Bursting at the Seams

The growth of Stitchin’ Heaven is nothing short of extraordinary

Story by Patrick Smith

Stitchin’ Heaven operates with a simple mission statement: “Wow people. Have fun. Be happy.” The quilt shop exceeds its mission every day.

The shop’s location in Quitman, a tiny town of barely 1,900 people more than an hour outside of Dallas, hasn’t pre­cluded Stitchin’ Heaven from building a loyal following of repeat customers from across the globe. The business grew so much that in 2019, as the owners were planning to move from Mineola back to Quitman to occupy a new 17,500-square-foot space, they quickly enacted plans to expand their expansion.

“We thought, ‘We’re home,’ and that was the biggest we could ever be,” says Deb Luttrell, who co-owns the store with her son, Clay. “Now, we have buildings totaling about 75,000 square feet on 12 acres. I don’t even know how to explain how incredible it is and how fast we’ve grown. We’re reaching out to our commu­nity. We love it, and they love us, so it all works out.”

The campus now includes a showroom, office space, retreat center, bunkhouse, cottages and more. In just four years, the business tripled its number of employees from 25 to 75 with open positions still to be filled.

Growth During COVID-19

As it turns out, when the world shuts down, at-home hobbies like sewing and quilting become top of mind for many. “The weekend we heard we’d be closed down I immediately got started making a pattern for a very simple mask that people could make,” Deb says. “On Monday morning, we put out a YouTube video to show people how they could make it, and it went viral. So much so that the produc­ers of ‘The Kelly Clarkson Show’ found it and featured us on the show for the mask-making initiatives.”

Stitchin’ Heaven has received a lot of national attention recently. The business has also been featured in Inc. magazine, Texas Monthly, Southern Living, Quilt Sampler magazine and several others. Deb and Clay were also awarded the 2020 Small Business Person of the Year by the Dallas-Fort Worth Small Business Administration.

The business’s success isn’t the result of good fortune alone. Deb and Clay’s keen business insights and a desire to be the best provide a solid foundation. For exam­ple, when COVID-19 shut down the cruise industry, Deb and Clay found themselves with a significant gap to fill from the loss of their quilting cruises. They quickly pivoted to start the Land Ahoy! Quilting Retreats at hotels across the country so quilters could continue to connect. “We don’t just accept failure. When life gives you scraps, you make a quilt,” Deb jokes.

Deb“Sometimes, people tell me that quilting is a dying art, but it’s not. It evolves, and it’s more than a hobby. People are passionate about it, and they love the creativity and camaraderie that comes with it.”

- Deb Luttrell, co-owner

More than a Hobby

Also helping the business grow is its considerable online following. With more than 40,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel and nearly 90,000 Facebook followers, there’s little the business does online that doesn’t generate a buzz. “Sometimes people tell me that quilting is a dying art, but it’s not,” Deb says. “It evolves, and it’s more than a hobby. People are passionate about it, and they love the creativity and camaraderie that comes with it.”

Stitchin’ Heaven has also created relationships with quilting community influencers, like Rob Appell. His unique designs garnered so much attention online that Stitchin’ Heaven recently hired him as a virtual employee to create online content for quilting fans. The Luttrells and their staff also bring in popular teachers, host private quilting groups, plan bus trips and have restarted their cruises. That’s all in addition to the Block of the Month program, a service that allows enthusiasts to sew a portion of a quilt every month.

Giving Back with More to Come

In addition to the hundreds of visitors Stitchin’ Heaven brings to Quitman each month, the business also makes it a priority to give back to the community. As an example, for the past several years on Veterans Day, Stitchin’ Heaven has held the Quilt of Valor event on the courthouse steps to craft quilts for veterans, military personnel and first responders. “We gift them to these people to say, ‘Thank you for your service,’” Deb says. “In 2022, we brought in two veterans who talked to the audience about how they use quilting to help treat their PTSD. It was a very touching and wonderful program.”

As one might expect for a business that started in a 1,000-square-foot facil­ity in 1996, a plan for growth is just part of the Stitchin’ Heaven DNA. Deb and Clay have a 10-year plan to build the business into a quilting community of 1 million people — measured through all the ways people interact with the business online and in per­son. “Believe it or not, we have some equipment purchases we’d like to make, and we’re not finished building yet. We’re process-, data- and results-driven,” Deb says. “You’d never think there was so much interest in fabric and needles and thimbles, but here we are growing each day.”

Deb and Clay at their store