Featured Shop: Apron Strings Quilt Shop

 

A love of quilting is often the inducement for opening a quilt shop. But not always—when Mary Honaker opened Apron Strings, she’d never made a quilt.

In fact, she couldn’t sew a stitch.

Mary says, “If I can do it, YOU can do it!”

Things have changed in the nearly ten years the Maysville, Kentucky, shop has been open. “I was smart enough to hire some fantastic ladies who could sew anything you wanted,” says Mary. “And I’ve picked up and learned a lot of skills.”

A look down one of the color wall shelves, which some bright and happy projects such as a Moda 12 Pack pattern featuring Lily Ashbury’s High Street line with some Bella Solids.

Though she didn’t sew, Mary had always loved fabric—she’d buy it, roll it up, and put it in baskets, creating vignettes to decorate her home. Her interest in owning a quilt shop, however, grew from more than just a fondness for textiles. When she was growing up, Mary’s family had owned a grocery store and customers were considered family. In Maysville, where she taught high school video production, Mary didn’t know many people and saw opening as shop as a way to recreate the community feel of her youth. When a couple of art galleries opened in town she thought about an art supply shop, but then the local Ben Franklin closed and there was nowhere to purchase fabric. “I thought ‘Fabric is an art supply’ and my store turned into a quilt shop,” she says.

A view toward the checkout counter

For the shop’s first six years, she worked at her day job full time. Four years ago the shop moved 20 miles down the road from Flemingsburg to Maysville and around that time Mary quit her day job. “ I wanted to know that win, lose, or fail, I’ve given it everything I can. It’s given me the chance to make the store look and feel like I’ve always wanted.” That look includes lots of “bright and happy” Moda fabrics, including those by Kate Spain, Basic Grey, One Canoe Two, and Bonnie and Camille.

A look down the main fabric wall, where most of the bright and happy designer collections live

The move also seemed to bring in more newbie quilters, and many classes at Apron Strings focus on quick projects that teach sewing skills. “They’re generally one session, so people can jump in and see if they like it,” says Mary. “People come in wanting to make something, but not necessarily wanting to learn to sew. We try and meet people where they are.”

Brianna is a new quilter who’s taken a few classes and was in the shop with her baby Grant to pick out fabric for her first solo project.

 

Quilters new and more experienced have lots to choose from in the shop, and there’s an ever-changing array of fabric and tools. Mary loves rearranging things and thinking up new displays. The precut wall is a good example—precuts in the shop were bagged so they wouldn’t “shed,” but Mary didn’t want them to look sterile. So she designed holders that keep precut samples visible and appealing.

Precut wall and close-up (below)

Mary also enjoys creating special events for her customers, who come from nearby small towns, as well as the larger cities of Cincinnati and Lexington. Two years ago she brought Pat Sloan in to teach and talk and last year Jenny Doan shared her skills. This April, Moda’s own Carrie Nelson will be at Apron Strings, teaching classes based on her Miss Rosie’s patterns. One evening she’ll share her expertise in a talk about designing patterns and fabrics and the proceeds from the event will go to support the local women’s Crisis Center.

Small projects, including a V&Co. bag and a quilt made from a Miss Rosie’s Schnibble’s pattern

A view toward the front of the shop

Donations also come from entrance fee to a three-hour Blow-Out Bonanza sale at the shop, and from a regional quilt show that runs concurrently. Mary makes a point of exhibiting work by experienced quilters and newcomers alike. “We have some phenomenal quilters in our region and when you see their quilts you might think ‘I could never do that,’” says Mary. “So I harass my new girls to put their projects in because I want people to think “I could do that!’ All quilts touch you in some way—they’re colorful, inspirational, tactile, and comforting.

Emotions like those build community, and quilt shop ownership has given Mary the relationships she’d been missing. “People have a baby and they’ll bring the baby in, or if someone needs to unload about something going on in their life, they’ll come in,” she says. “It’s not just a matter of commerce—we’re important to them and they’re important to us. We’re part of an extended family and I think that’s pretty awesome.”

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33 comments on “Featured Shop: Apron Strings Quilt Shop

  1. Little Quiltsong says:

    Thank you for sharing this story! It is so motivational. I too just loved fabric from way back and talked about a quilt store before I even knew how to sew quilt blocks :)! So happy for Mary’s success with her Shop!!

  2. denise copeland says:

    Loved this story.

  3. luvtoquilt says:

    I visited there last year for the first time when Jenny Doan from Missouri Star was there for a trunk show and classes. The staff at Apron Stings were very nice and helpful. The shop has a great selection of wonderful fabric and patterns. The town of Maysville is so very friendly and has a great history. Great place for a weekend getaway. Thanks for a great time!

    • Mary says:

      Thanks so much for your comments luvtoquilt! We always want Quilter’s Inspiration Weekend to be a great time. 🙂 We hope to see you in Maysville again one day!

  4. Susan says:

    I love this story too! What a great shop and owner – sure wish we had a shop like this in our town! Yay for her success and thanks for sharing!

  5. JanetF says:

    This was nice to read! I discovered Apron Strings via Google! I was looking for a certain fabric and they had it. I’ve ordered from them a couple of other times, too … quick shipping to CA!

  6. Brianna says:

    Such a wonderful story on a well-deserving shop. Mary and her stafff are so welcoming and helpful! My very first project she walked me through step-by-step and they continue to support my quilting endeavors as I attempt to move beyond ‘beginner’ in my skills.

  7. Sarah Jane says:

    Mary is the reason I’ve learned to Quilt. It was with her guidance and all the fun classes at the shop that I’ve learned to love this new art form.

    • Mary says:

      If you fuss at someone long enough, they will try it! I’m really glad you like it, and I’m glad you’re a part of our quilt shop family!

  8. Great article. Sounds like a place a liked to visit. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Mary Wendland says:

    I love this story. The photos are so inviting.Mary is courageous to just dive in with her own shop like that. mary in AZ

  10. Sheila Maggard says:

    Love this quilt shop and Mary. Enjoy the classes, the shop and their help with ideas. Fun, creative and friendly place to visit. Congratulations on the article.

  11. Kim K says:

    Yeah for my LQS. This is a home away from home for me. I love being there and spending time with my new family. I have ventured into Longarm Quilting now too with Mary’s guidance and inspiration. Come see what ASQS and Maysville have to offer you..

  12. Margaret says:

    This looks like a marvelous quilt shop. What a wonderful write-up, Linzee.

  13. Marge Grizzard says:

    I visited this shop for the first time diuring a shop hop. Got lost and called for directions. They stayed open after hours and had food waiting. Such a great welcome and wonderful fabric.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Marge! We’ve added a few other shops to the Mystery Harvest Shop Hop this year, so it should be a better path between shops. 🙂

  14. Patricia Campbell says:

    Love fabric! Love sewing; love quilting! Love feel-good stories of small businesses that are doing great! {ran a small business myself with my husband for 10 years in Michigan} AND LOVE Kentucky! What a great article!! <3 😀 Next time I'm visiting my parents in Michigan and we make the drive to their home in Kentucky I'll try to make a stop in this shop!!

  15. Karen Seitz says:

    Thanks for featuring Apron Strings. I’ve ordered from them by phone and hope to be able to get down there from Ohio some day.

  16. Kay Hunzinger says:

    Good read Carrie. Hope you enjoy your time there – I know they will enjoy you.

    • Mary says:

      We are looking forward to Carrie’s visit. The emails alone have been cracking me up. You’ve just got to love someone with a great sense of humor!

  17. Leigh Ann Prange says:

    Great story!! Brick & mortars are having troubles these days but Mary “seams” to be making it great!! Love the store & the pre- cut wall- I’m drooling!! Best to the store!! When will Carrie be there??

    • Mary says:

      Thanks for the kind words Leigh Ann. The pre-cut wall is my baby. Carrie will be here in early April as our special guest for Quilter’s Inspiration Weekend. It’s a great time to visit Maysville!

      • Tonya Matney-Potter says:

        I love this little shop..I moved here 2 years ago and did not know where anything was. I knew absolutely no one except my husband. Back home, Coal Grove, Ohio, I knew where all the specialty shops were. A friend had told me about Apron Strings. I looked for it for a year. One day I was just out learning the area and happened upon it. I could not wait to go inside. The store front was so inviting. Thanks Mary for purSewing your dream……it has made my move so much better.♥️

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