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  • Writer's pictureBunmi

Interview with a Professional Quilter: Shaina Naillieux

When I saw Shaina's post on the Facebook group, I knew I had to interview her for the blog! Keep reading to learn how she started her business and keeps it going!



Here's her post: (read it all here)



Interview with Shaina:


How did you get into quilting? Who taught you?  


I always say I was grandmothered into quilting. My Mamaw had just bought a quilting machine after saving up her ginseng money (a real eastern KY story if there ever was one) when I was born. My mother, who had been a RN before I was born, knew she wanted to stay home with me. She joined my Mamaw in her quilting business when I was about 10 months old. They made quilts, and did a large amount of quilting for others.


I learned to quilt from a very young age, and by 15 I had pieced my first log cabin. I spent my summers and evenings making pocket money by quilting out peoples orders for my Mom. I think it was a joint process... my Mamaw taught me a bit more of the piecing of quilts, while my Mom taught me the quilting and the business side of things. Since starting my own business I've done quite a bit of learning on my own, via Pinterest and YouTube, but I still fall back on my mother and grandmothers patterns and techniques more often than not. 



What do you love about quilting?


I love the creativity it brings me. I've always been artistic, and very much a type B personality. I've dabbled in all the fiber arts, and even made Waldorf dolls... but to me, the slight structure that quilting brings really brings me peace. I love making memory quilts for people and helping them preserve those memories for years to come in a more tangible way than just shirts in a drawer.


I love being a torchbearer for future generations, so that our Appalachian ways of quilting are not lost. I love feeling connected to my Mamaw (who passed away in 2005) when I'm quilting (especially when I may be using some of her fabrics).


And honestly, I just love making pretty things that have a practical use. 



What inspired you to turn it into a business?


My husband is in car sales, and within that business, you have good months and bad months. We had 3 small children, and were nearing Christmas. I had been quilting for my Mom some, but it wasn't a part I particularly enjoyed. She commented that I could start making T-Shirt quilts. I was like, no, no I cannot. But she assured me I could. I did an order of hers (she did one maybe every 3-4 years), and thought "Huh, I could do that."


So I asked on Facebook if anyone was interested in having a T-shirt quilt made. I had 3 orders within a few hours. By February I had opened my business officially, and it exploded from there. That was back in 2015, and I have grown so much since then! 



What were your first steps to starting your quilting business?


As I said, I was blessed to be grandmothered in. So I already had a (short arm) quilting machine at my disposal, and several sewing machines. I also had a plethora of fabric to choose from that my mother and grandmother had collected over the years. So we had to devise some patterns (my Mom is the best at making things efficient and wasting as little fabric as possible), and create a price list.


Back then, I started with her prices, but quickly increased them when I began selling online. Since then, I've increased a few more times. I had to set up an online selling platform (at the time I used Etsy and Paypal almost exclusively), and began my facebook Business page. 


What were the tools you needed? Or what was the biggest investment?


I already had most of the tools, but we quickly decided to invest in an upgraded quilting machine. We went to a quilt festival in Paducah KY and test drove quite a few of them. Our first Long Arm was a Juki, which we pretty immediately regretted due to issues with the machine... but it was one of the cheaper models at around $8-9k. We have since traded it in and upgraded to a Innova for my Mom, and I have purchased a Handiquilter Amara for my basement quilt studio, which was around $10k.


My sewing machine is a very basic brother machine, which was around $500 a few years ago. I just need it to sew fast. I also have a lot of fabric on hand, and a lot of money invested in tools to help me cut the fabric and t-shirts/clothing out.  



Did you ever try other at-home businesses?


I did! I did several MLM's, but I hate selling things. Hate it. None of them ever felt genuine to me. I also did some freelance writing, and editing, but found communication with clients difficult. I also made Waldorf dolls, but they were incredibly time consuming, and very hard on my wrists. 


Do you do fairs? Craft shows? How do you get clients?


I have some chronic medical conditions which do not do well with heat (hey fellow POTsies!), and 5 kiddos, My husband works on Saturdays, so no, I don't currently do any craft fairs or craft shows. A lot of my business is referrals, and word of mouth. My facebook page brings in about 90% of my current business. I leave business cards wherever I see an opportunity (cork boards in different businesses, etc), I advertise in local facebook groups, and I have a car decal on my back window. I used to do a LOT of business all over the country, but now its mostly just repeat customers. 


How do you juggle work time and family time?


It's hard! I'm a homeschool Mom to 4 of my kiddos (8-14) and I have a toddler tornado. Some days it works out swimmingly, other days not so much. Because of my chronic illnesses and my business, my house is never as clean as I would like it. We're a family full of neurodivergence which adds to the chaos.


We had to switch up homeschool curriculums from my "ideal" homeschool to something more basic, but that actually got done. I also keep my business as streamlined a possible - I only make my t-shrit quilts, memory quilts, etc in VERY specific ways that make it much easier on me. Because of this, it doesn't take a ton of brain power to work on the orders (I've probably made 500 T-shirt quilts at this point). I am also VERY up front with my clients that I have 5 kids, they come first, and because of this, I am not speedy.


In fact, I am very very slow. But, once I get to their order, I give it 110%. It just sometimes takes me a while to get to it.  



Etsy: Yes or no?


I started my Etsy in 2015, and up until about 2020, it served me VERY well. I've made around 300 sales on there, and I have big ticket custom items, so that's pretty good! But the last few years since they went public and added in the "offsite ads" I've moved most of my stuff off there. I still have a few things listed, but my prices on Etsy are so much higher because of the fees + tacked on "free shipping" (I add about $30-40 to every order in order to offer free shipping, because thats what it can cost to ship some stuff across country!), I just gently encourage my repeat customers to contact me through email or my website instead of on Etsy. 


What advice do you have for a crafty mom hoping to make a business out of her passion? Find your niche. Streamline it. Set your prices and STICK TO THEM. Don't undervalue yourself or your work or your time. YOU CAN DO IT. 


Shaina's Links:


Tiktok: @SewKnotFancy 

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