Thursday, March 13, 2008
Small shop brings back ‘hard to find’ service
By SUE WATSON
There’s an alteration and sewing lady in Holly Springs who has a love affair with needles and threads.
Threads & Stuff, located on South Center Street just off the square and opened two years ago by Janice Faye Donnelly, bodes good news for a small town going back to its roots by bringing back services that were once commonplace.
“I just think she’s valuable to the city,” said Joan Fitch. “A lot of people don’t sew. She’s made Pilgrimage dresses for Jorja Lynn and I just think she’s good at it. My granddaughter, Jessica, is 6 feet and if you talk to any tall person they will tell you it’s hard for them to find clothes that fit. This type of service is hard to find.”
Joanne Boatwright agreed.
“I’m pleased with everything she’s done for me,” she said. “She’s lined pants and dresses and done simple things for me. And she’s a Christian person. She’s wonderful, she’s great and I really think a lot of her work.”
Donnelly said it is lots of fun working with children on the design of their Pilgrimage dresses.
“I have lots of lace and trim and when I make a Pilgrimage dress for a little girl, I let them look through it all and pick out what they would like the dress trimmed in,” she said.
“It’s fun for me and the little girls and it makes the dress even more special because they helped design it.”
She has been sewing since her high school days in Charleston, S.C. Today the 63-year-old seamstress is living her life’s dream.
Donnelly moved to Mt. Pleasant with her husband Stuart, she said, to be with her two little grandchildren. Her other children are also near in the state of Tennessee.
“When we decided we were going to move, we started looking around and fell in love with Holly Springs,” she said. “I told Stuart when we were riding around the town one day, ‘I want to have a shop up there.’ He talked to Sandy Miller (Linwood’s) and she said she thought we could use an alterations shop up here.”
Donnelly said the shop was a necessity to clear all her sewing notions and machines out of a room in the house.
“Everything you see here in my shop was in our house,” she said.
This little sewing shop is the only one of its kind in the area and the first one Donnelly has ever had. She’s always had her sewing business in her home. She’s been a seamstress for three years in this area and for six or seven years in South Carolina.
“I still get a lot of people coming in and saying, ‘I didn’t know you were here,’ ” Donnelly said.
How she became interested in alterations and sewing was out of self interest, she said.
“My mother used to make my clothes and my grandmother was a seamstress, but mainly, I had to sew out of self-defense because I was tall and skinny. I just have a love affair with needles and threads.”
A seamstress is hard to find in the high technology age of throw-away consumer goods. Maybe harder than finding a needle in a haystack. But Donnelly takes great pride in serving others.
“I like to fix peoples clothes as though I were going to wear them,” she said. “One woman in South Carolina who did alterations told me to always put it back together like you found it; only better.
Donnelly’s talents are as varied as her interest.
“I do have a desire for making heirloom clothing for children,” she said.
She has made heirloom Christening dresses for babies.
But she hasn’t much call for men’s clothing other than alterations and monogramming of shirts and jackets. Small businesses and corporations call on her for monogramming their business names and logos, she said.
Some monograms she had done locally include work for Piggly Wiggly, uniform monograms for Annie’s Restaurant, and some jacket monograms for Bain and Sons.
She also monograms towels, purses and pillows.
Donnelly makes suits for several ladies in town, makes Pilgrimage dresses, bridesmaids dresses, and has had calls for bedspreads, dust ruffles and pillow cases.
She likes to personalize everything from towels, to diaper bags and handbags, to pillow cases and pillows.
“I make ring-bearer’s pillows for weddings,” she said. “I like to monogram then with the initials of the bride and groom,” she said.
Donnelly also makes matching sets of necklaces, bracelets and earings.
She makes cloth dolls and Teddy bears and baby shower gifts. In fact, everything in her shop is handmade.
She feels at home.
“People in Holly Springs have been very receptive,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of really nice people and I don’t feel like a stranger here.”
From humble beginnings
“I’m a country girl,” Donnelly explained. “The first three years of my life I lived in a place in South Carolina known locally as Hell Hole.
Born in Charleston, S.C., Donnelly is the product of farming and the timber industry and the ministry, too.
She lived near the Francis Marion National Forrest and timber was a big industry. Both her grandfathers were watchmen in the fire towers and they both were ministers. For several years her father’s father worked as a foreman on a plantation.
“I lived with them three or four years,” she said. “I’ve picked cotton and dug potatoes. My father was a farmer at heart. The first thing he did when he moved to a place was plow up every inch of ground and plant a garden. So, the summers were spent shelling peas, shucking corn and plucking chickens.”
After working several different jobs, Donnelly’s father worked in the lumber yard.
Her mother and stepfather owned a country grocery store in McClellanville, S.C., and Donnelly graduated in a class of 13 at McClellanville.
From high school she worked a variety of jobs including department stores, at a wine distributor, in office jobs and ended up in Florida operating a scuba diving gear shop. She was a certified scuba diver, but only could swim just a few feet without fins and gear, she said.
A new life
Donnelly is from a family of five girls. Two sisters sew for fun, one works for the Post Office in McClellanville and another sister is an attorney in Columbia, S.C.
She has her children and grandchildren around her, today.
Her son, Warren Cockcraft, is a construction contractor in Spring Hill, Tenn. Her daughter Jenny Miller, works as a dental hygienist in Cookeville, Tenn. The other daughter, Hope Spiller, lives in Collierville and is raising her grandchildren. She occasionally helps out at the Threads & Stuff.
Donnelly is more than satisfied with her business in Holly Springs where she spends most of her time sewing.
“I do a lot of thinking in here while I sew,” she said. “Some people say, ‘Boy, it’s quiet in here.’ But I am very comfortable with my thoughts. While I work on one thing, other ideas or solutions come to me.”
About the only thing Donnelly said she doesn’t do is knitting and tatting. She has crocheted but not since opening her business. She also cross-stitches.
The life of a seamstress has changed since Donnelly learned about sewing in high school home economics.
She started out on a Singer treadle sewing machine with straight stitching. Then the industry came out with a zig-zag sewing machine with a button-hole maker. Before that button-holes were made by hand.
Then decorative stitching machines became available followed by monogramming machines with preprogrammed designs.
She now has a machine which can take a design off a computer and can also digitize - a process that helps with business and corporate logos, a growing aspect of her business.
Having moved her home-operated business out of the house has been a blessing.
“My husband found me this job out of self defense,” she said, “because I had most of this stuff in one room at home.
“This is my dream come true. I’ve always wanted to have a clothing or sewing business where people could get nice things without having to pay through the nose. I like for things to be affordable.
“And being a small business, I get a chance to get to know some of my customers. There are times when they come in and I know they are troubled. I can pray with them and I don’t have to worry about being discriminated against for it.”
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