After Shellene Coleman was laid off in 2010, she and her husband, Calvin, launched Stitches with Style, specializing in alternations and embroidery work. But that’s not where their journey with the craft started.
Shellene has been sewing since she was nine-years-old.
“My mom taught us all embroidery, how to knit and crochet, the whole nine yards,” Shellene said. “My mom showed me the basics and she said I just left her after that. I made my own clothes growing up.”
Shellene went on to live in Mississippi, but returned to Minnesota after meeting Calvin. Together the two adopted one child and between them (and previous marriages) they have 17 children and 49 grandchildren. Calvin assists Shellene with the embroidery work and handles the business’ accounting books…and he helps to watch the grandchildren when they are charged with babysitting.
“Growing up, my kids would lay a piece of fabric out at night before they went to bed with a picture or one of my patterns and ask, “Can I wear this to school tomorrow?” Shellene said. She would spend the night sewing clothes for her children to wear the next morning.
She worked full time at a home health company in Roseville until her position was eliminated. Always the entrepreneur and because of her deep passion for the craft, Shellene had been doing alterations on the side for her co-workers. The day she was let go, she went home with two bags worth of alternation work. She was ready to dive right in and took some businesses classes at the Neighborhood Development Center.
All of the work the Colemans get are from word of mouth. They do a mixture of corporate work and individuals: everything from embroidering names and logos on shirts to making custom garments. A lot of work come from people at their church, where Shellene teaches Sunday School. Shellene said she stopped making wedding gowns in 2009, but is currently working on eight bridesmaid dresses for a family friend.
“I just finished a project that was a challenge, but it was fun, and I like that,” she said. “It keeps me going.”
The Colemans hope to continue working for another 10 years (well, if it was up to Calvin, they would stop working sooner). Calvin recently celebrated his 75th birthday and Shellene is nearing her 70th. Shellene also had carpal tunnel surgery on both hands, which put her out of commission for some time.
No matter when they stop working with customers, Shellene wants to continue with the craft as long as she can.
“I would love to be able to teach kids,” She said. “I’ve dreamt about if I had ten machines, and once a month I could go to this church or place. It’s a dying art.”
For more information on Stitches with Style, visit their website.