It’s just a guess, but if you were a student in Maetha Elliott’s elementary school classroom, you’ve probably never forgotten her. This guess is based on the fact that this past year Maetha dressed as a singing Christmas Tree and Mary Poppins. And if you visit her shop, Tiny Stitches in Marietta, Georgia, this weekend, you’ll find her attired as an out-sized Jack o’Lantern.“It carries over from when I taught school,” she say with a laugh, and while her elementary school students undoubtedly enjoyed this spirited woman during her 26 years of teaching, for the past 11 years she’s shared her enthusiasm with quilt shop customers.
Maetha freely admits “I just love events!” and the busy schedule at Tiny Stitches attests to the truth of that statement. Quilters gather for Quilt Til You Wilt on Fridays, for Saturday Sampler groups, and for a Night Before Christmas customer appreciation pajama party in December. During her stint as Mary Poppins—part of a Christmas in July event—the theme was “birds” and quilters were invited to “Let Your Projects Take Flight!” More than 200 people attended and as they waited to enter Mary Poppins/Maetha measured each one to see whether they were “practically perfect in every way.” (They all were.) Refreshments, bird-themed displays, and product demos kept customers engaged, along with nearly 8,000 bolts of fabric, notions, and lots of samples.
Maetha had been a Tiny Stitches customer when the previous owner decided to retire. “Owning a small business had been in the back of my mind for the last ten years of my teaching career,” says Maetha, who wanted to put her business degree to use. The shop has expanded several times, including its move two years ago. A 7,500-square-foot space opened up and with the help of customers and 110 rolling bins, Tiny Stitches moved into its current building in a weekend. Though initially Maetha worried it was too large, she’s grown to appreciate the 3,000-square-foot classroom that’s in nearly constant use and the space for two Handi Quilter longarm machines, available for customer stitching.
Maetha describes her shop as eclectic and whimsical and carries batiks, novelties, and lots of Moda fabric. Fabrics by Brenda Riddle, Kate Spain, and Edyta Sitar have lots of fans and the most popular Saturday Sampler ever was one done in Kansas Troubles fabrics. The local Modern Quilt Guild meets at Tiny Stitches and Maetha says they’re fond of BasicGrey’s Grunge, so she carries the entire line. She sought the advice of her Moda rep, Kathy Skomp, when considering a Grunge-based Block of the Month— Kathy and Maetha agreed it was worth a try, and the program starts in January. “Kathy is amazing, she’ll do anything to help us be successful,” says Maetha. “We are so quality-driven at Tiny Stitches and so is Moda—I’ve always felt that I can depend on them.”
Tiny Stitches is open seven days a week and Maetha sometimes has to force herself to stay away on Sundays. Getting to spend time with her grandchildren provides an excellent incentive, but still there are Sundays when she sneaks back in the door to take part in the shop’s book club. She’s pleased by the community of quilters who gather at Tiny Stitches for events big and small, and loves the opportunity to share her love of quilting—whether she’s in costume or not. “People come in and you give them a little information and they take it and turn it into a quilt and then they bring it back and I think “We got them excited about that!’” says Maetha. “You lit a fire and they take it and run with it and that’s just what you want.”