If you've been reading Home & Garden for a few years, you probably remember Stephanie De Pasquale Soebbing, the energetic young reporter who wrote a popular column called "Home Rookies."
About every week, she described the challenges and joys she and her husband encountered in tackling fixup projects in their newly purchased home — refinishing kitchen cabinets, painting windows, installing new floors.
In the five years since she left the Times, Stephanie has continued her energetic ways, pursuing her personal interest in quilting to the point that it's become a fulltime business, and she is beginning to make a name for herself nationwide.
Last month she opened a quilt store called QuiltAddictsAnonymous — the same name as her long-standing blog — at the corner of 30th Street and 13th Avenue in Rock Island. This is in the interesting College Hill District I discovered some years ago, with antique shops and the Cool Beanz Coffeehouse. Her store most recently was home to Oh Nuts!
A grand opening will be Saturday-Sunday, March 4-5, with classes by Tracy Trevethan, a Twin Cities area quilter known for her vibrant, hand-dyed wool fabrics.
But the store isn't the half of it.
A perhaps more significant accomplishment is that Stephanie designs her own original patterns that, in October, were picked up by three major distributors who will market them to quilt shops all over the country. She also has a partnership with two major fabric companies — Northcott Fabrics, based in Canada, and Clothworks, based in Washington — in which she creates patterns using their fabric.
In addition, she produces a weekly Sit & Sew pod cast in which she interviews quilters and uploads the interviews to YouTube where it can be accessed by anyone, anywhere. This gets her name and patterns out in the quilting public.
She also continues her blog that contains self-produced video tutorials of how to make a specific quilt.
And she has a quilt book deal in the works!
"It has just exploded!" she said of her business, as I visited her last week at her shop.
How she got to this point
While 3-year-old daughter Angela roamed around the store with its shelves of fabrics, patterns and quilting supplies, Stephanie took a deep breath and recounted some of the touchstones that got her to where she is today.
The Augustana College graduate certainly didn't expect to establish a full-time quilt business when she left the Times. At that point she still figured to work fulltime in marketing, with a specialty in social media and web content.
Teaching quilt classes at CommUniversity and at a shop in Muscatine, using patterns she had designed herself, was just a fun hobby.
But it also involved a lot of work for a minimal number of students, so she decided to put one of her patterns on her blog to see what would happen.
"I thought maybe I'd get 50" people to download the pattern, she said. "By the end of the first year, 12,000 people had downloaded."
Twelve thousand. Humm. Maybe she was onto something.
At that point she still wasn't making any money on quilting because the downloads were free, and she was using scraps she had around her home to make the designs to save money.
Taking a chance, she contacted Moda Fabrics, based in Texas, asking if the company would supply fabric for her next design. That would save her money and Moda would make sales. They agreed, and next came a pattern called Kaleidoscope that was her break-through design.
"This is the one that put me in the big time," she said, holding the 36-page instruction book. (An aside: Kaleidoscope is featured on the back of this month's issue of McCall's Quilting.)
A eureka moment
In early 2015, just as she was beginning to make money from quilting, she was laid off from her communications job. She spent the next six months doing freelance marketing and quilting, then returned to "work" one more time in late 2015.
But the work plus quilting became an impossible grind in which there was "zero quality time" with Angela, she said.
About this same period she attended an industry trade show in Salt Lake City, and realized that "there's this whole industry where distributors will buy patterns and sell to print shops."
It was a eureka moment and gave her a goal.
In June 2016, after a lot of talk and soul-searching with her husband Adam Soebbing, Quad-City Times Sports Editor, she quit her day job for quilting.
"I have not looked back," she said.
Distributors sign her up
Now that she understood more about the business and the necessity of marketing yourself at trade shows, she made a goal of having a half-dozen original quilts and patterns ready to show at an October 2016 show in Houston.
And that, she said, "changed everything."
To prepare, she sewed six original-design quilts (including two king-sized) in two months and created the patterns. The result was that she picked up the three distributors.
Stephanie specializes in modern quilts, characterized by asymmetrical designs and use of negative space, black or white.
I looked at the examples hanging on the wall in her shop. They had lots of angles and, to me, looked complicated and difficult to get right.
She says that's not so. "They look like you put a lot of time and effort into it but, really, you could do it in a weekend."
She had several motives for opening the store, including getting all the quilting stuff out of their home. "My only goal was that it was to pay for itself, and it's done that since day one," she said.
After a pause, "I can't wait to see where it goes," she added.