If you have never been to Iowa, now is the time! Our friends at Helios Stitches N Stuff have a charming quilt shop in Mount Vernon and the Iowa Quilt Museum is now open! We are excited to share with you a little about the owners and their shop as well as some insight into the quilting world in Iowa!
Leland & Kevin at their store, Helios Stitches N Stuff
Helios Stitches N Stuff is owned and operated by Leland and his husband Kevin. They are established and active in their community of Mt. Vernon, Iowa. It is a small, private college town. This sign sums it up…
Our sales manager, Sarah, suggested we interview Leland and Kevin as they coordinated a quilt project which includes blocks made by various shops throughout Iowa! It is a permanent donation to the museum! See the picture in the interview below!
Speaking of, the Iowa Quilt Museum just had their grand opening on Saturday, June 4th. Check out this video highlighting the opening!
Onto the interview… we feel fortunate to have had the chance to learn more about Leland, Kevin, their experiences with quilting and owning a shop!
How did you first get into making & quilting?
I’m a mechanical engineer by trade and thus circles, triangles, and squares are in my blood. When I moved to Iowa eight years ago, I was fascinated with the quilts that I saw here. I thought to myself “I can do that!” And so, I learned how to do that.
What are some of your first memories with fabric or quilting? Or, what is your favorite memory of working with fabric?
My mother was an excellent seamstress. She made clothes for everyone! She taught my sister how to sew and my observation was that my sister was doing a lot of seam ripping. If the garment wasn’t perfect, my mom would make her do it over. And over. And over again until it was perfect. I never asked her to teach me as sewing just didn’t seem joyful to me.
When my mother died, it sort of gave me permission to start sewing as I knew it would be for fun and not perfection. That being said, I’m sure my mom smiles whenever I pull out the seam ripper!
How do you begin when designing a quilt?
Because of my engineering background, I often start by coloring squares on grid paper. I have electronic quilt pattern software, but I’m old school and I like to create designs on paper and then transfer them into the software.
Are you more inspired by color or pattern?
I’m inspired by fabric! I’ve always liked working with Quilting Treasures fabric because of the way it feels. You just want to cuddle up with it.
Color is also important to me. I like brights. I also like putting colors together in ways that are unexpected. I told a customer to add bright red to a project that had no red in it a few weeks ago. She thought I was crazy but she followed my advice and brought in a picture of the finished quilt this week. She told me that everyone who sees it thinks it’s incredible! What a great validation of our collaboration.
We see from your facebook page that you make all kinds of beautiful crafts, what is your favorite thing to make?
I love making messenger bags. You won’t find one in our store as they sell as fast as I make them. For me it’s about improving the design and functionality of each bag that I make. I ask customers to give me feedback so the bags continue to improve.
I guess I can’t get away from that engineering thing. Once I went to the Ped Mall in Iowa City and took bags with varying strap lengths. I approached women of different heights and asked which bag was the most comfortable. Soon I had a crowd around me! However, this excursion really paid off: women tell me the strap length of the bags I make is perfect!
What inspired you to open your shop, Helios Stitches N Stuff?
My husband and I were looking for a business opportunity when the owner of the local quilt shop contacted us to see if we wanted to buy her business. Heck yes! We changed the name and haven’t looked back.
I wanted a place to sell my bags and aprons and my husband thought we could expand the existing fabric business. And boy has it expanded! Quilting Treasures has been a big part of that. About 20% of our store space is currently devoted to your fabrics; they sell like crazy!
We feel blessed to be so successful at something we love to do. Not many people can say that.
Great fat quarter display at Helios!
We understand you are very active in Iowa Shop Hops, what is your favorite part of Shop Hops?
My husband and I run the All Iowa Shop Hop along with Jill Reicks over at Inspired to Sew in Cedar Rapids. We love meeting all the participants every year! Everyone is having fun and the atmosphere is so creative.
Kevin, Mary and Leland. Mary is the Southwest Central Regional Director for the All Iowa Shop Hop. Her shop is Quilt with Us in Lucus, Iowa! – It’s so lovely to see the collaborative efforts among quilt shops – one of the best things about our industry.
What advice do you give to newcomers to your store who want to start sewing and making?
That’s an easy answer: don’t sweat the details! Many entry-level quilters focus on their mistakes instead of their success; after all, they just completed a quilt. How many people can say that? I hold the quilt up that they are being critical about and ask them to walk across the room. Can they now see that the points are off or the binding isn’t exactly straight? No! From across the room, every quilt is perfect.
How would you describe the quilting community in Iowa?
Generous. Really generous. Many of our sales are to quilters across the country who are making quilts for our servicemen and servicewomen.
There are lots of guilds and groups and individuals making quilts for children who are ill, families who have lost a loved one, and for people who have literally nothing but a quilt.
It is an honor to serve this community of quilters and we are mindful to give generously to local groups who are making quilts for folks who are our heroes or are in need.
Kerri, Toni, Kevin & Leland in front of the AISH quilts from The Fabric Stasher in Tipton, Iowa – The All Iowa Shop Hop starts June 1 and lasts through June 30th!
To learn more about the All Iowa Shop Hop click here!
One of your quilts will be on display at the Iowa Quilt Museum, Congratulations! Can you explain how you got this opportunity?
We are blessed to have formed a friendship with Marianne Fons and her husband Mark Davis via our work with the All Iowa Shop Hop Magazine.
Marianne is on the Board of Directors for the new IQM and she approached us last fall to help with an IQM Quilt Shop fundraiser. Each shop that donated more than $100 was given an opportunity to create a quilt block that had the name of the shop on it. 11 Iowa quilt shops took us up on this offer and Leland designed a quilt around those blocks that will be displayed in the new IQM.
Learn more about the Iowa Quilting Museum here!
What was your inspiration behind the quilt you made for the museum?
Marianne wanted the finished quilt to reflect Iowa. The colors selected for the blocks were to represent our fertile soil. Leland decided to expand that theme using the new Quilting Treasures Ombre Scroll fabric line.
He wanted the colors to represent the colors of corn while putting the quilt shop blocks against a neutral background. The idea was to have the blocks falling out of the green background. The design, while just blocks of color, really has been received well. We suspect that the Quilting Treasures fabric has something to do with that as well.
Tell us a little more about this quilt! How collaborative was the process?
Lots of folks had impact on this quilt! Tony Jacobson from the Piece Works quilt shop in Winterset (and another IQM Director) created the block pattern, Marianne did the color scheme for the blocks, the shop owners created the blocks using fabrics and themes from their quilt shop, and Leland put everything together.
What does it mean to you to have your work hanging in a museum?
Wow. Really wow. I’ve only been quilting for about six years now so it’s quite an honor. My mom would be happy as I really obsessed over the points! There was lots of seam ripping and doubt about block placement. It turned out great in the end.
At Quilting Treasures are so thankful to Leland and Kevin for sharing their story with us. It is inspiring to see what happens when people enjoy what they do and are passionate about working together. We ❤ working with our shop customers and will share more stories with you in the future!