Think Global, Craft Local: Material Girls in La Plata, MD
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Welcome to our second edition of Think Global, Craft Local, where we will share ideas and resources for staying within your local community for your crafting needs. When you shop from a local retailer you are supporting your local economy, and helping your neighborhood business stay alive and thriving. It’s not just good for them, in return you get the support of your local dealer, who can answer questions for you face to face, and may offer hands on classes, events, and groups.
For this feature, we interviewed Amy Henley and Wendy Badgley, the owners of Material Girls, at 301 North in the Centennial Shopping Center in La Plata, MD. We enjoyed getting to know them and learning about this awesome store.
Craftster: How long have you been in business?
We opened our doors on April 1, 2003 and have had a great 6 1/2 years.
Craftster: Is there an interesting story behind your store name?
Our name is Material Girls, but the story is really behind our logo. Our logo is 3 girls in front of bolts of fabric. The girls resemble Me (Amy), my Mom (Robin), and my Sister (Wendy). We are all here every day and could not imagine working anywhere else.
Craftster: Give us a run-down of the kinds of products you sell.
We sell fabric, patterns, notions, and Bernina Sewing Machines. We are definitely a store with a younger feel to it. We are bright and open. We are really into the newer designers; Like Amy Butler, Patty Young, Heather Bailey, Joel Dewberry and SO many more. We have over 5,000 bolts to choose from!
Craftster: What are the services you offer regarding repairs and maintenance of sewing machines?
We do offer Sewing machine service. Our service stays in house and we have a Technician that comes in 2 x a week to work on your sewing machines.
|Craftster: What are the services you offer regarding classes, lessons and other events?
We have a lot of classes. Our newsletter is usually 4 months long and is 16 pages packed with a lot of options. We offer quilting, bag making, home dec, garments, and machine embroidery. We offer a lot of Bernina events throughout the year and try offer a guest teacher class in each newsletter. We have 2 coming up in this Newsletter. Jerri McKay from Moonlight Designs to teach a Sweatshirt Jacket workshop. We also have Sandi Surhie for a Embroidery class on Twin Needle work.
|Craftster: What are your three favorite products in the store right now and why do you like them?
Oliver n S Patterns. This is a pattern Co for children’s Clothing. These patterns are written so well, that anyone could be successful. It makes teaching so much easier. The Bedtime PJ’s are the class I am teaching right now, I am teaching the Sunday Brunch Jacket and Skirt in my new newsletter. I am a huge reader of blogs, so I love all the Indie designers that are coming out with fabric and patterns. Patty Young, Pink Fig, Anna Maria Horner. I just made the really cute “Sophia” dress from Pink Fig out of Michael Miller Fabrics from Pillow and Maxfield. We just got an embroidery design card for Embroidered Button Covers. So you can embroider and cover your own buttons. I made a really cute pillow with these for a class I am teaching next month. My Sister and Mom would probably have different answers, I think that is why we are so successful, we have it all and are all excited about what we like, which then gets our customers inspired and excited. Wendy would give you new bag patterns that she is dying to make, and Mom would give you new quilt books or patterns that she really wants to work on. As I type this I am thinking of 3 more I would really like to tell you about, I just can’t decide.
|Craftster: Why do you think it’s important for people to buy from a local sewing dealer when possible? What are the advantages of this versus shopping online?
You should always want to support any local store in your area so you can support your own local community’s economic growth. The more your support your area, the better the area will become and affect all aspects of the housing and business market. From a more personal perspective It is important to Support your local quilt store so they can keep their doors open to teach you the newest and latest techniques. We have the knowledge and expertise to help you with your project.
|We as a store are constantly helping customers figure out yardage for borders and backing, and clicking a button on line cannot do that for you. If you do not support your local store then they will no longer be open when you need to ask them that one question one the project you cannot finish. If you store helps you then please help them. We know that we cannot carry it all, but we would like to be open for many years to come and need the support of our customers to keep us around. And also from a perspective from someone who orders fabric… sometime we have to order fabric from graphic images, and it does not always turn out the way we thought we remembered. And if your computer does not have the best of graphics cards, the fabric may not always end up the way it appears on screen. When in doubt, come in and see for yourself. I love fabric, and seeing and feeling it for myself will always be my choice.|
Craftster: If someone was to make the trip to your store from a bit of a distance away, are there some other great craft-related stores near your store that they should check out while they are in that area? Bead stores? Fabric stores? Etc.
Yes, on the street right up from us in the heart of La Plata. We have “Crazy for Ewe” a yarn store and we also have a Stained Glass Store. Crazy for Ewe is about the move in the same building as the Stained Glass store very soon
Owner and Educator. Myself, My Mom, and Sister do a little bit of everything. We don’t label ourselves we just get the job done.
|Craftster: How did you come into this role and why?
7 years ago My mom and I were sewing and taking classes at other shops and realized that we did not have a place close to us that met all of our needs. A store that we did not know existed was closing so I left my other job and we purchased it. We made our shop exactly what we wanted: Friendly, and fun.
Craftster: What tips do you have for others who may be looking to open a business of their own perhaps related to crafts, sewing, etc?
It is A LOT OF WORK. We all work 10-12 hour days 6 days a week in the store. And that does not count going home to sew samples or work on newsletters and other events to make your store successful. I would not change anything, but I was brought up in a family of self-employed parents and have the work ethic to handle the job. I thought I was going to open a store so that I could sew all day, that is not what having this shop is about. We do not sew for ourselves, we sew for our shop and to inspire our customers. As long as you are ready to put in the time and give 100% then you will be successful.
|Craftster: What’s the most unexpected thing about owning/running your store?
Rarely getting to sew for yourself. Everything you make has to hang up first. I have been trying to get this tunic made for 2 years, I always try to get it finished before I head to this trip in July each year, and somehow something for the store always takes priority and before I know it another July passes me by. Oh well, there is always next year.
Craftster: What’s the most rewarding thing about owning/running your store?
Watching my students in my 8 week beginner course struggling to picking out fabrics, to finishing a quilt and picking out the 2nd one on their own. The look on their faces when they know they finished it on their own, makes it worth it, because I remember what that feels like.
|Craftster: Are you a crafter or sewer yourself? If so…
I do it all, I love all types of fiber. I sew, do some knitting, and love to do paper crafts too. Luckily I can sometimes combine all 3 in sewing.
Craftster: What was the first thing you remember making?
I remember making Scrunchies when I was in high School and aprons for Christmas presents.
Craftster: Describe your worst craft botch.
Ohhh sooo many too list. I try to block them out. Being creative does not always work out the first time around, so try try again.
Craftster: Why do you think it’s important to teach future generations how to make things by hand?
We need to keep future generations creative and Self-confident and sewing or crafting is a way to accomplish this. If our future generations can have something that they take pride in, then they will take pride in their own life and better someone else’s. It is almost like the Pay it Forward theory.
|Craftster: Why do you enjoy crafting or sewing?
Because it simply makes me smile. I love Fabric, and will never have enough!
Craftster: What craft or sewing tool has not been invented that should be?
I do love gadgets, and not quite sure what else I could use. I would like a clock stopper, so I have more hours in the day so that maybe I can get that Tunic done that I talked about. Someone else will come up with it and I will smack my head and say What a Great idea, now why didn’t I think of that J
|Craftster: What has someone else made you that you will treasure forever?
I have my first quilt that the Best friend of my Grandmother, Ruth Sines, made for me by hand. It is an appliquéd flower quilt. Ruth won a blue ribbon with the quilt at her local quilt show. She has since passed away and it will forever be cherished.
I made a really adorable sunshine yellow sun dress for the daughter of one of my girlfriends. It was the Birthday Party dress from Oliver n S Pattern Co. I also braided a matching set of headband and barrettes.
|Craftster: Do you make gifts for others? What are some that have been a hit?
I do make gifts for others. The latest gift I made was embroidered lace wine glass charms. They are beautiful free-standing lace doilies that sit at the bottom of the wine glass, they are all different colors so you can keep an eye on your glass. They were a huge hit, I can’t make them fast enough.
Craftster: Advice for people who want to start to sew for the first time…
Go take a class at your local quilt shop. At our store you can rent a machine to try out sewing before you make the investment. Pick a class that only takes one class, that means you can usually see results in that one class. Or just walk around your local quilt shop and look at all the samples to be inspired. Once you see what you can create, you can help but want to try.
|Craftster: How do you recommend picking out your very first sewing machine?
You need to do your research and look for a local dealer near you that will be able to educate you and support you. Go in to that dealer and meet them before you talk to them about a sewing machine, meet the staff, look at the newsletter, and see what kind of feeling you get from them. Then go to that dealer and sit and sew with them at the different models. We really recommend that if you find the machine you like and can maybe go up one more model to grow into then that is the best option. Otherwise at our store you can always trade in your Bernina for a new one if and when you are ready to move up. It does not hurt to try out all the machines, even if you are not sure… you don’t know till you try it.
Craftster: What’s the best way to learn the basic techniques of sewing?
Speaking from someone who was once a beginner, I found that taking a class and being able to take advice from a teacher and other students was the most helpful. We try to always teach a Table runner for the quilter, pillow case class or a pajama pant class for the want to be home dec or garment sewer, and a basic tote class. Each one teaches basic techniques in each genre. They all teach cutting. But the Table runner will teach piecing, quilting, and binding. The Pillow Case or PJ Pants will teach pattern pieces and finishing seams, and the tote teaches a little bit of all but includes the daunting task of learning interfacing.
| Craftster: What are your favorite tips to give to beginner sewers?
It is about having fun, not being perfect. We can make any boo-boo work, we just call it a “design change”. We also encourage, having the proper tools makes your experience so much more fun. Good quality fabric, thread, and machine can make a world of difference. In my 8 week long Beginner quilting class, I always show off my first quilts before I knew that quilt shops existed, and when you compare my first quilts to the quilts I create now, my students suddenly understand.
Craftster: If someone says they want to learn to sew but it looks daunting, what advice do you give?
Come take a beginner class with us, rent the machine, and see what you think. Leave all your negative thoughts at the door and give it a try. We will convert you.
|Craftster: What sewing projects do you think are the most rewarding for a beginner to try first?
A Pillow Case or a simple tote. You learn the basics of cutting and sewing and when you are done with the class you have a finished product. With a quilt usually you just have the top done, but still have to quilt. So with a Pillow Case or simple tote you get the satisfaction and the confidence to move on to the quilt.
| Craftster: Do you customers come back and show you what they’ve made with your products? If so, what’s your favorite thing you’ve seen lately?
Yes, we do love to have show and tell, especially if we have vested time in helping them pick out the fabric. Recently we have had a lot of tumbling blocks being picked out and they are all beautiful and different. I think my favorite tumbling block was the American Flag rendition that one of our regulars, Shirley, designed.