now, I would have thought, ‘You’re crazy!’”
After earning her degree in interior design from the University of Georgia, life took a dynamic turn, and she landed a job with Delta Airlines. Bradshaw spent 10 years as a flight attendant and 13 years raising two daughters. Then an unexpected meeting in 2011 introduced her to the world of entrepreneurship.
Over a meal, Bradshaw and Susan Horton, an avid quilter and sewer, hatched the idea for The Stitchery. Horton’s craft skills, paired with Bradshaw’s background in design, set the stage for a business that would go on to be recognized by Quilt Sampler, a Better Homes and Gardens publication, and UGA’s Bulldog 100, as well as dozens of newspapers across the state.
When Horton retired in 2018, Bradshaw assumed full ownership of The Stitchery. Today, the shop carries leading sewing machine brands Baby Lock and Janome, offers weekly classes, and hosts quarterly and special events with top educators for both brands. Along with running the business, Bradshaw oversees a staff of five, works with vendors and fabric representatives, and stays current on the latest industry trends and technology.
While sewing wasn’t Bradshaw’s first love, her outside perspective proved invaluable to the business; she washer target market.
“I could relate to my customer who wanted to start sewing or learning embroidery because I was exactly where they were,” she says. “I started out not knowing anything and had to learn about the machines and the processes.”
Thanks to Horton and other collaborators over the years, Bradshaw now says she knows “enough about sewing to be dangerous,” and her staff jokingly refer to her as a “renegade sewer.”
Although business demands limit time for sewing, Bradshaw finds joy in helping customers select the right machine for their needs and interacting with those who travel from across the Southeast to visit her shop.
“If you antique and that’s your hobby, you try to find an antique store near you. That’s how people are with quilt and fabric shops—they seek them out,” she says. “And it’s fun because each shop has a different personality.”
The Stitchery’s personality? Bright and happy, like Bradshaw’s fabrics.
“I think my shop reflects how I buy,” she says. “Some shops have more traditional colors like grays, reds, and blues, whereas we’ve got bright pinks, greens, yellows, and fun floral prints.”
While running a business isn’t easy, for Bradshaw, it’s rewarding in more ways than one.
“Whether you’re making a baby quilt or making a T-shirt quilt for a child who graduated from high school, giftingwhat you have made is what sewing is all about. It truly is a gift of love from one person to another.”